I attended the Texas Computer Educator’s Association Conference a couple of weeks ago. The big topics were The Cloud, Distance Learning, 1-1 and BYOD. I attended sessions on these and other technology topics.
Cloud computing allows many resources to be stored securely online, allows sharing with controlled access, and frees up server space. Rather than buying more servers and paying for packaged communications and administrative programs schools are looking at free alternatives and hosted solutions. Hosted means that digital information is stored on a server owned by the service provider and information is accessed over the web. Our Follett Library Software works like this.
Open source technology offers free solutions for information managment needs. Sort of like generics. For example instead of buying Microsoft Office users can download Open Office. Nice thing about that is that it works on both PC and Mac platforms which makes sharing documents easier. Some schools are replacing their Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Edline with free alternatives like Moodle. Some schools are using free Content Management Systems to expand online course content in conjunction with the commercial grading/communication suites they are already using. Individual classroom teachers can incorporate a suite of tools like Moodle or choose from boutique CMS apps like Collaborize Classroom.
The two most popular free Content and Learning Management Sysytems (CLMS) are Google Tools for Education and Moodle. Moodle has matured since it began, tailoring offerings to user need. Schools and educators are active participants in Moodle development. While Moodle requires learning a unique set of skills. Many of us use Google apps every day so using the Google education tools might be quicker to integrate.
Collaborative was one more TCEA buzzword. Teachers are collaborating with colleagues within schools and world wide. Teachers are setting up collaborative opportunities for students. Collaborize Classroom is a free CMS tool teachers are using to do this. If you want to join me in a discussion about online collaborative learning visit my Collaborize Classroom and register to join the discussion. There is a three question poll to get us started. We’ll try a more open ended forum after that. The best way to use these tools is to jump in a try.
And speaking of Google, did you ever think of Googling as a art? Finding information without wading through all those irrelevant hits is an important skill. Here’s the short version of a workshop I attended called The Amazing Art of the Google Search.
There were the usual workshops presenting a dizzying array of free Web 2.0 apps that can be used in the classroom. Rather than trying to summarize all of them, I am passing along this link to Web2.0Guru. Below the Top 20 Web 2.0 Must Haves for Every 21st Century Classroom you’ll find more sites categorized by purpose. Librarians love it when people categorize! Larry Ferlazzo’s blog is another good site to add to your Google Reader.
Google Reader is one of many great Google tools. You can use Google Reader to gather all the online resources you read regularly. If a site has a RSS feed option ( that cool orange button with the white curvy lines) you can click on it and have new articles from that site appear in your Google Reader so all you have to do is log in to your Google account and they are all there for you to read.
Last year at TCEA teaching with GoogleEarth was a hot topic and there was more this year as well. Teachers are using GoogleEarth in all disciplines. Google Earth Walks was one of the presentations at TCEA. Global Trips with Google Earth was another. You do have to download the app to use GoogleEarth. Google does a good job supporting this app with tutorials.
1-1 was another big idea that got a lot of attention. This means one computer per student. Schools that cannot afford to buy laptops for every student are considering Bring Your Own Device options and writing acceptable use policies that include BYOD. Having students supply their own computer/ipad/iphone, etc. is hotly debated among educators. Does the practice promote inequity? Can school IT professionals support it? What about security? What about software compatibility issues? Here is a slideshow called Balancing Resources and Providing Access for Student Devices that clarifies the debate somewhat.
In the exhibits I was most impressed with two products: Study Island provides 24/7 tutorials and practice tests for SAT, AP, and state-based standards like TEKS and STARR. At the booth I was quoted a package price of $9 per student for a school our size. Another $9 per-student solution I thought was pretty cool was Discipline Manager. It’s a web-based solution that tracks student discipline issues and helps promote consistency in dealing with those issues.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend TCEA. Technology is a moving target. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out there will be an update. Training and practice is critical to success. The unfamiliar becomes familiar when we keep doing it.