Gearing up for the new school year

Teachers can share ideas to get their classroom technology up to speed.
Teachers can share ideas to get their classroom technology up to speed.

It is hard to believe that it was more than two months ago that I was gearing up for summer.  I was brushing last year’s sand off of my beach chairs, slipping my feet into friendly old sandals, and hitting the gym so I would fit into bathing suits that must have shrunk in the wash!  Now fall is peeking out from behind sweaty days, with soaking rains to revive scorched grass and yellow buses practicing routes that will soon bring bodies into the waiting desks. The bare classroom in which I sit will soon be filled, and I have a new plan to get ready for this school year.

In the past I have dusted off curriculum binders, gathered a supply of whiteboard markers (so recently replacing chalk), and put up a framework for bulletin boards to be populated with student work by the end of week one.  This year is a bit different.  This year is the culmination of my move into the digital realm.  This year my mantra is “Get Teched Up!”

My technology age makeover:

•    I am scanning my entire curriculum into .PDF files using my school’s copy machines
◦    This is as simple as copying on the Xerox machine end, and as easy as opening and saving an attached eMail document on the computer end.  Now I have an archive of all of my units that I can print out when I want to use them…or I could even eMail them directly to students who could then view them on computers or tablet devices (including technology like the iPad and eReaders such as Nook or Kindle).

•    I am building a class web site, not to be flashy, but to be efficient
◦    I’ve decided that I don’t like using the class web site like a bulletin board that showcases work. I don’t think this helps my students practice the use of technology the way they will be asked to use it in college.  Instead, my site is going to be a posting of homework assignments and links to all handouts they need to complete those assignments.  (I’ll let the students build flashy sites in lieu of a PowerPoint presentation later in the year.)

•    I’m getting a ceiling mounted projector in my classroom–no more whiteboard markers
◦    No, it isn’t an interactive whiteboard, but it is going to be just as useful.  I will be able to plug my laptop and share whatever is on my computer screen with the whole class.  I had this technology in my classroom last year and was able to create documents of notes during class discussions or review sessions on which the whole class had collaborated.  These documents are easily posted to the web site for individual review at home.

•    I will be able to control my computer from the palm of my hand
◦    I downloaded a remote network access application for my Android powered phone and now I can control my laptop from across the room.  This will enable me to be mobile in the classroom while still allowing me to advance through slides on a PowerPoint, switch between applications, or scroll down documents.  If this technology proves to enhance my teaching as much as I think it will, I’ll upgrade from the 3” screen on my phone to a 7” or 10” screen available on one of the forthcoming Android tablet devices (this type of remote network access is most likely available on the iPhone or iPad as well).

•    I will be ensuring that my students “Get Teched Up!”
◦    The learning curve will be steep, but I am continually amazed with how quickly the younger generation picks up new technology skills.  My students will have to learn how to access web pages and navigate to my web page to get their homework assignments each night. They will need to become comfortable with collaborating on Google Documents, creating websites, and scanning their own files to create a digital archive of their school work.

These are a few ways I’ll be using technology in my classroom this year, both for instruction and infrastructure.  I’m challenging teachers at my school to look over my shoulder (or the shoulder of a tech savvy student) and ask questions in pursuit of a common goal: “Get Teched Up!”

Michael Hildebrandt holds a master’s degree in special education and is a certified teacher of students with moderate disabilities.  He currently teaches study skills, instructs language arts tutorials, and writes grants for Landmark School in Beverly, Massachusetts, which serves students with language-based learning disabilities.

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