Tots and Technology Takeaways
Photo via TCEA.org
Last week, I attended TCEA’s Tots and Technology Conference alongside JourneyEd, a BoardShare reseller. Tots and Technology is an annual conference geared towards PreK-5th grade classroom teachers, instructional leaders, and administrators. During this conference, educators have the chance to interact with vendors, attend sessions that address a variety of topics in education, and connect with other educators. I gave a presentation entitled “Creating Classroom Smart Walls” along with Tom Dent, an educational account manager at JourneyEd. We also raffled off a BoardShare unit to a third grade teacher from South Carolina. Overall, the conference was an incredibly energetic and fun experience.
The BoardShare team loves attending technology conferences because we are able to meet so many passionate and innovative educators. These conferences also provide us with the opportunity to learn even more about what teachers are looking for in an edtech product. I learned a great deal at Tots and Technology, and Tom and I selected our biggest takeaways from the conference.
Social media is a great tool for the classroom.
The session that everyone seemed to be talking about was Chris Pombonyo’s “#SocialMediaJr.: Using Social Media In The K-5 Classroom”. Chris Pombonyo is a teacher, blogger, and recipient of the Macy’s Magic of Innovation Award. His #SocialMediaJr. session addressed incorporating social media into everyday learning, and provided some strategies on how to do so. Tom and I talked with a few of the educators who attended his session to find out what they liked about the speech, and to hear some of the important advice Chris provided.
One tip Chris gave was to have the students write up their own blog posts, and then the teacher will format it and post the blog for them; this allows the children to enhance their writing skills and see their finished work published online. He also discussed the importance of Twitter, and said that it is the most powerful social media tool for K-5 classrooms. He suggested setting up a classroom Twitter page, and recommended choosing a different student each school day for “Tweeter of the day”. He also said that teachers can use Facebook Live to share class content and updates with the students’ parents; this allows the teachers to engage with the parents rather than just connect with them.
As social media platforms continue to grow and add new features, there will always be new ways to incorporate it into lesson plans. Follow @ChrisPombonyo to learn more about his social media strategies in the classroom.
Finding resources that enhance edtech products is a must.
Finding an edtech product that teachers and students love is great; finding resources to enhance these edtech products is even better. Discovering the right tools to use with an edtech product can take the product’s capabilities to a new level.
During our presentation, Tom and I discussed using Doceri, which allows your tablet or iPad to mirror your desktop. By using Doceri, you can control your computer (and use BoardShare) from across the room. We also discussed Versal, a free website that allows you to create your own lesson plans; you can include activities in your lessons that are great to use with any interactive technology.
There are a great deal of resources that you can use with various edtech products. The Global Digital Citizen Foundation published “50 Education Technology Tools Every Teacher Should Know About”; it lists social learning, lesson planning, and other useful tools that are ideal for the classroom. Richard Byrne’s Free Technology For Teachers blog is another great way to find edtech resources. Conference attendees told me that they stay active on Twitter to find different ways to enhance the technology in their classrooms.
Understanding that these resources are not always easy to find, the BoardShare team compiled a list of free educational websites and posted it on our website. If there is a website we have not listed that you like to use in your classroom, let us know!
Most teachers desire simple and straightforward technology.
During the “Creating Classroom Smart Walls” presentation, I mentioned the point that had been stressed in our BoardShare blog posts: if a teacher does not understand technology, they will not use it. The teachers in the audience nodded their heads in agreement. Recently, EdWeek Market Brief published an article entitled, “To Succeed, Ed Tech Must Be Easy to Use, Good Fit, Analyst Says.” Speaking with the conference attendees reaffirmed our points about the need for simple and intuitive edtech. Educators who watched our BoardShare demos loved how easy the BoardShare software was. Many attendees told me that there had been a great deal of technology purchased for their schools that promised to be transformative.
“The problem was,” one attendee said, “the technology was so complicated that I didn’t use it. Technology can’t be transformative if it’s not being used.”
Easy-to-use technology is particularly crucial for elementary classrooms. Young students are often just learning how to use these devices, so it is essential that the technology is easy for them to understand as well.
Educators are looking for products that will last longer than a single school year.
In addition to wanting a product that is cost-effective over a long period of time (a point we discussed in our “Important Questions To Ask” blog), educators also want durable products; this is especially true for elementary teachers. One of the first questions teachers would ask after seeing our BoardShare demo was if our pen stylus was easily breakable; after I assured them that we conducted extensive drop tests on the stylus, they seemed relieved. Conference attendees were unabashed in saying that their students have a knack for destroying various devices in their classroom; that’s the nature of working with young children. When considering different products to use in the classroom, it is important to ensure that they will not break easily.
Many attendees were also incredibly interested in the headphones on display at the JourneyEd table; these headphones are made of a flexible and durable material that is perfect to use in an elementary classroom.
“We’ve gone through so many headphones because my kids keep breaking them,” multiple teachers told us. “These are perfect.”
A durable and cost-effective product product is ideal for any classroom.
Teachers work tirelessly for their students year-round.
During the welcoming speech on the first day at the conference, the speaker was discussing the overwhelming passion and dedication he sees in teachers. “When people say that teachers only work 10 months a year," he said, "I tell them (after I’ve sufficiently rolled my eyes) that teachers work 12 months a year like everyone else.” Teachers attend conferences like Tots and Technology during all months of the year, including the summer. They work year-round to discover new ways to heighten learning for their students.
We want to thank all of the wonderful teachers who dedicate their time to their students. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with so many of you, both at ISTE and Tots and Technology. We look forward to seeing you at upcoming conferences!