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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School Technology Tips

   Welcome to Coach and Teach, a space I have dedicated to help teachers lighten the load. Although we are all fresh off summer vacation and full of energy and excitement for our new students as they walk through the door, we have to remember we can't all do it alone and we need to help each other with ideas, lessons, and encouragement. So, just as we encourage our students to create community and rely on their classmates this year, please join me in a teaching community to do the same for ourselves. Feel free to peruse my blog for ideas, but please feel free to leave feedback or your own ideas in the comments as well.

   To get you started thinking about heading back to the classroom and creating the best learning environment possible, I am dedicating this post to some of the ways I incorporate technology into my classroom. I am lucky enough to be in a district where every student has a Google account and I also have access to 15 iPads. However, I'm going to share a few ways that you can use technology even if you only have access to a few devices, or you allow your students to use their own devices- because they have them, we might as well use them for a good purpose!

   This past year I made it my goal to keep parents better informed about the happenings of our classroom on a more consistent basis. In order to do this, I started by creating a Twitter account for my classroom. At the end of each day, as a closing activity, we gathered to discuss our learning for the day and see how we could best summarize our learning in 140 characters. This not only helped students to work on the important skill of summarizing, but also updated parents daily on the most important happenings and learning of our day. As the year went on, I chose a weekly "Tweeter" to update our Twitter account. This was a highly sought after position, plus it's always nice to turn over some of our tasks to the students to keep our "Teacher To-Do List" to a minimum if possible.
Here are a few examples of our classroom Tweets. Feel free to follow our class if you're interested.
Grab this Back to School Time Capsule activity here! 

   In order to get parents on board, I created a classroom Twitter board on my door that actually had two purposes. First, it was a way for parents to quickly scan a QR code that led them to our account so they could follow us, and secondly, I used it as a quick and easy "Ticket out the Door" assessment for daily lessons. Each student received their own Twitter bubble, and at the end of the lesson I would ask a summative question to check for understanding. Each student would then use a post-it note to answer the question, and hang it on their bubble. This was a great organizational tool for me as well, because I could easily see which students had completed the task and which hadn't with a quick glance. It was also very simple for me to check their understanding without having to gather up papers, store them on my desk, and then grade them at a later time. Just a quick glance with my clipboard and we were good to go! Small groups could easily be made for reteach or extra support that day or the next.  

   Today just happens to be your lucky day as well, because as a FREEBIE you can upload my Twitter Board to use in your classroom as well! Just click here for your own copy! (Available for free through August 5th) I would love to see how you use it in your classroom as well, so be sure to take pictures and use the hashtag #CoachandTeachInAction to showcase your class on Instagram or Twitter.

    Many of you may already be aware of this classroom management system, but if you haven't, you definitely need to give it a try. I was a little skeptical at first having a class of 6th graders, but they absolutely bought into it and would keep me accountable for using it if I ever happened to forget.
    Any teacher can sign up for a free account at www.classdojo.com and create their class account from there. The site will generate an access code and you can have students sign up for their own account. The kids at that point have full access to change their avatar, check their points, and even communicate with the teacher. The best part is that parents can also sign up for an account that is linked to their child, where they can receive daily or weekly updates about how their child is behaving in class, taking out the middle step of you having to email parents daily or weekly.

Here is an example of how the program will send home reports to families. 

The report below shows an example of a daily, weekly, or monthly chart that can pulled for the whole class or individual students to track specific behaviors.  

     The basis of the management system is that the teacher can either give positive points, or take points away for various positive and negative behaviors. This is highly effective when parents want to know what their child is doing well or can work on, because you can easily look up their personal account and note things such as, talking out, participating in discussion, off- task, etc.

     For students to keep themselves accountable and on task, you can easily project the scores along with their points, or to keep it more private you can just use the sound option. This is my favorite because when a positive point is awarded, the program makes a happy dinging sound and without a doubt the students get smiles on their faces and wonder if it was them that received the point. The same goes with the negative sound, without the teacher pointing out the negative behavior and drawing attention to the student, the negative sound is heard and all students (unsure if it's them or not) strive to work harder in hopes to gain more positive points. I love that you can easily deter negative behavior without having to say a word or give the "teacher look" to anyone. Less time wasted on behavior management= more instructional time!

Example of the whole class scoring view

      While some students are just intrinsically motivated to do well with the idea of earning points, I found that my 6th graders needed a little extra incentive. To do this I created a points list with my students where they would receive certain privileges when they reached set amounts of points. For example, my students decided that at 100 points they wanted to be able to use a pen for the day. At 200 points they wanted to sit by a friend, and they were even striving for 1,000 points where they would get to teach a lesson. (They suggested Teacher for a Day, and of course my principal happened to walk in right when this happened, so we settled for a lesson.) I also posted the leading boy and girl in the morning on our "Leader Board", and they loved to work to be in the spotlight.

      I believe the biggest factor in this being a success is including the students in the decisions, and also including them in the logistics of running a management system like this. I even found it effective to let one student (who proved to be exceptionally trustworthy and dependable) use my iPad to keep track of points throughout the day. Once again, one less thing for me to have to manage and it helped keep the students involved, especially during class discussions when things often move too quickly for me to facilitate the conversation and give or take points. If you haven't given it a try yet, think about adding this great FREE tool to your classroom routine this school year.


