For instructors stumped on how to effectively integrate technology into their lessons, Richard Byrne's Feb. 13 presentation, "Making Learning Collaborative," was invaluable.
Mr. Byrne, best known for his award-winning blog, Free Technology for Teachers, which reaches approximately 49,000 educators on a daily basis, was speaking at the LHRIC's Feb. 13 Technology Leadership Institute held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.
Seeking information on the Internet is perhaps one of the easiest tasks to get students to commit to, said Mr. Byrne, who taught high school social studies for eight years. While Google is by and large the most popular search engine in the world and the one that most students turn to, there are other alternatives for students to use, added Mr. Byrne, a Google Certified teacher.
One alternative is a site called InstaGrok, a discovery and learning engine that has been set up specifically for educational purposes. By using this tool, teachers can see what their students are bookmarking and clipping, and the product also has a neat evaluation tool that allows instructors to give a series of multiple-choice quizzes, many of them with thought-provoking, insightful questions.
Forget bookmarking websites on one's computer, Mr. Byrne said. Instead, participants were encouraged to use Diigo for bookmarking purposes. "We often think of collaborative projects as being this monster two-week activity," said Mr. Byrne. "With collaboration, we can accomplish more work and go deeper in a lesser amount of time, and Diigo is a great example of this."
Twitter, while wildly popular with teenagers these days, can be equally attractive in the classroom, especially when students and teachers want to search for topics. Instead of using the traditional RSS feed option to receive updates from news sites and other sources, Mr. Byrne said a better alternative is Feedly.com. Approximately 15 to 20 minutes per day is all that is needed to peruse one's favorite websites or blogs using this tool, he added.
Other useful classroom tools include m.socrative.com, a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational games and exercises, and padlet, an application that gives users a blank wall and asks them to create something out of it. In the past, teachers have used padlet to pose questions about a particular topic, receive answers from students and then provide feedback, all on the same page.
"Don't use technology to bore your students," said Mr. Byrne. "Let your kids do the making; it's not a threatening environment for them."
For more information on Mr. Byrne's work and to avail of his many resources, visit www.freetech4teachers.com. His other websites include: Android4school.com, Ipadapps4school.com, and Practicaledtech.com.