What is the Best #EdTech Tool?

I recently responded to this question in one of my collaborative networks I. I think many of us have answered this question many times.

Hello All,
I was charged with the task of creating technology rich PD sessions for content area teachers. Could you share the best tech tools for Science, Social Studies, Math and Literacy for middle and high school students?

Here is the essence of my response:

Wow, big question with so many answers. We've been down this path from a few different directions with varying degrees of sucess.
I want to share some advice before sharing the tools.

1. The tools can be great and can be a catalyst for change, but they can also be a dead end if the a tool is no longer available for some reason. It is important to have a few choices to accomplish a task. I usually give my students a couple of options to see what works best for them. A list of tools to meet a certain set of skills helps steer us clear of the idea that there is only one way to get something done.

2. Start with the skills first. "What do you want students to be able to do with the content?" is an essential question we always ask when supporting staff. It is important to have a model or plan for why you uses the tools, not just what the tools are for.

Here are a few ways that we've successfully modeled our training and integration of technology to enhance instruction.

3. Try to find as many tools as possible that are not for a single subject, instead focus on tools that can be used across multiple subjects. Students are much more comfortable and effective learners with a handful of tools they can effectively use across classrooms. This will reduce the stress on both teachers and students to learn the tools.

4. Finally, it is important to consider the culture and teaching 1st. There is a big difference between a traditional teacher-centric culture and a student-centered 1 to 1 environment.

Here are a few of our main tool collections for staff:

If you have a specific need for a skill or concept, I can probably narrow down this list quite a bit. Just let me know in the comments below. 

How would your respond to this question? 

Using Collaborative Networks to be Heard

It is all about engagement! Can you hear me now?

I have a tendency to sound like a broken record more often than I should. I can ramble on when I am passionate or worked up about something. I've been rambling for years about how Twitter and EdCamp have done more to impact my teaching and learning than anything else I might point to. I've encouraged anyone who will listen to attend an EdCamp or engage in Twitter. If you are looking to grow as an educator, I firmly believe that you need to find an EdCamp near you ASAP. While you are waiting for EdCamp, learn a little more about social networks to engage in a Personal Learning Network.

Collaborative networks can be used to communicate and collaborate. These networks are great resources to build critical thinking skills and inspire creative thinking.

Connected educators use Social Networks to:
1. Get the word out about school events and resources.
2. Share resources and classroom conversations.
3. Engage in Personal Learning Networks to improve teaching and learning.

Collaborative digital tools can be powerful resources to amplify student voices, teacher voices, and a school voice.

Learn more about how to get started, manage, and engage in Social Networks to support teaching and learning with this interactive set of tutorials:

Connected Educator Interactive

Please share your ideas, resource, and tips in the comment section below. 

It's Not About the Shiny New Tools

Many teachers still love the shiny new tool and get excited when we show them a new resource, but over the years we've discovered that this did not move teachers forward in their teaching very often. We also struggled when a tool caught on and then either disappeared or we lost district support for. We got a bit tired of hearing, "Why should we use this if it is gone in a year?"

For district required Tech Tools (Gradebooks, LMS, etc.) we create online tutorials and offer periodic face to face help sessions, but we don't teach the tools. We instead facilitate the use of the tools to support teaching and learning skills. 

When we plan Instructional Technology PD we try focus on specific teacher and student skills rather than the tools, with these two foundations: 
  • We model our PD around learner-centered activities, with this infographic as our foundation: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology. We ask teachers to approach PD and planning with 1 or more of these in mind. We design any pd offerings with 1 or more of these in mind. 
  • Our second primary goal is to support a shift to learner-centered classrooms where teachers use the 4Cs. We believe that EdTech tools can help a teacher use their course content to help students develop skills connected to Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Here is one of our resources sites connected to this idea: Recharge Learning
Despite our goal to focus on skills, sometimes you still need to have tools in place to help teachers shift to the skills. In the big picture, the two resources that have given us the most leverage to shift our learning: 

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