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Members of the Education World Tech Team share their must-have tech tools for educators. What’s on your list?

Four years ago, we asked members of the Education World Tech Team to tell us about the hardware and software they considered essential to their teaching and/or professional lives outside the classroom. The responses were published in the article Learn to Accessorize: Hardware and Software Essentials. Recently, we wondered how many of the technology tools our experts identified in 2003 were essential in todays classrooms, and how many new tools our experts had added to the list. So once again, we asked our Tech Team: What hardware and/or software do you consider essential -- or invaluable -- for todays educator? This is what they said:

APPLE WORKS!

Weve all seen significant changes over the past four years, even in the rural corners of Northern California," Wally Fuller told us, but Im staying with the Macintosh platform; Apples commitment to innovation and education support is peerless. Since the majority of what I do is classroom oriented, Ill stay with what I know from experience.

Hardware and Accessories for the classroom teacher
Apple laptop computer with built-in camera and wireless connectivity (portability); SuperDrive (CD/DVD playing and recording); digital camera (publishing); thumb drive (quick storage and information transfer); printer (hard copies); projector (presentation).

Essential or Invaluable Software
Apples pre-installed software package provides the essentials for any classroom teacher (iLife and iWork). Beyond that I would add a grading program and mind mapping software (Inspiration)."

As I reread the Tech Team article from October 2003, I was interested to note the tech tools that have become classic, everyday tools for many of us, as well as the ones that have been replaced by newer, more powerful technologies," added Mary Kreul.

One tool that we still use quite often in the classroom is a 1 GB flash drive. We have a large bank of non-networked iMacs in our room, so students use the flash drive to move files between computers and to the computers that are connected to printers. Files also can be saved and then copied to the school server, so students can do their work on the networked computers in the PC computer lab. That procedure, although time consuming, works well when keypal letters have to be e-mailed from the teacher's ePals account, when students are contributing individual slides to a class PowerPoint presentation, and for backing up student work in assignment specific files.

I use my iPod shuffle to download podcasts to listen to while working or taking walks. Through podcasts downloaded from iTunes, I was able to virtually attend several sessions of last summer's NECC (National Educational Computing Conference) in Atlanta without leaving home.

We watch educational DVDs through our classroom computer, so a large screen monitor or other projection system is a necessity. However, our school still has VHS tapes that coordinate with the curriculum, so a dual system for playing DVDs and VHS tapes is needed.

In the past, Ive purchased versions of AppleWorks or Office for basic word processing and other professional and personal needs. Although those two software packages are still on my computer, I often use NeoOffice, which is a free, open source version of Open Office. The price is right and the software looks and acts much like traditional software packages.

Digital cameras -- both still and video -- still are a must for personal and educational use. Today, digital cameras are packed with memory and have become much easier to use. Photoshop Elements is an inexpensive photo editing tool, but many computers and Web sites now come with free editing tools, such as iPhoto on Macs, or Google's Picasa.

Print Shop by Software MacKiev is still my top pick for creating cards, signs, and banners, but now you and your students also can make newsletters, labels, booklets, business cards, gift tags, name tags, calendars, online greetings, and more.

Personally, I couldn't live without my iBook laptop. I networked my home computer system with a router and an AirPort card, so I can use the laptop in any room or in the yard. If I can do that, anyone can! I also can take the laptop to conferences, on trips, and to school -- and I can jump on free networks anywhere theyre offered. It still amazes me that you can be connected almost anywhere you take a laptop -- but due to that ability, people need to make choices as to when, where, and how often they want to be connected -- and when it's better to be disconnected!"

OFFICE STAPLES

Julia Timmons list of essentials has grown through the years. My essentials," she told us, now include:

Software

Hardware

  • Flat Screen monitor -- it doesn't have to be huge!
  • Good quality printer -- preferably a laser black and color photo. HP is my brand all the way. I don't like the combo printers.
  • CD/DVD RW drive(s)
  • Plenty of USB ports -- about 10!!
  • Scanner -- not essential, but I really really like having it to use for scanning all kinds of documents to operate in a paperless world in the classroom, and to scan in pics/slides in the personal world. I like Epson brand
  • Digital camera of good quality -- Canon is my favorite brand; I love the S3IS.
  • External storage -- an external hard drive to back up data (essential with all we are saving digitally these days). That has saved me several times from loosing valuable and irreplaceable stuff.
  • Portable storage -- USB flash drive, 2 GB minimum.
  • Palm or other handheld device to keep schedules, dates, reminders, and store pictures and music. I went the "low end" price route and use a Tungsten Palm from work. I would purchase my own if I didn't have that one.
  • Smart board or Smart Airliner, with projection unit for classroom use. In our school, we connect them to our TV system and a VCR and have everything through one computer.
  • CPS (classroom performance system) also for classroom use. If I were in the classroom full time I would use it daily to monitor understanding and progress on goals I was responsible for achieving that day/week. I would see it as essential!"

FIND IT ONLINE

For Cossondra George, laptops for teacher and students, a projector, speakers and an iPod dock, jump drives, servers, dependable wireless access, and digital cameras all seem basic -- critical -- to me. Tablet laptops for students with wireless projection systems would be wonderful.

I dont see the need for much in the way of specific software. With online tools readily available for wikis, blogs, document sharing, and so on, if students have computers with Internet access, those programs are there already. Essential types of software for educators, however, include online grading programs with parent access, the capability to download and use videos, podcasts, and so on with your class. (Some schools are blocking YouTube, iTunes and so on at school, so teachers must have access elsewhere.), and podcasting equipment -- video/audio -- software that allows the teacher to monitor individual students and allows teacher and students to interact with one another."

