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3 Steps to Cultivating an Effective EdTech Culture in the Classroom

3 Steps to Cultivating an Effective EdTech Culture in the Classroom

Just adding technology to a lesson doesn’t make the lesson stronger or more valuable. Tech tools need to be intentionally integrated into the classroom.  Purposeful implementation and continual evaluation of the technology you use in the classroom will help you create a culture in which the use of technology is maximized to create high-quality learning experiences.

Here are three different ways to ensure that you’re cultivating an effective EdTech culture in your classroom—one that promotes both education and fun learning opportunities for your students.

1. Be Clear With Rules

While technology can be fun for students, classroom tools shouldn’t be used for communicating with peers the same way Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram are—the focus should always be on education.

Avoid this potential pitfall by hosting a class brainstorming session, where students help create the technology rules. This process will give them a sense of ownership and empower them to follow the rules that they created, as well as encourage peers who aren’t following the rules, to do the same. Some basic rules to include are:

• Use appropriate language with your peers
• Use articles and resources to back-up discussion responses
• Remember: This is our online classroom community, not Snapchat

Write these rules on a large poster board and hang them in the class. You can also add them to your classroom blog or any other online community where notes can be left.

2. Poll Students Often

While a tool may pass your initial inspection, it’s important to know what your students think of it. If they love the tool, they’ll want to use it more. When polling students about the tools they’re using, be sure to ask at least three basic questions:

• What is your favorite/least favorite feature of the tool?
• What is one thing you learned while using it?
• Did you like (insert specific feature that you thought would be valuable)? Why or why not?

Not only does this tell you how your students feel about the tool, it gives you a better sense of how they’re using it, while requiring them to think critically about something they consider a “game.” This creates an effective EdTech culture, where students are as critical of the tools they’re using as you are.

3. Assess Frequently (And Share Data With Students!)

EdTech tools make it easy for teachers to gather data about their students’ progress in nearly any subject. You can use this data to determine which tools are most educational and effective for you and your students.

For example, Accelerated Reader asks students to answer questions in multiple-choice format. While this tool is educational in that it’s holding students accountable for their reading, a similar tool, Whooo’s Reading, prompts students to answer open-ended questions, which requires a higher level of thinking. In this case, both products are valuable, but that one feature may make the latter platform better for your students.

To continue cultivating an effective EdTech culture, share the results of your data with students. Not only is it exciting for them to see how they’ve improved, but it also emphasizes on the educational value of these games and tools. Enhance this data sharing with offline resources that call students out for their great work, like:

• Reading certificates
• Award for highest overall test score
• Special incentive for using the tool x days in a row

Technology in the classroom is only as valuable as you make it. This means you should always be focused on purposeful use of tools, assessing progress, and getting feedback from students to determine what’s effective and what isn’t. Follow these three basic rules and both you and your students will reap the benefits.

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Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

15 Best Common Core-Based Apps for Kids

15 Best Common Core-Based Apps for Kids
Lots of apps claim to align with the Common Core, but many fail to live up to the level of the standards. Rather than testing out Common Core aligned apps on your own, we’ve found some of the top apps for you to try out in the classroom or at home. In order to make our list, apps had to encourage kids to think critically and work creatively to master the standards.

If you’re just looking for a way to keep track of all of the standards, a few apps stand out:

MasteryConnect takes the Common Core standards and organizes them by state. It also includes state standards for science and social studies. Find your state, download the free app, and always have your standards at your fingertips.
Common Core State Standards from Customizabooks provides a handy reference for the Common Core, along with the ability to add student rosters and take notes related to the standards.
Apps for Common Core helps you find more apps aligned to specific Common Core standards. Users add and help align apps, so the more people who use it, the more content it will contain.

English Language Arts

For English/Language Arts, apps should allow kids to think critically, analyze texts, and writing in a variety of ways. These apps help encourage high-quality ELA instruction based on the Common Core.

Question Builder teachers kids to make inferences and think critically while answering questions. Designed for younger kids, it uses simple pictures and questions to help kids start to learn about the question and answer procedure. It also works well for kids with special needs.
News-O-Matic brings informational texts into the classroom through daily news. Kids will learn about current events that interest them through articles that have been written just for them.
Toontastic, while pricey, is a high-quality app. Kids can create their own cartoons, allowing them to express themselves creatively and think critically when writing. Lesson plans and worksheets also help teachers align the content to the standards.

For English/Language Arts, apps should allow kids to think critically, analyze texts, and writing in a variety of ways.

Shake-a-Phrase builds kids grammar and writing skills in a fun way. Rather than using boring old sentences, the app uses silly sentences to help kids learn their parts of speech. It also suggests zany writing prompts to get them to think beyond the norm when writing.
World’s Worst Pet – Vocabulary combines an engaging story with vocabulary practice. Kids will see words in multiple contexts, explore synonyms and antonyms, and read kid-friendly definitions as they play the fun games.
Subtext gives teachers a way to share a variety of online texts with students. Since the Common Core standards involve reading a variety of texts, teachers can find relevant articles or websites and add notes or assignments to help guide students as they read.

Math

Common Core math apps should go beyond basic problem-solving. They should help kids look at problems from different angles and provide them with real-life problems to solve.

Virtual Manipulatives helps kids interact with fractions through virtual fraction bars. This free app gives kids and teachers a chance to write their own problems on a virtual whiteboard using the bars, rather than providing problems for them to use.
Splash Math offers Common Core –aligned math apps for each grade-level from kindergarten through 5th grade. These apps incorporate a variety of mini games that kids play as they build up their basic math skills. While not incredibly unique, the games are a lot of fun for kids and the app also offers progress-tracking.
Bugs and Buttons is designed for younger kids and focuses on teaching basic math skills. Kids will learn to think creatively as they play the fun games. They’ll also subtly learn about numbers, patterns, shapes, and other basic math concepts at the same time.

Common Core math apps should go beyond basic problem-solving. They should help kids look at problems from different angles and provide them with real-life problems to solve..

DragonBox Algebra 5+ bills itself as the game that secretly teaches algebra. As kids solve the puzzles, they learn the basics of addition, subtraction, and multiplication. The game teaches critical thinking and creative problem-solving. DragonBox Alegebra 12+ uses the same system as DragonBox Algebra 5+, but includes more advanced math skills to help kids in middle and high school build their skills.
Crackers and Goo provides kids with a unique and fun way to learn about math patterns. The game is designed to be played by kids in kindergarten through fifth grade and beyond, with different levels in the game corresponding with different grade levels. The game builds critical thinking and mental math skills.
MathBoard gives kids a way to solve math problems by actually writing out the answer rather than just having them select the correct answer. The app is also designed to teach, outlining the steps they need to take to solve a particular problem. Student profiles allow parents and teacher to track progress of multiple users.

These apps offer creative ways to help you incorporate the Common Core State Standards in your classroom. Do you have any favorite Common Core apps? If so, share them in the comments so other teachers and parents can check them out!

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