Category Archives: Classroom Tips in Technology

From Techless to Techie

by Katie Martin

So this is my journey of a “techless” teacher to a techie teacher. For the past four years I have taught in a 1st grade self-contained special education class. Prior to that, I was an Interrelated Resource Teacher. As an IRR teacher, I never really had a classroom “home” if you will. I was constantly popping in and out of classrooms all day long. When I became a self-contained teacher and got my own classroom “home,” I was super excited … and then my excitement died. I literally had a projector, a Mimeo that didn’t even stay attached to my white board, and one desktop computer for the students. WHAT!!!?  This KILLED my technology-loving heart. I had officially become Techless. One thing I knew about my students was that I was going to need a lot of different ways to engage them in my instruction, and a broken Mimeo and a desktop computer were not going to do it.



The first piece of technology I added to my classroom was a SMARTBoard. I LOVE SMART products, and the SMARTBoard was exactly where I needed to start. I was able to involve all my students in interactive tasks all day long. In order to get a SMARTBoard for my classroom however, I had to write a grant. Seriously, a grant? I had never written a grant in my life. Luckily, technology is my passion, so when I wrote my grant, that passion shined through. I was awarded a grant for full funding for the latest and greatest (at that point in time at least) SMARTBoard for my classroom.

As the year progressed, I really wanted to give my students the technology they could use independently. For that I chose the Barnes and Nobel Nooks . . .the big ones that were color, WIFI compatible, and touch screen.   I was able to purchase six Nooks for my students.  Why Nooks? A traditional Listen to Reading center didn’t work for my students. They struggled with understanding when to turn the page,  and because they came to me as non-readers they weren’t able to track the words in the book. The Nook was excellent for transitioning my students to a technology integrated listening center. Since the Nook has “read to me” books, my students were now able to see the words as they heard the words. They could make the connection with how reading should sound and increase their word knowledge. The Nooks were capable of having Apps, which enabled me to create a math and word work profile so my students were then able to use the Nooks during word work and math center times.

Funding for technology that didn’t come out of my own pocket came in the form of completed Donors Choose projects. Among the many things generous donors have funded for my classroom are  Leap Readers, Samsung digital cameras, and an Apple iPod. My students absolutely love the Leap Readers, and so do I. They are interactive and have built-in games for the students to check their skills as they go through the book. The cameras were great for documenting the new things we were doing in our classroom, and the iPod gave us a chance to have music, take videos, and snap pictures.

My Nooks have held up AMAZINGLY for the past four years, but technology gets old FAST. Bless the Nooks’ hearts but we needed some technology that had more efficient apps we could start using to produce projects. This is where the iPads came in. For the longest time I tried to avoid needing iPads in the classroom. They were just too expensive. I tried alternative tablets like the Nook and Insignia, but when it came down to quality, performance, ease of use for teacher and students and the abundance of apps and tools available, the iPad won out by far. My students and I have grown SO MUCH with the use of iPads in the classroom. We have made movies, completed PBLs, conducted research, made collages, and shared our learning with others.

Now, I know you’re wondering how I got iPads for my classroom, and I know if you’re a teacher you’re going to hate my answer. I bought the first iPad for my classroom myself. I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t see any other way and investing in an iPad for my classroom was investing in my students’ learning and futures. The next iPads I got were older versions that were donated to my class. Old or new iPads hold their quality excellently. Although I would love to be a 1 to 1 classroom with iPads, I am currently holding steady at 4 and will slowly build on that on my own. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take too long.

I hope you enjoyed my journey from Techless to Techie.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Techless to Techie when I will share how I implemented these pieces of technology into my classroom and our daily routine as well as different ideas for what you can do with various technology in the classroom.


