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Virginia Journal of Education


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Some Tech Resolutions for the New School Year


by Karen Work Richardson

The beginning of the new school year is a wonderful time to make some resolutions for what you hope to accomplish in the coming year. In particular, I would encourage you to think about how you plan to integrate instructional technology this year. Here are just a few suggestions for possible resolutions:

          Incorporate Internet safety: Virginia has once again led the nation by making Internet safety education a priority. No matter what grade level or content area you teach, you should be incorporating information about how to stay safe online into your curriculum. Here are a couple ideas for how to do that:

     • Post a list of Internet safety rules by the computers in your classroom or computer lab.  Cybersmart has several sample posters for you to download and print (www.cybersmart.org/for/teachers.asp).

     • Help your students learn how to use an evaluation tool such as those at Discovery Education (http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/eval.html).

     • Browse the curriculum-related resources available at the Virginia Department of Education's website (www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Technology/OET/internet-safety-guidelines.shtml).

     • Check out some of the activities at my Internet safety wiki: (http://witchyrichy.wikispaces.com/internetsafety/).
         
         Try out a new tool: Even the most tech-savvy of us has some piece of hardware or software that we are curious about but just haven't had time to learn about or use. Maybe it's the new interactive white board or student response system that your school purchased last year. Or maybe it's software like Inspiration or MovieMaker to which you were introduced in a workshop but never explored. Or maybe it's one of those "Web 2.0" applications everyone seems to be talking about like a weblog or a wiki. Pick one or two to explore in the next few months. You could visit the website where manufacturers often have lesson plans or integration ideas, talk to a teacher who is already using it, schedule some time with the instructional technology teacher, or locate an online tutorial. As you learn, think about ways you can integrate the tool in your classroom. Set a goal to use it several times between now and Christmas.

          Get to Know your ITRT: Speaking of your instructional technology resource teacher, each school division in the state is required to have at least one. Their primary purpose is to work with teachers to help them use technology effectively. Make this the year that you get to know yours better. You might want to schedule a meeting to discuss your instructional technology needs. What technology are you already using? What areas in your curriculum might benefit from integrating technology? What ideas and resources do they have for how you can make better use of technology to support your students' learning? I work with the ITRTs a lot, and I have found them to be enthusiastic and helpful. Don't be intimidated by their technology prowess; instead, take advantage of it.

          Set up a portal for your classroom: The World Wide Web is a lot like a library after an earthquake. It can be tough to find things and even tougher to keep track of them. A Web portal is a page that allows you to store links to different websites and also display information such as the weather or images. There are lots of choices of portals. One favorite of mine that is easy to use is iGoogle (http://google.com/ig). Once you set up your account, you can add gadgets related to classroom content. Are you studying earthquakes? Add the United States Geological Survey gadget that displays the most recent earthquakes. Working with a foreign language? Add Dictionary.com's Spanish Word of the Day. Then, you can make the portal the homepage for your classroom computers.

          Do some networking: Once the school year begins, it’s easy to feel isolated in your classroom. You hardly have a chance to go to the bathroom, much less network with your colleagues. Thanks to the Web, however, you can reach out to other teachers in your division, the state or the world. While we usually associate this kind of social networking with the younger generation, many teachers are embracing it as a way to keep in touch and learn from others. With its focus on Virginia teachers, I would recommend visiting VSTE's social networking site: http://vsteonline.ning.com. And be sure to join VSTE (www.vste.org), the Virginia Society for Technology in Education. It's free, and you'll receive monthly newsletters and updates related to educational technology as well as information about upcoming events, including the annual conference.

          These are just a few ideas for your new school year's resolutions. Perhaps the most important resolution of all is to have fun and learn something new!

Richardson has been working as an educator for over 20 years, currently as an adjunct instructor in educational technology at The College of William and Mary, where she is also working on her doctorate in curriculum and educational technology. She also serves as regional director of the Virginia Initiative for Technology and Administrative Leadership, a professional development program for school administrators.

 


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