By Monica Burns, New York City Teacher
Monica Burns is a NYC educator with a passion for using technology with her students. Check out her website ClassTechTips.com for technology lesson plans aligned to the Common Core Standards and more ways to become a tech-saavy teacher!
I am a big believer that educational technology should engage and excite learners while making their teachers’ lives easier. Many teachers are thrown into classrooms with existing technology without basic training. Even with the determination to make use of every resource provided to you, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.
The SMARTBoard is a fantastic educational tool if you know how to use it. Here’s a list of five free tools I love that you can start using in your classroom tomorrow:
- ClassDojo: ClassDojo is a fantastic behavior management tool that monitors students’ positive and negative behavior. It’s free to sign up and very user friendly. Their fun graphics can be displayed on the SMARTBoard. As soon as a student demonstrates a positive behavior like, teamwork, you can tap the screen to reward them a point. ClassDojo can also be used to monitor and record negative behaviors. Depending on your classroom culture, you might have the ClassDojo screen displayed on the SMARTBoard during group work. Students could be asked tap their own name to record positive or negative behavior, or you might walk up to the board to record their hard work. A nice feature of ClassDojo is that you can customize the different behaviors it monitors. http://www.classdojo.com
- Prezi: One free presentation tool I love is Prezi. Unlike the slide based presentations you’re probably familiar with, Prezi uses a single canvas. You put all of the information for your presentation in one place. How does this work? Just like the slides in a PowerPoint sequence in your presentation, you create pathways around your canvas in Prezi so your text/pictures/video clips pop-up in the order you want them to appear. This tool is perfect for the SMARTBoard because as you tap the screen your next set of information is displayed. You can create your own presentations or modify existing ones to meet the needs of your students. This is a great way to change your PowerPoint routine, and with a short learning curve you’ll be showing off your high quality, impressive presentations in no time! http://prezi.com/
- SMART Exchange: Sometimes it’s best to go to the source! SMART Exchange is a website with free resources for teachers that will help both SMARTBoard rookies and pros. This website contains lessons and activities uploaded by fellow teachers that you can download free of charge. Search by grade level and subject area to find the Notebook lesson that works best for your students. Spice up a lesson you’ve already made by inserting slides from another teacher’s fantastic lesson on adding improper fractions. If you don’t like everything you see, download then edit another teacher’s Notebook lesson to fit the needs of your population. It’s a great place to go for ideas if you’re already SMARTBoard saavy, and an excellent resource for teachers just starting out who are overwhelmed with creating their own. http://exchange.smarttech.com/
- Google Earth: Whether your studying the geography of South America or teaching life skills like navigating a city grid, Google Earth will excite your students and bring the world to their fingertips. You and your class have seen newscasters with touch screens manipulate interactive whiteboards when discussing the weather or announcing election results. Google Earth provides a similar experience in the classroom as you zoom in and out of your community or take your students on a trip across the globe. Spin the globe to land on a random destination or use street view to check out a famous landmark. If you’re teaching a unit on deforestation, show your students a satellite view of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. When your kindergartners are taking their first field trip, pull up a street view of their destination so they’ll know what to expect. You might be able to use Google Earth on a laptop, but after trying it out on the SMARTBoard you’ll be hooked. http://earth.google.com
- Brainpop: Even without a subscription, BrainPop (try BrainPop Jr and BrainPop ESL too!) offers a great variety of free videos and quizzes that change daily. The short, cartoon videos offer explanations on a multitude of topics that engage students while presenting material in a clear and concise fashion. The free selection is often aligned with current events or national holidays so you’ll quickly find a way to include it in your regular instruction. Have students come to the board to tap their answer to quiz questions or jump up to pause the video with a simple touch of the screen. If you’re concerned that this online resource is only for elementary students, don’t let it fool you. Topics range from ecosystems to division. One thing that BrainPop does well is treat events like the Holocaust in a serious and sensitive manner that will set the tone of class discussions. High school students will enjoy a break from traditional History Channel videos, and elementary students will love the crisp graphics and easy to follow narratives that introduce them to topics in all subject areas. http://www.brainpop.com http://www.brainpopjr.com http://www.brainpopesl.com