Members of the Education World Tech Team share their must-have tech tools for educators. Whatâs 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:
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
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to note the tech tools that have become classic, everyday tools for many of us, as well as the ones that have been replaced by newer, more powerful technologies," added Mary Kreul.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!"
Julia Timmons list of essentials has grown through the years. My essentials," she told us, now include:
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."
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
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:
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!"
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