DISCLAIMER: This is a very old post… an updated one will be coming soon.
I know… As I was thinking about the title all I could think of was the huge vat of information I was opening up. A quick Google search for educational technology software leads to almost 40 million results. While not all of those results are valid, I’m going to go out on a limb and say many of them are actually useful to our learning or classrooms (even if it’s something we’d NEVER want to try). So my intention is not to dig too far into that vat but to discuss some recent technological goodies I’ve found. Most of what you’ll notice here is from the students standpoint but I will comment on a few tools for teachers to implement in their classroom.
1) Growly Notes (OS X,Free), OneNote (both,$$) and many similar programs…
Basically it’s a notebook for your computer. No more spirals getting bent out of shape, no more hanging chads from the edge of a piece of paper, no more carrying around 1 huge multi-subject or 7 individual subject notebooks. For those of you who can’t fathom the thought of taking notes without the college-ruled lines…most programs will allow you to add those to the background. Personally I don’t use them because it gives me more flexibility to put text where I want, but hey, to each their own. I’m not sure about you but I type way faster (and neater) than I write and typing doesn’t make my hand/s nearly as tired (why make 1 hand act alone when 10 fingers can work together). Most people carry their laptops with them anyhow, so saving the space of extra notebooks can’t hurt, right?
Not enough for you… well here’s where things get good. I can copy and paste (drag and drop) any file I want to into my notebook. PDF, Word, Powerpoint… they all enter my notebook just like paper only I don’t have to slide them into the pouch that’s too small or keep them organized in a separate folder. Also, I can easily set up different sections with their own pages in my overall notebook. (i.e. I have a notebook for each class and each notebook has different sections: 1 for syllabus, 1 reading notes, 1 for session 1 notes, etc.) Pretty seamless.
Now each program has it’s nuances so try them out and see which program meets your preferences, but students what are you waiting for? Ditch paper and go electronic. Your book bags/backpacks/bags/backs/shoulders will thank you for it.
2) Mendeley, Shoka, Zotera and other pdf organization programs…
So for those of your not in graduate school this might now be as important, but I read TONS of pdf articles. It’s important for me to keep those organized by class/topic/need to read/etc. These programs are free ways to do that. There are A LOT of other pay programs, but let’s face it I’m cheap and if I can get it for free I’ll choose that every time.
3) TabletPC’s or add-on Tablets…
This one is an interesting one. Personally I’ve always thought it was a waste. I never really saw the value in them. This semester I am kinda of “forced” to use one as I teach the freshman and in all honesty, they offer some great features. The ease of sketching, providing students feedback, and annotating pretty much anything is great. If you’ve never had the chance to use one, try it out, I think you’ll be surprised. Definitely not for everyone though.
I am using a program called DyKnow this semester as I teach. DyKnow takes a Powerpoint presentation and allows me to feed it to the students LIVE!! So instead of me posting the slides before/after class, I can provide them to the students LIVE in session. It also allows me to poll the students, receive instant feedback from students, ask questions, and allow the students to interact with each other during class.
If you mix DyKnow with the TabletPC… students can take notes right on the slides I feed them. They can write, draw pictures, circle, ask questions… We can do class activities and record them so each student has it on their notes. It is actually a really great tool for both teachers and students.
Here’s the caveat with DyKnow. You need a GOOD internet connection and the ability to be a little flexible when the software acts flaky. For the most part it works, but as with any software it has it’s quirks.
5) The iPad (and others but let’s be honest the iPad)…
In all honestly I don’t have one but I know a ton of people who do and they LOVE Them for educational purposes. I know you can annotate files as well as use about 1000 other apps for educational purposes. I hope to get one and learn how it can help change the way we teach, but for now… I’ll keep trying to eavesdrop on my neighbors in class. ha.
I think that gets us off to a good start. I fully understand there are many other programs we could talk about. Like I said I’m big into free programs because it levels out the playing field for all students and teachers (and because I’m cheap), but there are some great pay for programs/apps that promote learning and teaching.
If there are any you’d like me to include in my next technology update leave a comment and I’ll do my best. Or write-up a little blurb and I’ll be sure to include it.