Cool Tech Tools in the Classroom

I’ve been amazed at all the cool things both teachers and students can do on I-Pads in our classroom. Here are a couple of my favorite tech tools that we use daily:

Every day, we keep track of student behavior on Class Dojo–an app that allows us to track student behavior points and contact parents about concerns or praises related to their student. It’s been a quick way to keep tabs on students (and a quick, easy way to keep their parents in the loop).

Our students love their Go Noodle dance breaks in the morning and afternoon. GoNoodle is a free site with lots of fun and easy-to-follow dance routines. This week’s favorite was “Bones”–a video of a skeleton dancing to a silly song. It’s a great way to give the kids a brain-break, while at the same time promoting health, wellness, (and fun!) in the classroom.

Finally, Pinterest has been a great tool for the teachers in the classroom to find creative, engaging games, art projects, and activities that go along with the content we are teaching. This last week, I used Pinterest with a group of students to aid us in the creation of a class pumpkin. We used the site to help us brainstorm how we were going to decorate our pumpkin.

All these tools have been a great asset to the teachers and students in our classroom, and I can’t wait to discover more tools to add to this list!

Assessments on Computers

This past week, our third graders took their first Bi-Weekly Assessment in the library computer lab. This was our first trip to the lab (sadly, both Library and Computer Class have been taken out of our kid’s Special’s rotation due to lack of funding). After finding a working computer for each student, they attempted to take a computer version of a math assessment in which they had to create arrays (a visual representation of a multiplication problem using dots or x’s), drag answers to the correct place on the screen, and type out sentence explanations of their method to solve a problem (all on computers that they have yet to be taught how to use). Needless to say, it was a bit of a train-wreck. We have the luxury of having three teachers in our classroom, and I still felt there were at least ten students with hands up the entire time, waiting for our help. Some students moved rather effortlessly through the assessment, but many struggled to type and use the tools of the assessment correctly. Many students expressed deep frustration at not knowing how they were supposed to complete the assessment and show what they know.

Reflecting on this experiment, I can see a number of benefits and downfalls of online assessments. Some of the benefits include: improving students’ ability to use technology, it’s able to be quickly graded electronically (if it’s multiple choice–ours wasn’t), it will save paper, it can save time (if students can type faster than they can write–not true for my kids), and some students may be able to focus better and use the tools on the computer better than they could using paper and pencil (i.e. highlighting key words, taking notes on the side, marking answers to come back to).

However, in the case of our students, their lack of computer training really deterred from the purpose of the test itself–to find out whether students understood concepts relating to multiplication and division. Most students were confused as to how to use to test tools and fill in their answers, and it would take hours of practice and training (which could be valuable if we have the time available) to get the students to a prepared level. Doing multi-step math problems on a computer is challenging for some students, so I wish the test was more clear about them being able to work things out on pencil and paper. Finally, it just highlights the technology gap that is striking across this country–why punish children who don’t have access to computers–for the sake of having everything on computers.

Digital Divide: this article outlines just how much the technology gap affects students in the classroom

Standardized Testing Online: this article gives a great narrative relating to the pro’s and con’s of online testing (including quotes from the very students using the online test)