GaETC 2017 Highlight #1: Flipgrid

The 2017 Georgia Educational Technology Conference was packed full of new tools and exciting strategies that everyone is eager to try out with their students and teachers. We are going to share a few highlights from the conference with you in case you weren’t able to attend or if you attended different sessions. We hope you find something new you can use to engage your students!

flipgridThe first tool we are sharing is a website called Flipgrid: “Flipgrid is the leading video discussion platform used by millions of PreK to PhD educators, students, families, and organizations in more than 150 countries! Create a Grid (that’s your classroom or group), add Topics to spark the discussion, and your community builds a dialogue as they share short video responses. Super simple. Super powerful. Endless uses.”

Flipgrid is a free website that you can use to facilitate discussions and conversations among all your students. With the free account, you can set up one grid, which is the equivalent of a class.  Within your grid, you can create unlimited topics for students to discuss. Students will then record a video of themselves answering the question you posed. In the free account, teachers choose to restrict the video length to either 15 seconds or 90 seconds. Students love adding drawings or stickers to their videos before posting them! My favorite part is that your grid can be embedded in your eCLASS page.

Teachers are using Flipgrid across all subject areas.  computer Students are sharing book reviews, reflecting on their learning throughout a unit, explaining their math thinking, and collaborating with students from other schools. Videos that students post become formative assessments to help guide instruction the next day. Foreign language teachers are using Flipgrid as a tool for their students to practice speaking while music teachers are asking students to record themselves playing a piece of music. Need help with ideas of how to use Flipgrid? Check out their website for links to blog posts with suggested ideas.

Did you discover other ideas while you were at GaETC? Share them on our Padlet!

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An Open Letter to Kindergarten Teachers

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “My students are too young for technology” or “My students don’t know how to log in. They’re kindergarteners” or “It takes too long for my students to login to the computer and then login to eCLASS C&I”? I know many of us are guilty of using these words. I know I’ve used them in my own classroom until one day I had a student prove me wrong. He logged on and used that computer faster than I did! That day, I realized that I was not giving my students an opportunity to even try using the technology. I was telling them they can’t do something and that went against every teaching philosophy in which I’ve ever believed! So, I’m here to tell you that kindergarten students can! They can log into a computer as early as the first month of school. They can do more than play games on the computer. They can post to discussion boards. They can create using technology. They can do these things and so much more!

So, how can you get younger students started using technology as early as the first month of school? The first thing you can to do is teach your students how to log in to the computer and to eCLASS C&I (or your LMS). In Gwinnett County, our students log in using a 9 digit code that is unique for each student with a unique password as well.. Kindergarten teachers often print out labels that have their students’ names, numbers, and passwords on them. Sometimes, the font is pretty small and hard for little eyes to read. Make it easier on your students and yourself by using a larger font. Then, take it one step further by chunking the 9 digit number into smaller sections. For example, after every three numbers, put a space to separate them. Then, change the color of each set of three numbers. Take a look at the example below. Which one do you think is easier for kindergarten eyes to read?

901   632   872

Rachel Storey, a Technology Specials teacher at Knight Elementary School, created a fun song to help her students learn their numbers, their passwords, the Tab key, and the Enter key. Once the song is completed, students have logged into the computer or eCLASS C&I. The song is to the tune of “Jingle Bells” and is different for each student based on their number and their password. Here is an example:

901, 632, 872, press Tab
123, 456, press Enter then you’re done

Practice this at least once a week and your students will be logging in faster than you’ve ever seen!

Now that your students are logging in to eCLASS C&I, what can they do to show their learning? Take a look at this lesson that was planned in collaboration with a kindergarten teacher. Instruction starts in a small group of six students.

Today, we are going to practice reading color words. Then, we are going to type a sentence about our favorite color. Do you know what typing is? That means we are going to write, but on the computer!

I LikeAs students voice their excitement about typing, the teacher hands each student a sentence strip. “This says, “I like”. Let’s read it together. “I like”. Good! Now, you read it when I point to you.” Each student takes a turn reading their sentence strip.

