Lynda Hall: Phys. Ed, Social Studies, English and Technology!

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Lynda Hall and I am a secondary classroom teacher from Kamloops, BC, CANADA.  I have been teaching Physical Education, Social Studies and English for 17 years and along with my classroom duties, I am currently the Technology Coordinator for my school.  As Technology Coordinator, my main responsibility is to encourage the educational use of technology among colleagues through collaboration and mentoring.  I am also working towards a Masters degree in Educational Technology and Design from the University of Saskatchewan.  I am very passionate about integrating technology into my teaching practice and I love to share what I have learned with other educators. To assist my colleagues from around the globe, I started “The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers” technology blog 5 months ago – In it, educators will find a wide range of teacher tested technologies that are ready for classroom use.

What hardware are you using?

My absolute must have hardware device is my Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy SII. There is nothing I do not do on this phone – texting, tweeting, checking email, printing, Skyping, creating videos, editing photos and so much more! My most popular use recently is reading my Master’s textbook from the Amazon Kindle app. Interestingly, I rarely sit down to specifically read anymore as there are so many times throughout the day that I can steal 10 minutes to read a section. It has been an absolute time-saver! 

My school also provided me with an Asus Eee Pad Transformer tablet last year. Many of the apps I use on my phone have also been downloaded onto the tablet. Because I am so attached to my smartphone, I am still trying to incorporate the tablet’s use into my daily activities. However, the primary use of the tablet is to test apps, etc. because included in last year’s tablet purchase was an additional 50 tablets for school-wide use. As a result, much of my time is searching and testing apps for the students and teachers in my school.

The last device I heavily rely on is my Toshiba Notebook with a Windows 7 operating system. Pretty much all my personal or school-related material is accessed or saved on to my laptop – and yes it is backed up every day! To increase my productivity, I also have a Samsung SyncMaster monitor which allows me to view two screens simultaneously. The amount of time I save using the dual monitors is immeasurable. If feasible, I highly recommend my colleagues purchasing a second monitor as I guarantee, you will not regret it.

And what software?

I use a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools – Glogster, Weebly, Voki, Evernote, Socrative, StoryCreator2, InstaGrok, Animoto, and the list goes on. There is not a day goes by in my classroom that the students and I are not using a Web 2.0 tool of some sort.

Remind101 is my most recent go to app, however, as it allows teachers to safely and securely text their students reminders such as homework, upcoming school events, rehearsals, practices and more. The best part of this service is that it is so easy to use and it is free.

The power of cloud computing is another area I am starting to maximize. I have always had Evernote, Dropbox and Google accounts but it is not until recently that other software developers are starting to associate their service to the cloud as well. The best example of this is WeVideo and Google Drive. Because of this additional service, my classes will be able to easily share their work with a more global audience.

What would your dream set up be?

My dream set up would be a 1:1 program with a variety of devices that range from tablets, to laptops to desktop computers that are seamlessly integrated into the learning environment. The furniture would be such that one could easily move about the room with their device. Also, numerous ports would be available to plug in devices when need be. I would also include wireless accessibility with technology support at a moment’s notice. Lastly, I would want a SmartBoard for small group or whole class collaboration. You did ask for my dream set up, right?

Nathan Hall: English Language Teacher

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Nathan Hall and I am an English language teacher for a private language school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I typically teach eitherhigher level students or business English. You can find more information about me and what I do on my website, or on my latest obsession, Twitter.

What hardware are you using?

I am a bit old school, mostly due to financial reasons. I tend to hang on to my equipment a lot longer than the average user. My main computer is my trusty old 12″ aluminum G4 PowerBook which has been with me for about 6.5 years now. I plan on retiring it this summer with either a MacBook Pro or Air. I am leaning towards the 11″ Air since I take my laptop everywhere I go. I would consider an iPad, but I still have things I do on the laptop that wouldn’t work as well on the iPad.

