Required Technology Experiences?

The current school year isn’t even over and I’m already beginning to think about next year. I’m thinking of moving toward a digital portfolio style of assessment using my classroom wiki. Each student would have their own page as a starting point and would document activities completed in class to show proficiency or their path toward it. This would allow me to give some focused instruction on a skill/tool early on and students could use it as needed throughout the year.
My current notebook system is not far from this model. I have a selection of about 25 activities that I give students at the beginning of the year. They choose from those activities for their homework to process information in class. The activities cover a variety of learning styles and are things I model near the beginning of the year.
Next year, my goal is to do something similar with digital tools for processing information. As my classroom is a science classroom, I always show them methods for graphing data using spreadsheet software. I’ll probably also do some discussion of Presentation Zen style PowerPoint presentations to avoid the dreaded Death By PowerPoint.
My question for you all is this: what experiences/skills do you think I should include for my students early in the year? Granted, I know there will be new tools that crop up during the year, but what would be a good smattering of what is out there to start with? Keep in mind some boundaries:

  • I’m in a science classroom
  • This is 7th grade so starting the year most of my kids are only 12…as a side question, how do you all work through that issue?
  • I do not have daily access to student computers. Early in the year I could probably get close and a vast majority of my students have computers at home.
  • Things I’m already considering: podcasting with Audacity (would love something like GabCast for the under 13 crowd), hyperlinking within the wiki, VoiceThread/Animoto/PhotoStory, Creative Commons…

Looking for as many suggestions as possible.


12 Responses

  1. What about teaching basic video skills and then have them record the steps of the scientific process in a pre-packaged (by you) experiment? Then they’re ready for the Science Fair and can put that in a digital portfolio.

  2. They can also take pictures of the results of experiments (my kids have permission to use a cell phone because of lack of equipment) and portray their learning. They could use voicethread or create a podcast. They could explain the experiment, state which part best displayed the concept for them, or how concepts are related. Design some experiments where each group is creating data that needs to be shared with the others. Use google docs to enter the data and all can then analyze.

    I would really like to see your original list of what you give your students to choose from!

  3. Since you are SMART equipped, you might think about having them do some easy screen casting/recording.

    • Definitely a goal, as well as having them create some Notebook files for topics we’re discussing. I never have enough time to dig through the available files in the Notebook software. Letting the kids do some of the digging should help with that. Thanks!

  4. Most things beyond wikis, blogs, live video conferencing and podcasting are just extra tools to put in their box. Give them a solid foundation in the previous four. Give them an assignment that is authentic–one in which they have to share/collaborate with a real audience and just give them a list from some site with all the available tools they can use to build their presentation.
    Be careful about creating a list of technology skills that are in search on content concepts. Create a list of authentic learning experiences and the purpose and audience will dictate the tech you need.
    I also don’t count just putting it up on the web as “authentic.” Make it for a predetermined audience. I would be happy to volunteer my class as an audience for your class, whether to just sit back and watch, read, or collaborate on a socstud/science project 😉
    Don’t think I answered your question at all did I!!

    • Paul, I totally understand about not trying to create experiences just for using certain tools. The main thing I’m trying to come up with here is exactly as you mention, some sites that should be considered for the “tool box” of a digital portfolio. I’d like to spend some time this summer developing some samples with the various tools for the purpose of demonstrating the use/power of each tool. In the past, students have really enjoyed the freedom of selecting their processing activities for concepts we’ve covered in class. Taking some of these outside of the paper/notebook format and going online/digital is a real goal of mine to help open up what we’re doing.

  5. Consider introducing GoogleDocs to your class. The spreadsheet would be handy to record both quantitative and qualitative observations and share results beyond immediate lab group and reports could be collaboratively written varied locations. As well, the results could be easily shared via your wiki and stored in your digital portfolios.

    Perhaps you’d be interested in having your students explore Glogster to create posters that summarize the scientific method. Here’s a link to an example of how the software was used in a history class to present a timeline. I think it would be easily modified to meet the needs of a science classroom.

    The favourite of my Grade 7 students this year has been They have used it to manage vocabulary, summarize main ideas of new concepts, complete comparisons,…
    @tombarrett shared the following link on Twitter as a source of ideas for using Wordle in classrooms.

    I’ll be following your blog now. I hope you’ll keep us posted!

    • Thanks for the suggestions, I had definitely intended on Glogster and Animoto, thanks for reminding me to include Wordle early on as well. The trouble with Google Docs is again that my students will only be 12 starting the year. I talk about Google Docs often, but having them all sign up for accounts means I’m encouraging them to break Google’s Terms of Service/COPA. This is a huge struggle of mine as I’d love to have the simplicity of students sharing files with me for the purpose of assessment through Google Docs. I’ll definitely keep you all updated on the direction I go with some of this stuff.

      • Ah yes…I forgot about the age-factor. What about as a collaborative tool — prep them for GoogleDocs when their age allows?

  6. Google Earth?
    Blogs certainly.
    See this link:

    Could this be useful, especially if you could get a reader?

    What about iPhones or iTouch? Combine Twitter photo possibilities with Photo pictures and say experiments or other things where visual data are useful?

    Just some ideas from a NON science teacher and a NON elementary school teacher. So I really don’t know what I am talking about but that doesn’t stop me!

    But I applaud your ideas and the direction i which you are taking your class!

    P.S. I lived in Kinston a million years ago. When I graduated from Duke my father wanted me to go to law school and my profs wanted me to go to graduate school. So I took a job with Procter and Gamble selling soap. I lived in Kinston and my territory ran from Kinston to the coast.

    Did you say you are from Foley? I live in Daphne now.


  7. I completely agree with Kelly about some sort of screencasting on your SMARTBoard although that might be for much later in the year

    I’d also recommend the skill of note taking from online sources possibly through the use of something like Diigo. Check out this blog for a good discussion of that:

    I also would echo the people who talk about animoto. I just used it for rainforest vocabulary myself(students took a word and created an animoto for that word including the definition in their own words and at least 15 pictures that represented it- unfortunately their taste in music disappointed me!!)


  8. As usual, we are on the same wavelength…I am looking for ideas on how to turn some of my paper interactive journaling into online/digital journaling. I would love to work on this together this summer:) Also, thanks for the heads up on the Google user agreement – I didn’t know that there was an age cut off…I guess I didn’t read it too closely when I agreed to it. I will be checking back on this comment feed – lots of good ideas already!

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