5 Favorite Technology Tools and Trends of 2016

Thursday, December 29, 2016 7 comments
Hey all and happy almost New Year!  I feel like I am always apologizing for not writing but this time I have some really good excuse!  After 19 years of classroom teaching I have moved out of the classroom!  On December 5th I started a new job as a District Technology Integration Specialist!  My new job is sooooooo cool!  I work with 2 other wonderful people and we travel around our very large district (over 15 schools!!!)  helping teachers take technology risks in their classrooms and helping students use technology to increase their learning.  It is amazing!!!!

Everyone keeps asking me if I miss being with kids everyday but the wonderful thing about my job is I am with them.  I have already spent time helping newcomer ELL students create Google presentations on their home countries and cultures and the other day I spent the entire day teaching 3rd and 4th graders at my son's and daughter's school how to use Google Classroom.  My son was soooo proud of me!

Sooooooo, since it is the end of the year, I would like to focus on my 5 favorite technology tools and trends of 2016.

1) Virtual Reality
I've gushed about it before but I absolutely looooove the infancy of virtual reality in the classroom!  There aren't even a ton of things out there right now so I can't even imagine how much this is going to grow.
My kiddos absolutely love Google Cardboard, Google Street View, and especially Google Expeditions!

We had Google into my school and it was such an amazing experience.  If you haven't tried it yet, you have to!!!
 Using Google Street View you can travel to a ton of place all over the world.  If you have a tablet, a phone, and some VR cardboard or googles, you might want to use the Google Expeditions app.  This allows you to help your students take tours.  Here is a link to all the Expedition tours that are currently offered: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uwWvAzAiQDueKXkxvqF6rS84oae2AU7eD8bhxzJ9SdY/edit#gid=0

If you would like some ideas on how to use this in your classroom, join this amazing group on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/communities/103070326999809122127

2)  Connecting Classrooms
I have always been a fan of book buddies, mentors, and peer tutors.  Before the dawn of Skype and Google Hangouts this connections were limited to our own schools.  If you haven't tried connecting to a class, please do it in 2017.  As an educator, I found it so empowering.
You don't have to connect over anything huge.  You might share poetry with another third grade class, or you might talk about the characters in Maniac Magee.
One of the fun ways to connect is to conduct a Mystery Google Hangouts.  We love using our critical thinking and geography schools in such a real world way and we really love making connections with our students across the country! Click here to check out how to do this in your classroom!
If you are looking for easy ways to connect to other classrooms, click here!

3) Virtual Field Trips
Ok!  I have not been quiet about this at all!  I am OBSESSED with virtual field trips!  I work in a small urban district where a majority of my kids would be considered to live in the poverty level.  We do not have enough money to get out of our classrooms and give the kiddos experiences.  The thing is, my kids need these experiences the most.  They need to see what the world has to offer them!  I have thrown myself into this new passion with a vengeance!!!
So far, I have taken students from 2nd - 8th grade on a trip to Plymouth Plantation, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Komodo National Park.  My students have learned about different cultures by having a live conversation with a fabulous woman from South Africa.
My favorite places to go for virtual field trips is Learn Around the World and Microsoft Educators Network.  To help you all out, though, I am in the process of making a database of tons of free field trips you can take your students on. Click here to look at my growing list of over 300 opportunities for your students to connect with places and experts for FREE! 

Here is an example of one of our field trips!

4)  Google Sites
About two months ago, I had a colleague ask me what a teacher should use to help kids create a website for class.  I showed them Wix and Weebly and they asked what I thought about Google Sites. Bleh!  Google Sites was clunky, ugly, and not very intuitive.  I hated that it wasn't integrated with the rest of my GSuite platform.
Weirdly enough, two weeks after this conversation Google totally revamped the entire platform and it is AMAZING!  Sites can be created off of your Google Drive account, the drag and drop is ridiculously easy, and the formatting is so simple!  Click here and check out a website I'm still working on.

5) Fun Data Collection
When it comes to formative assessment, things keep getting more fun!  If you are looking for an engaging way to assess kids there are tons of great things out there right now.  Some of my favorites are Kahoot, Quizzizz, and Plickers.  Students love all these tools and have no idea they are even being assessed.  During one of my virtual field trips, my students took a final assessment with over 400 other students across the U.S. and even a class in Mexico.  How cool is that?

So... what were your favorite tech trends, apps, or websites of 2016?  Let me know in the comments and feel free to contact me if you would like to be a guest blogger about something techy you've been using in your classroom!