Tech Tips For Teachers

Guest blog by Claudio Zavala, Instructional Technology Coordinator in Duncanville ISD.

Whether you are a rookie teacher or a seasoned veteran, integrating technology in the classroom or even just using it can cause trepidation.  With many school districts passing bonds to improve infrastructure, enhance network capabilities, and purchase new technology for the classroom, you owe it to yourself and your students to improve your technology skills.  The next generation of workforce will need to be collaborators, problem-solvers, creatives, and critical thinkers.  As professional educators, practicing and learning new technology skills will help you in turn teach 21st century skills to your students.

So where do you begin?  With so much out there and technology changing at incredible rates, there is a strategy to take in approaching technology and becoming more technology savvy.  Here are four tips you can use to help you gain a better hold of what technology can impact your teaching.

Trial and Error

I think many of us use this motto when it comes to trying out new things.  Think of the last time you tried out a new recipe at home.  I’ve had the experience where I’ve seen a recipe that sounded and looked good.  That’s the night I ended up ordering take-out.  And then there are times you test out another dish and the family asks for more.  I take that approach to technology as well.  Specifically with regards to apps on my iPhone.

With so many apps that will do the same thing, it’s hard to choose the one that best fits your needs.  For example,  I downloaded 3 camera apps and tested each one out.  Some have a better interface, while others had better editing options.  In the end I chose one that met as many of my own requirements.  For the last 5 years I’ve been using Camera+ as my go to photography app.

You can never go wrong with trial and error.  Don’t like the app or software, simply delete and look for something better.

Seek Help

I think it’s part of our nature not to ask for help or look for assistance.  Perhaps it’s admitting to oneself that I don’t have all the knowledge or procedures to accomplish a task.  Take a deep breath and exhale…it’s okay!  Ask for help.  

help.png

When you are stuck with how to create a Google Doc, accessing content from a cloud drive, or how to navigate software, there’s nothing wrong with contacting your local tech support and technology instructional support.  They are there to help and teach you how to use said technology.

Connect with Others

One way that I have been keeping up with technology trends is staying connected with others via social media such as Twitter.  If you have never used Twitter, here are a couple of guides on getting started with Twitter.

5 Ways for Teachers to get Started on Twitter

The Teacher’s Guide To Twitter

Joining a Twitter chat provides you with a breadth of knowledge from around the world.  You are sure to find a wide range of topics during chats.  Here are a few chats you might want to follow.

  • #edtech
  • #edtechafterdark
  • #edtechchat

Connecting with others via Twitter has afforded collegial friendships and expanded my knowledge of integrating technology into the classroom.  

One Thing at a Time

Has this happened to you?  You attended a great conference/workshop and learned about so many new technology tools.   Upon returning to class the next week you are eager to try out all these new technologies, apps, and softwares.  So you try 3 new apps, change the way you create your presentations, and share a new video website with your students.  Before you know it, you’re drowning in account logins and passwords and can’t remember which cloud drive you used to save content.  Sounds familiar?  First of all, I applaud the willingness to try new things, but one thing at a time.

Where do you begin?  My suggestion is to make a list of the tools, apps, or technology you want to use and test one at time.   For the example below, I created a table and compared features and costs associated with the apps. After testing each one for a specified time, I compared results.

 

App Features Cost Results
FilMicPro
  • High speed frame rates of 60,120,240 fps (hardware dependent).
  • Optimized for iOS10.
  • Full manual controls with pull capabilities
  • Up to a dozen different resolutions and aspect ratios including
  • Multiple Saving & Sharing Options
  • 4 Variable bit video encoding rates to make your footage look the absolute best under all post and color grading conditions or make your device memory last the longest
  • 3rd Party Hardware Support
  • Variable microphone positions
$9.99
  • Easy to use
  • Fast doesn’t crash often
  • Multiple options for video
  • Save anywhere
  • Processes quickly
  • Expensive app
Filmakr
  • 4K 100+mbps Twice the resolution of built-in 4K!! (for supported devices)
  • Motion Effects automatically-applied to front & back cams
  • Live FilmLook Filters auto-applied to front & back cams
  • Dropbox back-up as you shoot:
free
  • Free
  • Easy interface
  • Not as robust as others
MoviePro
  • Pause/Resume,
  • Zoom with speed control,
  • Capture stills while recording,
  • Record directly in Camera Roll (Enable “Save to Camera Roll” in the settings),
  • Manual Focus, Exposure, White balance (on iPhone 7+ select the Telephoto or Wide angle lens for using manual controls),
$5.99
  • Middle of road price
  • Interface tricky
  • Lots of options

 

This is an efficient way to compare the pros and cons of apps (or any technology).  The important thing is to not become overwhelmed with trying to figure out multiple technology tools at once.  Using one tool at a time will allow you sufficient time to test it out with students and make an informed decision on its usefulness.  Otherwise, you will frustrate yourself and give up all together.  Take it slow and you will improve your technology skill set.

***

Ambition is a good thing.  Ambition can also be a detriment.  It’s a matter of putting things into perspective to sift through the piles of options available.  Be strategic with the technology use, start by testing it out and see what works best for you and your students.  When you get stuck or don’t know how to proceed, get some help from experts.  Don’t do it all alone, connect with other educators and professionals to learn from and to share ideas.  Finally, don’t take try all things and hope something sticks.  Give yourself the liberty to use one new tool at a time.  Evaluate based on your needs and go for it.  Using technology can be as easy or as hard as you make it.

 

Supporting Premise –

IA The technologies that make this new digital world possible must be viewed as opportunities and tools that can help us in educating and socializing the young both in and outside of school.

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