Edutech for Teachers

Cool Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Summer Smackdown: Tech the Next Step!


power up tech skills this summerSo, it’s that coveted time of year again in the life of a teacher—summer vacation! Time to chill and participate in some much needed and well-deserved recreational activities to recharge those batteries. In addition to sinking those feet into the sand while sipping on fruity umbrella beverages, hanging out at a campfire with friends or doing whatever it is that you do to unwind, the next few months can also be used to acquire and/or hone digital skills necessary to transform teaching and learning in your classroom.

Hopefully, you have set a few goals of your own for the upcoming year focusing on technology integration. If not, here are a few suggestions that can surely help to power up your knowledge:

» Attend an edtech event and/or follow one from afar via Twitter. For example, the ISTE Conference is being held in Atlanta on June 28-July 2. Can’t make it? Participate virtually with ISTE Live or follow the official hashtag: #ISTE2014.

» Register for a face-to-face course or workshop. If you live in the Pittsburgh, PA area, consider participating in the Alice Institute being held at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science at the end of June. It should be a great learning experience for those interested in teaching programming/coding skills to students. I know I’m super excited to participate!

» Can’t attend the Alice Institute? No problem. You can still teach yourself to utilize a coding tool or app so you can share this knowledge with your students. In the process of learning programming languages, students acquire many other important skills—mathematical and computational concepts, problem solving strategies, and new ways to write “stuff” such as interactive games, animations and simulations. In other words, Computer Science isn’t just about jobs at tech companies, it provides foundational learning for a wide variety of careers. Plus, it’s the new literacy for the 21st Century. Just think— you could be responsible for shaping the next Mark Zuckerberg!

OK, take a deep breath. It’s really not as scary as it sounds, especially if you experiment with one or more of the endless programming tools available online. A few of my favorites include Codecademy and but if you’re interested in becoming a hacker, check out 40+ tools compiled by EdSurge here . Another great resource for locating resources to teach students coding can be found on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog.

There are also several popular apps that can teach kids to code—Hopscotch, Daisy the Dinosaur and Cargo-Bot are a few fan favorites. Check ’em out using the links provided.

And one more thing: Some of the latest studies indicate that the number of jobs for programmers and computer scientists in our society is growing rapidly, with demand far outpacing supply. Just sayin’!

» Join the latest edtech movement by enrolling in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This relatively new phenomenon is becoming increasing popular among both adult learners and high school students. Check out Coursera, a platform that offers 400+ courses created by the world’s top educational institutions such as Stanford, Yale and the University of Michigan to name a few. Want to get really adventurous? Build your very own MOOC using iTunes U. Not only can you share this course with your students, but it can be made available for anyone who lives on the planet. Wouldn’t that be cool?

» Take the Thinglink Challenge, a free, self-paced, online summer professional development opportunity designed to help teachers transform classroom learning and e-learning with interactive images created via the Thinglink web tool. Don’t miss your chance to experience a digital makeover using media-rich instructional resources while interacting with a super awesome facilitator and edtech guru, Susan Oxnevad.

» Become more savvy with a mobile device such as a phone or tablet and then…

Select an app to highlight cool summer events—vacations, picnics, activities, etc.—then use this same app for a classroom integration activity. For instance, create a pretty nifty medley of trip pics utilizing the PicCollage app (one of my faves). Use this same tool to design a collection of images and text to demonstrate knowledge of a historical place or figure. Check out the 9 Powerful (and FREE) Tools to Boost Summer Learning article by Lisa Johnson (TechChef4u) for additional extracurricular and instructional examples that will surely prove to become digital treasures for the upcoming school year. Great minds think alike!

» Speaking of apps—If you live in PA, consider registering for an iPads in Education course offered by Eduspire. I’ll be co-facilitating one of these awesome PD sessions at IU16 on July 8 with Jim Gates, one really happening edtech guy I’ve admired since becoming involved in the Classrooms for the Future initiative several years ago. Yeah, so I’ll be living the dream for at least four days this summer! You should consider joining us. If these days don’t work, check out other options—as well as additional course offerings—here.

» Collect information and resources to plan a “flipped” lesson—one in which students first study a topic themselves via video lessons and then apply the knowledge in class by solving problems and completing practical work. Need more info about flipped learning? Google it! Seriously, you will find anything you could ever imagine in order to make it happen—explanations, examples, rationale and much more!

» Become a digital hoarder. OK, just kidding! But you really should consider becoming a curator of digital content found on the web using a tool such as It’s an excellent way to visually collect and share a variety of useful resources. Check out my 21st Technology Integration collection here.

» Build a PLN on various social media sites—Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn—in order to stay in tune with the latest tech trends. In addition to some of the individuals I’ve already mentioned, your edtech starter kit should definitely include Richard Byrne, Aunty TechMed Kharbach, Gwyneth Jones and Martin Burrett to name a few. The info that can be gleaned from following and/or interacting with these superstars and their respective blogs and sites is invaluable.

» Read a tech integration book. I highly recommend checking out Untangling the Web by Steve Dembo and Adam Bellow.

» Subscribe to the Edutech for Teachers blog by clicking the “Follow” button located to the right!

» Follow Edutech for Teachers on Twitter and Facebook!

So, there you have it—some recommendations for transforming yourself into an edtech rock star for the upcoming school year! No excuses—just tech the plunge! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did—and so will your students!

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One Comment to

“Summer Smackdown: Tech the Next Step!”

  1. June 25th, 2014 at 7:04 am       Elliott Bristow Says:

    Congrats! Your post got featured in the Edublogs Reader! Check your dashboard! You should also add your post to our subreddit at to attract more readers!

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Looking for some technology integration ideas to enhance your classroom lessons? Then be sure to check out my "Tech Tips" for the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools, applications and web sites that can be incorporated into activities and/or projects. Although some posts may not be applicable to your content area or grade level, be sure to check back often as I will be varying ideas in order to provide resources across the K-12 curriculum.

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