Who are you and what do you do?
I am Lindsey Reynolds. I am a public school teacher with six years experience in a Title I middle school teaching English at Loris Middle School. I recently made a move to high school English at North Myrtle Beach High and this upcoming year will be my first year there. My district is Horry County which is the third largest district in the state of South Carolina. I have a Master of Education in Instructional Technology and I am about to start my Ed.S. in Instructional Technology this fall. The mix of who I am and what I do really makes me who I am. I am a teacher because I am a learner and I want to instill that in every student I meet. When not working, I’m active on Twitter (@Lindsey_EdWrite) learning new technology and tools to use in my classroom. I’m a huge proponent of building life-long readers in my classroom, and believe that making students good citizens and lovers of reading and learning is more important than their score on the state test.
What hardware are you using?
I am blessed in that my district is 1:1. Grades 5-8, each student has his/her own iPad. Grades 9-12 each student has his/her own Dell Venue. Teachers also receive the device that belongs with the level they teach. Previously I had an iPad given to me from my district, this year I will receive a Dell Venue like my students. Personally, I have my own iPad and iPhone which are just extended versions of my own human limbs. My iPhone is my go-to for notes, reminders, scheduling, etc. In my dream world I am a Mac user, but in reality I have a district-issued Dell and at home I have a personal computer running windows. I’m waiting for the right time to bite the bullet and be able to justify the purchase of a brand new Mac.
I’m also one of those oddballs that sees the huge impact of pen and paper. So I am a colored pen collector, and notebook consumer. There’s something about writing that makes me sigh still. Despite all of the technology I have around me at home and at school, there’s something really important and really impactful about pen and paper. I also have my students keep hand-written notebooks in class. It’s just an art that I value and I want my students to value as well.
All buildings in the district have SmartBoards and projectors. In my classroom, I tended to use this as a projector screen alone. It was very easy for the SmartBoard to need to recalibrated, so honestly I didn’t use it other than to project on to. Most of the teachers in the school used it quite similarly to me. The middle school I taught at was Title I so we received those funds from the government, and much of those funds went to the acquisition of technology. We had several Macbook Air carts as well as windows laptop carts.
And what software?
By no means is this an all-inclusive list because I’m sure there’s going to be something I forget, but to the best of my ability, here goes nothing:
Twitter: I don’t know that there is a tool out there right now that has the under-used potential in the education field like Twitter. Twitter is my go-to for a connection to other educators. If I have a question or need help, I type it in Twitter and bam, it goes off to some of the smartest people in the whole world. As a district, we block it, which is in my opinion one of the biggest mistakes we could make. This year I plan to use Twitter as my backchannel in my classroom. On students’ personal devices (cell phones) where Twitter is not blocked, we’ll develop a hashtag and students can document their learning. I plan on using some kind of tool to display these tweets as a back channel in my room. I’m not sure which one yet. Any input is totally welcomed!
Class Dojo: I used this a lot in middle school, but I’m not sure how it will roll over to high school. I used this as behavior management in some of my classes at the middle school level. Basically you upload your classes to the site and it assigns a (aptly created) monster to the name so all the kids are monsters. You can create behaviors “started bell work” “helping others” “on task” and then give points for those behaviors. I had a projector in my room that ONLY projected Classdojo so I could have it up all the time even if I’m showing something on my main Dell and projector. For more advanced classes that didn’t need the behavior element I used it to keep track of talking during discussions like Socratic seminars. I would just have the behaviors “referred to the text” “politely disagreed” and things of that nature.
Google Classroom: If I were listing my software from most important to me, to least (which I’m not) this would be number one. My Google Classroom is the hub of my room. I post every assignment, every document, handout, worksheet, etc. here. It keeps me organized because I can grade right on the site, and if it is turned in digitally I don’t have to worry about losing it! Google Classroom organizes all of the assignments into their own folders in my Google Drive. It really is my lifeline in the classroom. It helps my students stay connected and organized because due dates show up on the side of the page and lets them go back to previous documents in case they are missing work. I prefer this to Edmodo simply because Edmodo got clumsy for me after they redesigned.
Google Apps for Education: Going off of Google Classroom, all of the Apps for Ed are excellent and I use them all in various and numerous ways. I use Docs for students to edit or they can collaborate with others. I use Forms for assessments, entrance and exit tickets, polls, etc. I have my students save everything they create in their Drive. The possibilities are endless.
