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Jeremy Macdonald: Already Thinking About School

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July 12, 2012 07:14 pm

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The following post comes from Jeremy Macdonald, a 5th Grade & Instructional Technology teacher at Mills Elementary in the Klamath Falls City Schools district in Klamath Falls Oregon.

Like most summers, I’m never able to get to everything on my “To-Do” list. We all know how this feels. Especially as educators. In my last post, even, I had big plans to become a coding guru. That hasn’t happened. In fact, it hasn’t even started. Family and travels have kept me busy and distracted (in a much needed manner), but I’ve never able to completely turn off work…just turn it down a little.

While traveling and visiting with friends and family between Oregon and Colorado I’ve had plenty of time to think about the upcoming school year and my new responsibilities. I’ll be leaving a regular fifth grade classroom and be taking on English Language Development AND Title Interventions AND Instructional Technology at my school. More is better, right? With the new (and additional) roles, I have been thinking about how I will continue to integrate technology ubiquitously into student and teacher learning.

My primary role will be working with Second Language Learners. I know (used loosely) what I need to do and how I want to do it. However, I also need to know what the students need to do and how they want to do it. That will be a part of our learning.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about what learning opportunities will benefit my students, regardless of what they choose to learn or the approach they choose to take. You may be familiar with some, all, or none of these. I just hope that you will find at least one thing useful or relevant to you, your students, or your colleagues.

Snapguide logoSnapguide: A free iOS and web app that lets you create and share how-to guides for a number of topics. One of my primary responsibilities is to help students acquire the language skills they need to be successful in their classrooms. While students are learning language structures and usage in various contexts, I also want them to be able to create original works that show their understanding of these skills. I see Snapguide as a tool that will allow my students to create and share short how-to guides explaining how to use various language structures in given contexts. I also anticipate seeing students use this to create more pertinent how-to guides for their interests, hobbies, or talents — all the while practicing and demonstrating the language skills they are learning.

Instagram logoInstagram: If you are a smartphone use, I am sure you have heard of or use Instagram. Just in case, Instagram is a mobile camera app that allows users to quickly capture life’s moments and easily share them. It has a handful of filters and allows users to interact with other users by “liking” and commenting on photos.

The other day on Twitter, Ben Grey reminded us that, “Apps don’t tell stories. People do .” But I’d like to think they can help. I see my class using Instagram in two ways:

  • I take and share pictures as visual writing prompts–like these— that will (hopefully) engage students in conversations that will facilitate the use of new or learned language skills.
  • Students take pictures that represent learned language skills or help them tell/share stories that demonstrate their ability to use certain language structures and skills.

I’m sure any other camera app would work fine, but a class Instagram account will allow us to curate an archive of images that we can revisit and share throughout the year. Heck, you might even see an associated Twitter account sharing some of those images.

Evernote LogoEvernote: If you know me, you knew I’d come back to Evernote at some point. I love Evernote. In fact, if you’re not familiar with it or what it can do, check this out too. Anyway, Evernote is a productivity tool that allows users to collect, organize, and remember important “stuff.”

In my class this will be our ultimate aggregator of our learning and experiences throughout the school year. We will use Evernote to collect the Instagram photos that we individually take, organize the links to the Snapguides we create, and remember all the cool “stuff” we find along the way. In reality I’ve oversimplified what we will and can do with Evernote, but at the same time it’s that easy. Essentially, Evernote will be our learning portfolio. Everything we do, find, and share will be there. The best part is that students will be able to access their Evernote notebooks from any internet-enabled device. Any. So their learning doesn’t have to stay at school, but can follow them home, to the library, or even to a new school.

I realize that I haven’t gone into great detail on how to use these tools or how I intend to roll them out and get them to become a regular part of my classroom. That’s because I’m not sure yet. Like I said earlier, I’m thinking about all this. I’d actually love to hear what you would do with these apps. Brainstorm with me and let’s see what we can come up with together.

Jeremy Macdonald is a fifth grade teacher and instructional technology coach at Mills Elementary in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Mr. Macdonald’s blog posts appear on the second Thursday of every month. Read his previous posts here. Find more information on Mr. Macdonald on his website at http://www.mrmacnology.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MrMacnology.

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Digital Learning Series

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