Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School with Ed Tech

It is only August, but all of the districts in Riverside County are back in session. Some districts are already in their third week! This seems like a good time to share some trends I am seeing in educational technology.

Photo credit: @TrPatel20 
One of my favorite trends is districts giving space to educational technology in their professional learning days prior to the start of the school year. For example, Hemet USD had a focus on technology when they brought their management team together for a day of professional learning in July. Riverside USD featured educational technology in their day-long professional learning conference the week before school started. And Romoland School District also featured technology in a general session and several break-out sessions at their all-staff Return-to-Work day the day before all their students showed up. Pictured with me here is Romoland Instructional Coach Sonal Patel who, along with another instructional coach (Susan McDonald) presented a wonderful break-out session on Digital Citizenship. They had a classroom full of teachers using tools and discussing strategies for teaching digital citizenship. I was also impressed that Romoland's Chief Technology Officer, Vince Butler, jumped in and provided a break-out session that gave teachers a look at many of the technology tools available to them. Great things can happen when a district shows its priorities by giving space to them.

Image by Alice Keeler @
There are simply far too many fantastic digital tools for teachers to check out to even try to list them here. But one great tool that has been upgraded for the start of school is Google Classroom. You can read about the new features of Google Classroom by visiting the official Google site. But better yet, check out the Updates for Google Classroom blog post by leading Google Apps expert Alice Keeler. Some of the best professional learning you can get from the web is free - just follow Alice on Twitter. Or, you can splurge on the whole $20 it costs to buy the 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom book. One of my favorite upgrades to Google Classroom is the Google Calendar integration. Now, when you create a class in Classroom, a new calendar will automatically be created for the class and assignment due dates will be immediately added to that calendar. The assignments that do not need a due date can be toggled off so that they do not appear on the calendar. This is one more step toward helping teachers and students stay organized. It is also one more step Google has taken toward having Google Classroom become an actual learning management system on its own.

Screenshot used with permission from Keara Gonzales
Finally, the best thing about this back-to-school season is that my daughter has landed her first teaching position! She is now teaching first grade at Hemmerling Elementary in Banning USD - Go Mustangs! Making her father really proud, she had her teacher website up and running before the start of school. The point of showcasing my daughter's website is not just to embarrass her. The idea is that using digital tools, like a free Weebly website, can increase communication and collaboration between parents and teachers. It is a good reminder that teachers who set up something like this, within the parameters of district guidelines, will increase the sense of home-to-school community and reduce the chance of miscommunication throughout the school year.

Dennis Large
educator & learner