Teaching Teachers to Track Tech Tips

from Educators' eZine

Countless k-12 classrooms today use technology to enhance student learning. This technology may be simple, such as a calculator, or part of an elaborate program, such as laptops in a one-to-one initiative. If you take the time to sit and watch the rhythm of the learning experiences in almost any classroom, you will likely encounter at least one unique integration of technology that even the most seasoned, technologically savvy, educator had not thought of before.

As I reflect on my own teaching I realize many of my most beloved technology tools for teaching originated from a "tip" from a colleague, student, or friend. For example, one of my all-time favorite teacher tools, Rubistar, was first introduced to me by a fellow science teacher who one day marched into the faculty dining room declaring, "I just found the neatest rubric-maker online." Rubistar allows teachers to quickly, effectively, and expertly create rubrics for use in the classroom. The site masterfully conquers the tedious chore of formatting, gives teachers inspiration with included exemplars, and grants educators full control by allowing them to edit existing options or create their own.

Another of my favorite tech tips came from the realm of "closely guarded student shared resources". Students have their own secret list of treasured sites that they are hesitant to share with teachers or anyone outside of their demographic category. In a rare instance, a student took me into her confidence when she shared with me her closely-guarded EasyBib site, which automates the tedious task of formatting a bibliography. No longer must students and teachers hassle with the chore of remembering where to place a comma or a period in a reference list. Instead, by merely responding to a series of questions or by making a few choices from a drop down menu, anyone can expertly create a flawless bibliography.

This experience highlights what teaching with or without technology should be – a collaboration. All educators should be "life long learners" who are constantly looking for new innovations to improve teaching and learning. Whether these innovations be a resourceful software or a new way to ask a probing question, belonging to community of collaboration is key.

I spent 10 years as a high school chemistry teacher and now find myself as a teacher-educator teaching instructional technology to pre-service teachers. While designing my course curriculum, I once again realized that many of my favorite lessons incorporated technology introduced to me through my "community of collaboration". I wanted to recreate this community experience for my pre-service teachers. This desire led me to create a course assignment called the "tech tip". All pre-service teachers have field placement experiences requiring them to visit area elementary classrooms. The tech tip component, whose assignment sheet is below, asks them to seek inspiring uses of technology during their field placement experiences and present this information to the class. Throughout the semester, each class session begins with a tech tip presentation from a classmate. The student presents his or her tech tip and provides each classmate with a handout containing:

  1. A general description of the resource.
  2. Information on where to find the resource.
  3. A rationale for why they think this resource is useful in the elementary classroom.
  4. A description of how this resource can be used to enhance student learning.

My hope is that as pre-service teachers they can begin to cultivate these qualities of life-long learners: observant of one's surroundings; focused on student learning; and eager to share their ideas and observations with others.

The best part of this project is that I learn 30 new tech tips each semester! Here are a few of my new favorites:

This is an exciting new tool that allows groups of students to collaboratively create concept maps online. Groups of students log-on to the site from their individual computers from any location and are able to view the same screen where they collaboratively create a map in real-time.

Creative Commons
Understanding copyright laws in the digital age is difficult and confusing for most students and teachers. This site defines a web author's copyright intentions; and allows you to browse for "licensed media that you can legally share and reuse for free."

Create A Graph
Find Excel® to be too confusing for your elementary students to use? This site allows even the youngest students to easily create graphs and charts for their data. "Create a Graph" is a free online tool that helps both teachers and students input their own data and labels to create professional looking charts and graphs with ease.

While it may appear at cursory glance that we are merely sharing "Hot tips" on new technology, it is much more. We are sharing perspectives. From the pedagogical choices we as teachers make, including the tools we use and more importantly how we integrate them into the learning process, we get a sense of what we value and we discover new perspectives on the process of teaching and learning. It is through our involvement in these communities of collaboration that we truly become life-long learners.

Tech Tip

25 points
Due: On Assigned Day


Thus far this semester you have been introduced to many different types of technology. For this task, you and a partner will find an important technological resource that may be used in the elementary classroom and present this tool to the class. You and a partner will be giving a FORMAL 5-7 min. presentation to the class and providing each student in the class with a handout about your resource. Remember you are the expert and a qualified professional. Your presentation should reflect this fact.

Your Presentation should include (15 points):

  1. A general description of the resource.
  2. Information on where to find the resource
  3. A rationale for why you think this resource is useful in the elementary classroom.
  4. A description of how this resource can be used to enhance student learning.

Your brief handout should include (10 points):
(You will need to bring 30 copies of your handout for the class.)

  • Details about the content area, the methods of relaying information, classroom importance, etc.
  • An evaluation of the quality of the information available from the resource: the accuracy and depth of information, the quality of presentation, trustworthiness of the source, the reliability of the product.
  • An evaluation of the appropriateness of the information in the resource: the fit with content standards, the fit with elementary-aged students, the fit with issues of relevance to the lives and interests of students, the fit with appropriateness for teachers.
  • An evaluation of the role of the resource in inquiry instruction (or preparation for instruction).

Email:Nanette I. Marcum-Dietrich