“What software do you regularly use in your teaching practice?” asks the syllabus this week. Hoo, boy, let me make a long list! Seriously, I did, and I will proceed to post it here. It makes me feel like a good digital native, though not necessarily a great 21st-century teacher since I don’t actually teach the students to use all of this! Well, third graders don’t need to be able to use all of this yet, but I certainly do hope to introduce them to as many as I can.
- Microsoft Word, Publisher, Excel, and One Note (my lesson plans are all on One Note! and I love how I can search it instantly to see if I already used a vocabulary word this year or pull up the definition we used with it last year.)
- Dropbox (that’s how I keep the lesson plans synchronized!)
- Microsoft Outlook, for the e-mail and calendar, though given my choice I’d use Mozilla Firebird for e-mail; Outlook takes minutes to begin working even if the computer has only been on “sleep” and not turned off. Unfortunately, our e-mail is hosted on a Microsoft Exchange server so it’s monopolized (probably the wrong word, but it fits my feeling about it!)
- Adobe PDF (read, not write)
- Internet Explorer & Windows Explorer, especially the “print” feature for photos
- Windows Live Photo Gallery & Paint
- Accelerated Reader
- Sometimes Programs: PowerPoint, OpenOffice.Org’s Draw, Paint.net (LOVE this free alternative to Photoshop!), VPN, Atlas, PowerSchool, Audacity, and Calculator
- And I just downloaded iCloud so I can get the photos from my iPhone without having to e-mail them to myself one by one. I had been using my digital camera with a little USB do-hicky to plug the SD card into the computer, and I still carry it in my bag to school each day, but that may soon end.
Given this list, I have a bit of a hard time with the assignment this week to choose a software tool that I would like to become more proficient in using, set a goal, find and use some training material, and then use the tool to make some sort of project. Following that, I am supposed to blog about other software skills that I’d like to improve to “increase [my] professional efficacy.” Right now I feel like Sherlock, all cocky and sure that I already use things as well as possible. Given that I do not have a staff of TV writers, a special effects crew, and one heck of an editor making me actually have all the answers, I’m pretty sure that’s a false feeling. But it took me a while to find anything to study up on, and as my final target is a web-based tool, I don’t know if it counts as a “software skill.”
The software I’d like to become more proficient in is either not invented yet (think Atlas but on the wall-sized, wrap-around touch-screens from Minority Report so you can see and drag everything at once) or not for school (think stay-at-home mom with a pricey digital SLR camera using Photoshop to post photos of her gorgeous kids and exquisite cooking to her professionally-designed blog). Or maybe I could just buy a time machine, so I can have more time to put units into the current version of Atlas instead of feeling overwhelmed every time I log in and then logging out again.
For now, I’m focusing on Edmodo. It’s a nifty online class interaction sort of a site that I’m still figuring out. From what I’ve read thus far, it can do quite a few things. I’ve tried logging in as a student and a parent to get more of a feel for it, but obviously I’m going to be using it as a teacher. I’m hoping to introduce it to my students this week. But first, I need to back up and make a plan! Otherwise I’ll be writing this thing backward like all those high school papers where you write the paper first and then make note cards and an outline because the teacher said you had to hand those in too. (If anyone ever tells you teachers make good students, laugh!)
So, on to the plan. (And yes, I am typing this post WHILE I work on the assignment. Seems fitting.)
My goal is to use Edmodo to allow students to do short homework assignments and to interact with each other and myself. First I need to find out exactly what it can do, which means finding some online training resources. I also want them to respond to homework viewing for our Reverse Instruction project, but that may take longer than the length of the “Software Tool Activity” assignment. Toward this end, I will begin introducing them to Edmodo tomorrow or Tuesday in the computer lab, having them answer a short poll that I’ve posted so that they get through the sign-up procedure and see what it’s like to interact. It will also give me an initial idea of how likely they are to interact much, as it’s a topic they might want to comment on more than once as classmates’ results come in. We shall see!
Edmodo has training and more on their Help page. I started off looking at a few Mini-Lessons shared by other teachers, which got me more excited about what is available. Students can get badges – I can give them one right away for participating in the poll! – and I can subscribe a group to an RSS feed, giving them a choice to join or not join that group – THAT sounds like a brilliant idea, and I’ve already borrowed the idea for journaling.
Next I watched an archived webinar. There are more that look helpful but it’s getting late. This exploration will have to continue tomorrow after dinner.