MCSD Ed Tech Review

Tools & Tips Worth Your Time

Issue 1, December 2015

Hour of Code

It's the Hour of Code week! Don't forget to check out the Hour of Code pages for teachers and students. All three are part of the Malone Teacher Resources site, and the student pages are also linked front and center on the District homepage.


Living in Beta

In the video game and software industries they have a stage in development called beta testing. This is when they take a product that is nearing completion and put it out to a large public group (beta testers) to try it out. Everyone involved knows that it's going to have bugs. Sometimes lots of them. But, the process of beta testing is so widely used because it works. The trial and error contributed by end users results in a finished product that is better.


I recently had the opportunity to see a woman named Molly Schroeder speak about this idea and it really made me reflect on one of the strange paradoxes of our profession. As teachers, we hold in our minds a strange dichotomy. We continually tell our students that it's ok to make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes. But then when it comes to our own craft, we don't allow ourselves that same freedom. The second we make a mistake, a piece of technology doesn't work the way we expect it to, we feel the need to cover it up, move on, don't do that again.


In general, but especially when it comes to integrating technology in our instruction, we have to have the mindset that we're living in beta. Mistakes are inevitable. It will happen that the lesson you planned using a piece of hardware or software will hit a roadblock when something isn't working, or isn't working the way you thought it did.


What matters is our reaction. Beta testers expect bugs. They don't turn the computer off, walk away, and never come back. They figure out the work-arounds, or worst case, they report it, and come back to it later. Letting our students see this sort of resilience in us can be powerful, and help build it in them too. We can also use these instances to empower our students and let them become the problem solvers. I haven't been in a classroom yet that didn't have at least one or two kids who were ahead of the curve in their knowledge of whichever technology tool we were using. If something isn't working, instead of seeing that as embarrassing, and something to be avoided, see it as a chance for you and your students to beta test.


Embrace the fact that we live in beta every day.

Is it worth trying a new way to do things?

Knowing, as said above, that there is a better than even chance that things will go wrong at some point in the ongoing process of integrating technology, it's a fair question to ask why you should do something new when you have familiar lessons that are tried and true.


Overload is a fact of life if you're a teacher. Time is likely to be your most precious commodity, and it seems like every day you're being asked to do "one more thing."


So why should you spend any of that time learning a new way to teach familiar lessons? Because meaningful integration of technology can be amazingly powerful in engaging your students and facilitating their learning. Because technology can allow you and your students to do things that would not otherwise be possible. Because you have a duty; you're preparing your students for their future lives, not yours.


Some of the themes in the video below are familiar, but when we're feeling the pressure of "one more thing," it's worth reminding ourselves.

What is 21st century education?

4 Tips/Tools for Actively Engaging Students

Below are a few resources and ideas for encouraging students to become active participants in their own education, rather than passive recipients.


  1. Use a Google Form to create a digital entrance or exit ticket. The results will be collected in a spreadsheet which could be shared with the class, and you can use the information to help determine the course of the lesson. Talk about the results with them; let them know that their responses are having an actual effect.
  2. Gamify your review sessions or homework (while gathering formative data) with slick, online services like Kahoot! and Quizizz (see below). Sites like these tap into the basic human emotions that are universal (Can you think of a culture that doesn't have games?) that make games so popular and provide a level of motivation we, as teachers, often can't match.
  3. Let them drive. This isn't a new idea; student presentations have been around forever, and for good reason. Putting students in charge of teaching their peers can be extremely motivating, for both parties. Technology, though, can put tools in the hands of your students to help them gather resources and share their ideas in ways that weren't possible before. In addition to things like the collaboration and presentation built into Google Apps for Education, and recent 2 Minute Tech Tips like biteable.com, check out the Resource Roundup below for more options. Remember, it doesn't always have to be massive, multi-week projects. It can be as simple as having students teach each other individual vocab terms, while creating shared, online flashcard sets. If you are doing a larger group project, consider having students use the built-in features of Google Drive for collaboration, or look into services like Wiggio, which let them create fully-functioned, virtual group spaces.
  4. For many of you, this is old news, but for those of you that might have missed it, check out Plickers. This service gets students actively involved, blends low and high tech (only the teacher needs a device), and can serve as a fantastic formative assessment. If you're interested, let me know, I have laminated card sets available.

Resource Roundup

Below are 6 tools that you might not have come across before that might make you say "ooooh."

Google Protip

Do you have documents that you regularly share with parents and/or students? Do you have a class website? Make your life easier by embedding a folder from your Google Drive on your site and dropping anything you want them to see in it. You can add and remove files at any point from within Drive and visitors to your site will always see your current version of the folder. The picture below shows you what it looks like on a site.


Would you like to know how? Contact me, and I'll send you step-by-step instructions (it's actually not that hard, and not that many steps).

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Get In Touch

My job is to be here as a resource for you and your students. If you want help learning how to integrate technology in your classroom, please let me know. For more information on the sorts of ways I might help you, look at this.


- Mark Dalton, IT Coordinator