Kahoot and Quizizz: Both of these are tools I use to review information before a test or quiz. They both turn student devices into essentially a buzzer or clicker. Both are in a more game style where students are rewarded with points and a leaderboard. Both are quick to create or you can search for already created content and use it as is or edit it.
iMovie: In my classroom I think it’s important for students to be able to show what they’ve learned however best suits them. iMovie has been a great application that allows students to create content. As learning shifts from just learning information to how to sift through it and synthesize it, getting to the ‘create’ level of Bloom’s becomes even more important. I’ve had students make documentaries, book trailers, book reports, etc. iMovie has allowed them to showcase their learning in amazing ways.
Edpuzzle: Edpuzzle is the perfect tool to deliver information in a student-friendly way. After uploading or finding a video I can share it with my students. From there it shows up as an assignment and they watch the video, stopping to answer questions I’ve put in to guide their thinking, they can rewatch parts that they struggled with. All of this gets transferred to a neat and tidy report I can see how many times they rewatched sections, scores, who finished (who didn’t). It’s a tool I like because it lets students work at their own pace. I also like mixing in video as a medium to make things a little more lively.
Blogging: I have my students do a weekly blog. Sometimes it’s to practice grammar/writing skills we studied that week, sometimes it’s simply to get them writing. I’ve tried different platforms. I’ve used Edublogs which I think has a lot of neat features, but can get complicated. I’ve also used kidblog which I thought was complicated to log into. This coming year my plan is to use Blogger with my kids. The district creates a gmail address for each student in the district, so they will already have their log in for that which streamlines an impossibly difficult process of username and password chaos.
DonorsChoose: I believe in public education, and even more than that I believe in people who believe in public education. I’ve gotten eight DonorsChoose projects fully funded in the past year. This past school year I replaced all of my classroom desks with clover tables that helped foster community and encouraged my students to work together. I also received funding for a kidney table where I meet with my small groups. Right now I have a project listed for a Mac (not for me…unfortunately) so I can give my students in-class access to things like iMovie and podcasting software. I’d love to start a weekly podcast run by students. This is a great site that exists to help teachers.
Shameless plug: This just happens to be my DonorsChoose link – http://www.donorschoose.org/we-teach/2010526
This is by no means an exhaustive list, these are just the ones that come to mind most readily.
How has your workflow and your teaching changed from when you first started?
I like to think I’ve gone from working harder to smarter. Six years ago I wanted to be perfect. I needed to be the person in the room who knew everything. Since then, our 1:1 initiative makes it impossible to know everything and be up on all the Apps. Now I feel comfortable saying “We’re going to work on this project. I’ve listed some suggested Apps. If there’s one you want to use that is not on the list, come show me how it works.” Kids are more tech savvy than even the savviest educators, so learning from them takes some work off of my plate while also allowing them to be in the teacher’s seat. It helps them to see you as a human while also seeing they have a lot to offer. I love saying “I don’t know how to use that but so-and-so can teach you.” They are huge resources to me and each other.
As an English teacher, I think my biggest gripe was all of the reading, papers, and grading. Doing as much stuff digitally as possible helps me to keep everything organized. I can type a lot faster than I can talk, so that makes feedback a lot faster. I’ve also played around (only minorly successfully) with verbal recorded feedback. I think everything I’ve learned over the years has allowed me to work smarter, reserving my limited supply of time and energy for more important things, like really connecting with my students and trying to think outside of the box to make English come alive for them.
What would your dream set up be?
I love being a 1:1 district. In my dream world there would be more guidelines in place. Yes, previously I looked down on the district for blocking things like Twitter, but the expectation in my district is we’re working in blended learning groups – I like this idea. I don’t like the lack of control I have over the devices that aren’t sitting in front of me. Threats and grades only do so much. So I love 1:1, just want more control.
Ideally I would also be a Mac-toting teacher with an awesome skin of some sort that truly symbolized me. I would also like to try to move beyond the classroom. Now, don’t get me wrong- I LOVE my students. However, technology is a part of everything I do, and I’ve seen the amazing impact it can have on students. I want to share that with others. Rather than designing technology into my own lesson plans, I want to help coach teachers in how to do that too. I want to get teachers excited again. I think educators right now are so beat down by test scores and rules and regulations that it’s hard. I want to use technology to reinvigorate their teaching. I see myself in the future in a coach or consultant role to do just that.
As of right now, I’m content. I can’t wait for a new year to start so I can try new things, and energize some new students into see what I see in learning and growing.