Tools to Use

Remember that time I said I was “Starting Another Blog“? No? That’s because I’m terrible about regular blogging. I could blame it on the ratcheting up expectations in higher education. Or the fact that I’m a new mommy (well, not that new anymore — Allen is about to turn 3!). Or that living in this world right now makes is hard. But I get an average of at least two requests per week about the latest tech tools. I’m going to begin collecting these questions and create blog posts to respond.

I plan to publish twice a month for a while and see how that goes. Report back or subscribe if you’d like to join me on this venture.

At an end-of-semester meeting last fall, I presented about the Center of Innovation in Education at New Paltz (CIE@NP), and shared this short video:

I also shared a bunch of digital pedagogical tools — some I already use, and some I plan to pilot this semester:

  • AdobeSpark: with AdobeSpark, you can create posts, pages, and videos. I’ve had the most tech-averse students love this little tool for its user friendliness and simplicity.
  • BookCreator: create digital books with, by, and for your students. Requires iPads (which are available for use in the School of Education — get in touch for more info).
  • EdPuzzle: with this nifty app, you can edit existing videos to use in your teaching. You can add voice annotations, notes, and quizzes.
  • Mentimeter this app allows you to create and administer digital polls. It’s so much easier to use than any of its competitors to date.
  • Padlet: this virtual stick-note/bulletin board allows students to add and manipulate their thoughts in one document. Great for brainstorming.
  • Slack: use Slack when you need a ‘wall’ for a project, or need to communicate frequently with a group of people.
  • Remind: used in K-12 schools for seamless communication between parents and students. I’m using it with teacher candidates right now, and so far it’s great.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back in two weeks with another tool update..

So I’m Starting Another Blog

Many who know me know that I’ve been obsessed with WordPress since learning about it sometime in the late 2000s. Grad student colleagues occasionally uttered “Kiersten, why don’t you blog about it?” in class (sometimes in all seriousness; sometimes meant as a jab), and I have become known as a resident edtech expert in my department and program. Every now and again, I have something to say about technology as it relates to teaching and learning. I’m going to start jotting those thoughts here.

So this article in last week’s EdSurge newsletter Instruct, which argues that the surveillance of students in schools could be the next Equifax disaster, has stuck with me. The following excerpt shares one of the best illustrations I’ve seen of how, where, and when data is potentially collected throughout a student’s day. In the full article, the story is strung throughout commentary on technology in schools.

Blaine is a student in a suburban town. He wakes up at 7 am and brushes his teeth before wolfing down a bowl of cereal. After putting on his high-top sneakers, he races out the door to the street corner, where he waits for the school bus.

As he steps on the yellow ride, Blaine panics. Did he forget his school-issued RFID badge that he has to tap so that the district can have a record of him getting picked up? Whew, it’s at the bottom of his backpack….

The bus drops Blaine and his classmates off at 8:30 am. But before he can enter the school building, he has to pass through a metal detector….

Blaine is almost late for class, so he jogs—but not too fast since he knows there are cameras in the hallway, watching him….

Blaine scans his ID and enters the classroom. He is two minutes late. An automated detention slip is printed out for him. The teacher, who has already begun to brief the class on the day’s assignment, doesn’t notice….

Blaine’s district provides every student with a computer, so he opens his laptop to start his work….

During lunch, Blaine pays for his food using a fingerprint scanner, which recognizes him and deducts the amount from his account….

At the lunch table, Blaine scrolls through his smartphone, liking and commenting on a few videos and photos posted by his friends.

Is it just me, or that a lot of tech replacing human interaction?

There’s much to talk about when it comes to data and the collection of it, especially when children are involved. If you are a teacher, ask what data is being collected and where it’s going. If you’re a teacher educator, teach your candidates how to research the background of various apps and programs they might use in their districts. If you’re a leader, consider building your own LMSs, or using infrastructures like WordPress, which don’t mine users’ data in the same way most proprietary technologies do.

Above all, ask questions. Keep the conversation going. Don’t blindly follow the pretty, new, tech just because everyone else is. It’s going to keep changing faster than any of us can keep up. So figuring out how to harness that innovation and excitement — as opposed to allowing it to harness us — should be our goal. IMO.