Classroom Top Four – #3 Teacher Technology Use

Ok, here we are after a full year between Classroom Top Four #2 and #3. Wow. Good news is that I have more refined opinions on this specific topic, partly because I changed schools and the friction of the change has made me more thoughtful about what I’d want in an ideal classroom.

Previous entries: #1 Course Evaluations and #2 Whiteboards and Furniture

This post is about the teacher use of technology in the classroom. Student use of tech is a different challenge. 

My favorite setup:

  • A projector. Large, clear, bright display on some flat surface on a wall. Large, clear, and bright is so important. Yet so hard to achieve in a school (seemingly). Oh and it needs a remote with a “freeze” button.
  • An Apple TV connected directly to the digital projector. No network necessary (not using the streaming media features at all). HDMI only please, no VGA conversion.  Sounds like a small nerdy request, but it’s important.
  • An iPad with an Apple Pencil. This tablet easily mirrors to an Apple TV that in the same room (neither need internet access for this, technology magic makes it happen, but I’d want internet on the iPad).
  • Notability app. Super powerful and easy to use software for making hand written notes, marking up images, and exporting pdfs to google drive.

Notes:

  • The full Apple setup totally isn’t required, but I think it’s the best current setup. I’ve been happy with an android tablet (that came with a real stylus), some random box to mirror it to the projector, and some app that did a similar task to notability. At each step there were some more hiccups, the mirroring connection was more buggy, the writing app was a bit more janky, and the export to google drive took 8 clicks instead of 3. I’m no expert though, there certainly may be improvements in all these areas.
  • Writing with a real stylus on a tablet is super important. You need to be able to put your palm down on the tablet and have the tablet just read the stylus’s input. When it’s done right, it’s almost as natural as writing on a sheet of paper, but it has so many more benefits compared to paper. Also this is super important for:
  • You need to have the students write on the tablet without thinking. It shouldn’t be a learning curve. You freeze the projector, give a student the tablet and stylus and say “solve this problem for me please” while everyone else in class is working on the same (or similar) problem.
  • No Interactive White Board. Sorry Smartboard/Activboard etc. I don’t block half the room with my projected tablet. I can walk around the room and be present where classroom management requires me to be. I can give the tablet to a student so that they can (somewhat anonymously) share their work.
  • Take pictures of student work and project them. Mark them up and discuss. No need for names, just “here’s some wonderful work that I captured from your class.” You know the kinds of kids that will be all “yo, that’s my work!” and the kids who’d rather be not called out. This gives them that option, and its soooo easy to do this in notability. Plus button, take picture, insert, crop and resize all takes < 20 seconds.
  • Export your notes at the end of every class to a shared google drive folder and make sure the link to the google drive is in somewhere they can find it (best place for me? the about section of their google classroom). Done. Why not? Yes it doesn’t totally capture the class, but nothing ever does, and it’s a great solution for students who miss class, who’d rather not write and just pay attention, etc.
  • Put Monument Valley on the tablet and give it to students who finish a test early and are just mindlessly scrolling instagram or snapchat.
  • Use the Desmos app, or some other app and take screenshots of things that you’d like to mark up in the software.

What am I missing?

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