Great reading! Now, I’m going to add a word to my sentence. See, I’m oct2putting my card on the line. Now it says, “I like blue”. I’m going to give you a color and when I point to you, I want you to read your sentence to me.” The teacher passes out an index card to each student. Students read their new sentence when the teacher points to them.

You guys are wonderful readers. Let’s try it one more time. Hand me your cards and I’ll give you a new one.” The teachers and students repeat the process together.

Wow, you guys are reading rockstars! I think we are ready to write about our favorite color! When I point to you, tell me what your favorite color is.” As the students tell the teacher their favorite color, the teacher removes the previous index card and hands the students an index card with their favorite color written on it.

Before we can write our favorite color, we have to read the sentence. When I point to you, it’s your turn to read.” All students read their sentence one last time. This entire process lasts less than 5 minutes.

oct3Now that students are prepared, it’s time to bring out the technology! In pairs, students are prompted to login to eCLASS C&I. Working in pairs allows for collaboration, learning how to share, and learning how to help a friend without telling them the answer. It is also more manageable for the teacher because there are fewer devices! After logging in, students are directed to their teacher’s course page where they click on an image in the News (Announcements) widget.

Student 1 posts by typing their name in the subject line and their sentence in the body of their post. After posting, student 2 creates another post in the same way. Students learn how to take turns and help their partner by pointing to the letter on the keyboard or to the sentence strip for reference. Students are provided with resources such as their sentence strip and their name tag to help them with writing. Remember, it’s still early in the year and this is how we support them when they are writing on paper!

oct4A few students will spell some of the words wrong or mix up the letters. It’s totally appropriate for them to do that! We don’t expect their writing on paper to be perfect. At this point in the year, they are stringing together letters to represent words or writing beginning sounds. They can do this on a discussion board, too! It’s simply a different format.

oct5To help students along in the process, the teacher provides each pair with a directions booklet. Instead of using words, each page shows a picture of what the students should click on next. One partner is able to reference the directions while the other student looks for the picture on the computer/tablet.

Students in this classroom repeat this activity using different cards for 3 weeks. They write about their favorite animals and their favorite foods! By the third week, they are much more proficient at following the directions book, working together, and using the technology. This station could easily continue as an independent station throughout the school year. Imagine where these students will be at the end of Kindergarten! They won’t need the sentence strip for support any longer. Instead, they will be composing their writing themselves and using the technology independently.


Kindergarten teachers, your students can do it! Let’s be the teachers who help our students rise to the occasion and show them what they are capable of achieving! Let’s be the ones who embrace the time in which they were born!

Getting Started with Technology in Your Classroom

Written by: Laura Girard & Stacy McKibben

As we begin the school year, you are probably thinking about ways to make the use of technology in the classroom smoothly, easily, and stress-free. You already know the importance of teaching students the rules and routines in the first few weeks of school. Why not incorporate the rules, routines, and procedures associated with technology use into the other classroom routines you are teaching?

Here you will find tips on how to organize yourself and prepare your students to be independent with technology throughout the day. We start our tips on Day 1, but your Day 1 doesn’t have to be the first day of school! However, we do encourage you to start these routines as soon as possible. Making sure your students have a solid understanding of the procedures is essential to transforming your classroom throughout the school year.

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Helpful Tips for Teachers:

  • Place login information for students on a laminated index card and keep it near the computers on a ring for students to easily find and use as needed.
  • Print directions for assignments that students should complete and place them in a designated spot (near the laptops or in another chosen spot) so students can always easily find their assignment without disturbing the class. A frame or page protector on the wall or table is great for this!
  • Establish a plan for storing, charging, and connecting to the Ethernet.
  • Designate an area for laptops, power cords, headphones, etc., and teach your students where they are and how to put things away.
  • Consider designating a student job for organizing and assisting with technology.
  • Establish and post procedures as you see fit for your class. Review procedures often!
  • Model, model, model!!! If you expect your students to do something, especially with technology, you must model it yourself so they can see what it should look like.