Last week I met with the cohort of new teachers at my school site to discuss technology. Knowing that the end of the semester was coming, I decided that a tech training might be too overwhelming with finals and grading to do. Instead, I used our time together to show two technology tips, and provided technology discovery time. Our two tech tips were how to use Google Chat and the projector remote.
We’re a Google Apps for Education school, and have access to Google Talk in our email window. Since email is a chore that all of us must deal with on a daily (or hourly basis) we’ve been encouraging our teachers to use Google Chat instead of email when possible. We also have video chat enabled, which allows face to face communication to occur remotely. Our new teachers weren’t all aware that Google chat was available or encouraged, so we had a video chat with our Vice Principal from our meeting. It was a great chance to prove how functional and easy video chat is to use, and how much fun it can be to video chat.
The projectors in the classrooms are used often, but aside from turning the projector on and off, the remote is mostly ignored. I spent time with the teachers showing them some of the great features available right on their remote. While not all projectors may have these features, some are very standard. Check your projector remote and start experimenting with those other buttons! We first covered “Auto Adjust” which resizes the aspect display to best fit your computer’s screen. Then we looked at how to mute, or blank the screen, and my favorite, the freeze button. The freeze button freezes the display and allows you to do something else on your laptop. Students can look at the warm-up while you pull up the attendance program or look at the emergency email that just arrived in your inbox. Our remote also features a zoom function to increase the size of your display.
I share resources with each academic department on a semi-weekly basis, so the rest of our training time was allotted for teachers to do some exploration of those resources. After they found a resource that interested them, they practiced connecting their laptops to the projector, using the auto adjust button, and showcasing the new resource they had discovered, and how they planned to use it in their classes. Here are their new discoveries:
Our English teacher shared writeabout.com, a social publishing site for classrooms. She was most interested in the section that provided inspiration images and a writing prompt. She thought these might offer great warm-ups, journal topics, or creative writing assignments for students who don’t know what to write about.
Our social studies teacher shared two geography resources SmartyPins and GeoGuesser SmartyPins asks geography focused trivia questions, which are answered by placing a pin on the Google Map in the correct place. It’s a fun way to test your geography knowledge. GeoGuesser shows a panoramic image and asks you to decide the location based context clues. A great way for students to test and apply their global studies knowledge.
Our modern language teacher found the European Word Translator, which shows translations for words across the European continent. The map uses Google Translate, which provides a great teaching opportunity to show that computerized translators are not exact or completely accurate. Our teacher mentioned he would love to see a similar map for South America. I haven’t been able to find one, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.
Finally, our math teacher shared photomath, a smart phone app that uses the phone’s camera to help solve math problems. It seems like something out of the future, an app that will complete your homework for you. Our math teacher was quick to point out the limitations of the app, and why it might not always be the most helpful to our students. Another great opportunity to show students the benefits and drawbacks of technology.
It was great to offer time for our new teachers to explore technology resources, and hear about how the potential they saw for these tools in their instructional areas.
Author: Brooke Ahrens
Brooke Carey Ahrens is a Google Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Coordinator at a bay area high school. Brooke is currently serving as a rep Northern California Region rep for the California School Library Association.