   Hands down the favorite use of technology in my class this past year was Kahoot! This does require students to have access to a device, however you could do small groups if you have limited accessibility. This is an online website where teachers can create interactive quizzes, or use ones from the pre-created test bank that other teachers have made, to quickly engage your class and get an idea of general understanding.

  Each student, or group, will start by logging into a screen that has a game pin. This is determined based on the test you have chosen. Once all students are logged in, the teacher will project for the whole class each question, and they will then be given four different choices. On their device they will choose the color and shape that corresponds with the answer they have chosen. Once all students have selected an answer, or time runs out, a bar graph will be shown so the teacher can see how many students chose each answer. The only downfall of this is that you can't see answers for each student, but you can get a general idea. The leader board is then shown, and students compete for the top spot. More points are awarded the faster they answer, and of course for accuracy. Warning: Sometimes it becomes a race to see who can just pick an answer fastest, so be sure to emphasize the importance of choosing the right answer.

   I prefer to make my own quizzes, which doesn't take too long, but if you choose to start with a pre-made test be sure to read all the questions and answers all the way through before giving the quiz. It's never fun to have the kids choosing the right answers, but the quiz is telling them they are wrong, and don't get points because of mistakes by the creator.

   This game will have your class on the edge of their seats begging for more, and you can just sit back and smile because they are begging to learn!

    Hopscotch is a great free app that can be used with students as an enrichment activity, during free time, or in small groups to practice coding. I always tell my students that when they grow up and get a high tech job that makes lots of money using coding, to remember who introduced them to coding and come back and say hi to their poor little 6th grade teacher. :)

    Whenever I have given my students a chance to code, they usually latch on immediately and pick up on the skill so quickly. This is an app they often beg to use, and I'm more than happy to let their creative minds fly with this one. While using this app they will create their own game by dragging blocks of code into place in order to create a sequence that will do what they want it to. They will need to use math and logical thinking to make it work. Making this a team project would also be a great way to incorporate a teamwork activity into your day.

      Once students have mastered this type of coding, you could introduce them many other programs that allow them to continue with their coding skills. Khan Academy has a great program that walks them through step-by-step and eventually leads them to using html code as well.

  Epic! is an app for iPads or Google that gives you access to hundreds of books for free at a variety of levels. I used this with a few of my struggling readers last year, because they could easily log in and choose books at their level without having to worry about the stigma of someone seeing them holding a thin book, or one with less words than everyone else. I also love that this program has many books that can be read aloud to the students. It doesn't matter if you are a fluent reader or struggling, everyone can benefit from hearing fluent reading at a higher level. When a student has a pair of headphones in, no one is aware of the level they are listening to. We can give students access to higher level vocabulary and content, while being able to differentiate for all our readers. This is also an app that I recommend to parents often when they struggle with buying or finding books at their child's level. Check it out!

   Hopefully this blog post inspired some ways to help you incorporate technology into your classroom this year. If you are uncomfortable or have limited access to devices, just take it slow and work it in a little at a time. Carry on  the hop over to The Learning Effect and see what amazing tips and tricks she has in store for you! 



  1. Lots of great technology tips here! I use Epic with my students and it's awesome! A great way to supplement the school/class library.

    Fun in Fourth

    1. I love Epic! I'd love to hear other ideas about how you use it in your classroom. :)

  2. Wow! Thanks for all the technology resources. I saved your blog on Bloglovin, so I can go back and reference it.

    1. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it! I love technology so be sure to check back for more updates.

  3. I have a low tech Twitter board-basically a chart with a Twitter bird drawn on top. Kids write on a post-it every week. What I learned... What I need to know more about... My favorite lesson thais week...


  4. I love the Twitter board!! I might have to give that a go with my kids this year. It's a great way to keep in touch with families as well!

    The Craft of Teaching

    1. I hope you find it as useful and helpful as I did! Let me know how it goes. :)

  5. I LOVE all of your tech ideas! I have been wanting to use Twitter, but your product is going to make that a reality! Thank you!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I can't wait to see how you use the Twitter Board!

  6. Your post is full of ideas that I am curious about. I may have to pick your brain more about it later. My big question right now: How do you handle parent permission for photos? I would love to do a Twitter or Facebook group for my class, but worry about the photo issue.
    Literacy Loves Company

    1. Yes, we should chat! I was told by my principal that all HSD students have permission to have pictures posted unless their parents say otherwise. It's part of the technology paperwork they sign.

  7. I just love the coding idea!! I can't wait to include this in my Early Finisher links. Maybe I'll teach the kids the first week of school. I'm just giddy!!

  8. Great idea and resources here! Have you heard of Plickers? It's a great app/website where the kids use a card with a QR-type image on it to answer questions, so only you need a device. Great for classrooms that aren't 1:1, and I love using it for quick checks without having to take out chromebooks, log on to the site, etc.!

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  11. Lots of great technology tips here! I use Epic with my students and it's awesome! A great way to supplement the school/class library. I LOVE all of your tech ideas! I have been wanting to use Twitter, http://onedaytop.com/instructions-to-solution-a-crashing-application-on-your-android-phone/