Friday, March 7, 2014

Using Google (and Technology in General) to your Advantage

I once got into a conversation with a veteran teacher.  She had been teaching since the 70s and would soon be retiring.  She was musing at how "easy" we have it as teachers now because of technology.  Grades that are automatically calculated, programs designed for us to use so we don't have to make them, smart boards, you name it.  Of course she wasn't taking into account the constant standards we have to live up to and prove about ourselves now, but we won't go there ;)  She asked why we, as new teachers, felt the need to use this technology... that a good teacher doesn't need to use technology to be a good teacher.

I mean...there is a truth to that.  But does it mean I am a bad teacher if I choose to use it?  The best doctor in the world isn't going to turn down cutting edge technology that can take his error rate from 1% down to .1% is he?  It doesn't make him a bad doctor.  The same goes for teaching.  Just because I choose to use these resources at my fingertips does not mean I NEED them to teach.  They simply are there to enhance my teaching.

If your district hasn't adapted into using Google as a platform, I highly recommend it.  It's amazing to be able to use the online documents, to create chat rooms with my students, to share documents with them, for them to be able to collaborate with each other even when they are home for the day.  It's incredible.  It even takes away the "OH CRAP!" moment when the group member with all of the materials for the project is sick that day.

Today in my French 2/3 class, I realized I was stuck because I had my 2s taking a quiz at the same time I needed to discuss last night's homework with the 3s so they could move on to today's work.  Crap.  What is a teacher to do in this situation?  I can't just talk over the 2s taking a quiz...that can ruin their concentration.  But you bet your butt I won't leave my 2s alone in the room to take said quiz while talking to my 3s in the hall.  And the days of having an aide were over before I ever even considered teaching as a profession.

Then it hit me.  Create a Google Hangout.  If you have never used Google, a hangout is basically like an instant messaging chat.  However, the beauty of it is that you can add multiple people to the hangout.  We were able to chat and discuss last night's homework without talking (all 9th graders in our district have laptops, so this was something I could decide at last minute without reserving computers).  The only sound was the click click of our keyboards.  This also opened the door to students being able to instant message me their homework questions and me being able to respond immediately...all without giving them my personal (home) account information.

I know I've talked about Conjuguemos before.  It is an amazing online study tool for kids.

Quizlet is great as well, as you can have the kids make their own flashcards.  The flashcards will even speak the word to them (in the target language!) to help them with pronunciation.

I do agree with the teacher's sentiment.  A good teacher doesn't need to use technology to be good.  But I have to say, it takes a great teacher to effectively use the blessings of technology to truly further the knowledge of his/her students rather than using it as a crutch.

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