Thursday, July 30, 2015

Trinbagonian Teachers and Technology

A two-week summer institute focusing on special education also resulted in opportunities for teachers to learn more about the role technology plays in supporting all learners in the inclusive classroom. As a Microsoft Innovative Expert Fellow, I strive to infuse technology into all areas of my teaching practice, but I was not sure of the infrastructure in place, technology available, or interest of the teachers in Trinidad and Tobago. A survey administered in the first few days of the institute provided some exciting results. Using the web-based survey tool, Survey Monkey (available at, T and T teachers indicated strongly that learning about educational technology was a huge need and interest for them.
 With such a strong response, I was delighted to share with teachers the pedagogy supporting technology infusion, how technology enhances developmentally appropriate early childhood education programs, and the vital role technology can play in including and supporting students with special needs in the regular classroom. Additionally, we discussed why learners need to develop important 21st century skills to become employable and responsible citizens who are active in their local and global communities. 

During our two weeks together at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation/T.T.U.T.A  Summer Institute, I introduced a technology tip of the day as well as delivered an assistive technology session. I was excited to see how eager teachers were to absorb as much as they could and scale it to their own classroom practices!Teachers reported that their access to wireless internet and technology tools and devices varies from school to school. This is a common issue in Canadian schools as well. I am extremely fortunate to work in a highly equipped classroom and school with robust wireless internet and access to many devices, but my Canadian colleagues in other schools often do not enjoy the advantages I do.
Above: students in my kindergarten classroom use Skype to connect with another classroom 45 minutes away. They were highly engaged in listening to a story written and illustrated by their friends in the other classroom!

Technology infusion is provincially mandated in Manitoba, but wireless internet and technology spending are at the discretion of local school boards and school administrators. This results in disparity from school to school, limiting teaching and learning opportunities for teachers and students alike. “BYOD” (bring your own device) initiatives are vital to leveling this playing field—the school provides free internet access to teachers and students, and students are allowed to bring their own devices from home to use in the classroom.
*Note that four teachers skipped this question. I infer this means that they have no technology in their classrooms. 

What are some ways that teachers can start integrating technology in their classrooms, even with limited internet access and only one device? Here are a few ideas to get started!
1      Plickers: this interactive response system allows you to gather fantastic formative assessment data. All you need is an Android or iOS device, the free app Plickers, and a set of cards printed from the Plickers web site. It was the WOW of the summer institute in Couva!

Above: Plickers in action at the summer institute! Kimberly Glasgow-Charles scans the class to obtain formative assessment data on their knowledge of assistive technology practices.

          Animoto:  this is a wonderful free tool for easily creating beautiful movies. Animoto is web-based and app-based, and they provide free accounts for educators. A quick and simple way to make a movie using one device? Choose your topic and have students print what they know on a piece of paper. Appoint a photographer who takes a picture of each student holding their sign. Upload and arrange the photographs in Animoto, add some catchy music and video effects, and you’ll have a beautiful movie for your students to enjoy. What a great way to share and reinforce learning!

        Microsoft Educator Network: create your free account today and access free tools, professional learning, and tutorials!  Auto Collage is available as a free download, and it is a simple, effective way to create a beautiful image collage on a topic. Allow students to use their own devices (or share one in the classroom) to take photographs. They can email or text the images to you to create a class collage, or each student can create their own collage. My students used Auto Collage to make posters promoting practices that help the earth for Earth Day! I’ve also used this tool to make Christmas cards and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day presents. Free and easy!

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