BACK TO BASICS

Id say that a laptop is a must in a classroom," Fred Holmes said. Along with that, some way to show information to the entire class, be it a Smart board or a projector. The teacher can use the laptop to do presentations to the students and even for parents; they can take it to meetings or on field trips for student based research. Palms or some type of hand-held computer can be used by students for field research. I know that iPods are making an inroad in schools, but they must be used with caution. While you think a student is listening to a lecture, or an oral reading, they could be listening to music. Teacher supervision is a must!

As for software, the biggest concern is that the computer must have some type of good anti-virus protection -- viruses are becoming worse and worse. A good security system, such as a firewall, also is a must."

Invaluable and approaching essential -- a laptop," seconded Patrick Greene. After all, it is easy to predict that American K-12 education is going to be an all laptop affair, and soon."

The most important software tool that teachers should have, and become expert in using," Bernie Poole told Education World, is Microsoft Office 2007. The reason I say that is because Microsoft Office, in general, incorporates essential tools for teaching and learning. Microsoft Office 2007, in particular -- besides being a very nice user interface, which makes the functions of the software more readily available -- has added a considerably larger set of drawing and diagramming tools that are excellent for both teachers and students when brainstorming or in the preparation of visual learning materials."

There are two items I would consider essential for educators today," said Vicky Romano. The first is a webcam -- not only to allow students to visit with other students across the globe, but also to allow teachers to interact with colleagues all over the globe. Teaching can be a very isolating experience, but working with others to create lessons and share information professionally is greatly enhanced by face-to-face interaction/conversations. A webcam allows for access to professionals with similar interests. That interaction might not happen without face-to-face voice and image access. The interactive video software is getting better with faster Internet connections and thats a more reliable medium.

The other essential item is still Internet access. With faster, more reliable connections, teachers have access to such instructional resources as art museums, zoos, and a plethora of sites that just were not available before. Bringing resources to the classroom now is essential, as funding for out-of-school trips and other enriching experiences is cut due to budget restrictions.

A flash drive is soooo important," adds Jennifer Wagner. Plus, every educator needs to belong to an online community. Whether it be twitter, Ning, a message group, bulletin board.you need to be connected with your peers online. And finally, Google Docs -- a must for collaboration!!!

EVERYDAY ESSENTIALS

My district isn't into buying every new thing that comes along, said Linda George, who teaches technology in grades K- 5. But I can tell you that I think the following are very important to my everyday lessons:

Software

  • Kidspiration, Inspiration: We use those all the time. Theyre great brainstorming tools as well as nice ways to organize facts, present knowledge. Theyre very popular with the kids because the applications are so versatile.
  • Kid Pix, Tux Paint: I love Kid Pix. We create, record voices, make slideshows. Tux Paint is a nice free application that the kids can download at home and it's a change from Kid Pix here at school as it has different features.
  • Open Office or Microsoft Office: Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for certificates, slideshows, outlines.We learn formatting, how to get toolbars, how to "dress up" a paper or a presentation.
  • Type to Learn: For 3rd grade, I teach keyboarding the first three weeks of school, every day for 45 minutes. Then, every week, the kids review for 15 minutes before our regular lesson. By the end of third grade, they are touch-typing with keyboard covers (no peeking!) quite well.
  • Google Earth, along with ePals, allow our students to experience their world, learn about different cultures, and see for themselves the vast differences and similarities we have with people everywhere.
  • Google Sketchup: My kids love that free application. It has great tutorials and is easy enough for even young kids to feel successful.
  • Scratch is popular because it has easy to follow tutorials, is free, and is FUN! Great early programming app.
  • Stationery Studio: I use it for students to write letters. We sometimes send get-well letters to absent classmates or staff members. It allows the kids to choose which template they want, so it can be customized easily. I also use it to print sheets for students who need to remember how to log on to the computer, as it can be used to practice handwriting and letters.
  • Image Blender is nice because it allows students to edit and have fun with digital photos. They can put a cool frame around their photos, or curl the edges, or draw on it. It's a great application to resize photos. It also comes with a nice instruction booklet with good ideas to get the kids started.

Hardware

  • digital camera with video capabilities
  • iPod with a recorder
  • lcd projector(s)
  • a decent screen to project on

Personnel
This is the first year I dont have an assistant in my lab, and every day I realize how valuable she was to me and to the work I do with kids. So, it's nice to have good software and good hardware, but a good helper is worth her weight in gold!"

Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 30 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* Wally Fuller, technology teacher, Upper Lake Middle School, Upper Lake, California
* Cossondra George, middle-level math and social studies instructor, Newberry Middle School, Newberry, Michigan
* Linda George, technology integration specialist, Dondero School, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
* Patrick J Greene, PhD, Florida Gulf Coast University, Educational Technology Department
* Fred Holmes, high school LanManager/Webmaster, Osceola Public Schools, Osceola, Nebraska
* Mary Kreul, 4th grade teacher, Richards Elementary School, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
* Bernard John Poole, Associate Professor of Education and Instructional Technology, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (Pennsylvania)
* Vicky Romano, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois
* Julia Timmons, instructional technology specialist, Lynchburg City Schools, Lynchburg, Virginia
* Jennifer Wagner, technology educator and integration specialist, Technospud

Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

12/07/2007



 

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