I also have an old 80GB iPod Classic that is my constant companion during my commute to work. I just finished my MA TESOL as a distance program and the iPod was my note reader, slide viewer, lecture playing class on the go. It also is my video and audio player in class as well as holder of all sorts of documents for work. If it dies, I may shed a tear or two.

At school, I hold my class in the business classroom which has 15 older Windows XP Dell desktops that are showing their age. Still, they have internet access and that is pretty much all I need in my class.

I also have access to a SmartBoard which has to be shared amongst all the teachers. Still, it is nice to have in such a small school.

And what software?

I am true believer in using online, cloud-based tools in the classroom. Since I have full access in my classroom all the time, I want my students to be using tools that they could use on their own machines without any installation. I use a wide variety of tools (as listed on my Diigo account), but I have a few primary sites that get constant use.

Our class website uses Posterous since it is free, can be used by the students, can embed anything without any plugins, and can have a variety of administrators and contributors. I also like the fact the students can submit posts by just emailing them in.

Another widely used tool is TitanPad (a form of Etherpad) in which I administer the class group and assign pages to each students, groups of students, or as a class page. For those who aren’t familiar with TitanPad, it is a real-time collaborative document editor that is totally free to use and can be password protected without having the students register or give out personal details. That is really important to me since all of my students are in my class for a short time and are not always wiling to give their information away online. Google Docs would work well if we were a Google school, but it would be a nightmare to administer with all the student changes that occur on a weekly basis.

I use a number of collaboration tools as well as various audio and visual tools such as Vocaroo and Screencast-O-Matic. Every tool I use in my class is free and doesn’t require the student to register to use.

Personally, I love Twitter. I primarily use it for professional development and for connecting with educators from around the world. I can’t believe it took me this long to get on board.

What would your dream set up be?

I would love to have a laptop or tablet cart that could be used in various classes. This would allow other teachers to make use of this technology instead of having to wait to use it once or twice a month. We could share these tools on any given day and in their normal classroom. I would also love to see us open up the restrictions on using cell phones in the classroom. I am working on that one. This would allow the students to use these tools on their own devices and would make it easier for them to continue their work outside the walls of the classroom. Oh, and I want a faster internet connection. This restriction of a maximum of 3 students using streaming video at one time is killing me. Because of that, I have to download the videos and then put them on the network drive for students to use. It is a bit of pain for me, but makes it an insurmountable problem for less tech saavy teachers.

Danielle Hartman: English, Literacy & Technology Teacher

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Danielle Hartman and I am an English/Literacy Specialist/ Technology Integration teacher. You can visit my website and/or follow me on Twitter.

What hardware are you using?

I use a Macbook Pro for personal and educational uses.  At work, we predominantly  use the Macbook carts and the iPad carts.  Occasionally, we will use the PC lab.

And what software?

I have to say, the most versatile and useful software we use is iMovie.  I have found so many uses for it.  We use it for full movie projects, but we also use it for quick check for learnings. I often have the students create (either on the macs or the iPads) a talk show style movie just to explain what they have learned.  I also use some Web 2.0 tools pretty consistently.  For example, I use at least twice monthly for back channels.  Sometimes we have these online discussions with another class in the school, other times we will chat with our ePals.  ePals is another tool I use regularly.  We will often have multiple global collaborations at the same time.  This past semester, we worked with classes from Spain, Chile, and Brazil.  Love it!

The last tool that I use consistently is Pixton.  I love Pixton for short projects.  It is easy to use and the kids love it.  I don’t use it to have students recreate a book we read, rather, I use it to have my students take an informational reading and turn it into a comic.  This is actually a fairly rigorous project.  They have to read and digest a complete article and then teach it to others in very few words.  Not as easy as it seems.  Here is some of my student’s work:

What would be your dream set up?

I am so fortunate that our school is as tech savvy as it is (hence the name Burlington County Institute of Technology). I think if it was to be even better, I would either go 1-1 with the iPads or have my own Mac lab in my room.  I believe we are replacing our iMacs in Ad Art this year, so I might just get my wish!  I would also like an overhead that worked with Apple TV so that I could easily broadcast my iPad.