You can’t have all the shoes!

ShoesFor years, I've talked with teachers who are overwhelmed by the sheer number of potential educational technologies. Getting started with using tech in the classroom can be a daunting task, as many feel that they have to know all of the tools that are out there.

A student of mine came up with a great analogy to help teachers better understand the current technology landscape. It goes something like this:

When shoes first came out, you could have all of the shoes. There was just one kind, so it was easy! But now, there are millions of styles of shoes. Almost no one believes that they have to have all of the shoes. They find a few pairs that they like and that serve their purpose, and they wear those until they need new ones.

Years ago, you could be a master of all of the technologies that were used in schools. There weren't that many, so it was relatively easy (though they were a lot harder to use than modern tools are)! But now, there are millions of technologies that we might use in the classroom. So why do people believe that they have to master all of them? Why not find a few that they really like and that serve their purpose, and use those until they need new ones?

The key to helping teachers get excited about using technology in the classroom is to start simple. I think we all have a few go-to technologies that we use regularly and find useful in teaching and engaging students. What are yours?

Here are a few of mine:

PollEverywhere: This has become my go-to formative assessment tool. The variety of question types is excellent, and it has some great features like the ability to hide the response stream until everyone has answered and integration with Google Slides and PowerPoint that I really love. I use this tool all of the time for both informal info gathering and more formal assessment of student understanding.

Padlet: I love this simple tool! Again, I often use it to formatively assess my students by asking them to contribute their ideas about a topic on a Padlet wall. The walls can also be embedded into HTML pages, making them a great resource for my flipped classroom endeavors in Canvas. Recently, I've started using Padlet like Pinterest by creating organized boards that include multimedia and link out to additional resources. This helps me keep resources organized by topic in a nice, visual format. I also use Padlet with my students when I teach with the concept development model, as students can brainstorm on the wall and then move the notes around to organize and classify them. This works great on an interactive whiteboard, too!

Gliffy: This is a great concept mapping/flow charting tool that I and my students use for all sorts of things. We use it to plan or visualize a process, like the steps needed to complete an assignment. We also use it to create concept maps of complex topics to help us visualize the organization of and connections between ideas. The maps can be shared, too, to engage students in collaboration.

These tools are recent additions to my toolbox, joining my Google Apps, GarageBand, and iMovie. What they all have in common is that they are content-independent, so I can really use them to engage students in any subject.

One of the things I'm looking forward to the most about #UCET16 is the opportunity to see other teachers' go-to technologies. I hope to see you all there! For now, what are your go-to- tools and why do you love them?

Suzy Cox

Suzy Cox is an Associate Professor in the UVU School of Education, specializing in Educational Technology and Adolescent Psychology, and is the program coordinator for the UVU Master's degree program in Educational Technology. She is the Higher Education liaison on the UCET board.

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