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301: The Easiest Last Day in ELA
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151: Here’s the Teacher Tech that Actually Helps, with Jennifer Gonzalez

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Disclaimer: Today’s show notes contain an affiliate link. That means that if you purchase a product through my link, your purchase supports the work I do here at Spark Creativity with no additional cost to you. I affiliate only rarely, and only recommend what I truly believe in.

You know when you find something amazing, and it’s not enough to enjoy it yourself, you kind of NEED to tell everyone you know? That’s how I feel about Jennifer Gonzalez’s Teacher’s Guide to Tech. For many years Jenn, from Cult of Pedagogy, has been curating the best in teacher tech in her annual hyperlinked guide. This year, she upped the ante and brought in five ed tech experts to help. I’m apt to lose myself in its colorful digital pages, finding apps and platforms to help me with ideas I already have, and apps and platforms that give me brand new ideas.

I love the way there are blog posts and tutorials linked along the way, too, intertwining Jenn’s many years of work guiding and mentoring teachers with her love of tech that truly makes a difference in the classroom. None of that complicated replace-what-you’re-already-doing-with-something-more-annoying stuff.

OK, I don’t want to go on and on. Let’s get to the show. Today, rather than ask for Jenn’s favorite tools from the guide, I asked her to really show us how it works. I threw her eight tricky scenarios in the teaching world, and asked her how she’d use the guide and the tools inside to simplify those scenarios.

You can listen in on the podcast player below, or on any of these lovely platforms. Or, read on for highlights and links!

Teacher Tech Scenario #1: When you Want to Diversify your Texts

Scenario one: So let’s say you’re new to a school that’s teaching a pretty standard, canonical curriculum. You’d like to bring in more modern mentor texts from many voices for your students, but you’re a bit overwhelmed just thinking about trying to find them all with everything else you have going on. How can the guide help?

There are two sections in the guide that can help with this scenario.

First of all, there’s the content libraries section. Here, you’ll find different libraries that curate types of content, like podcast, videos, and articles. A great place to start would be Common Lit, which features online texts paired with other types of media for a layered student experience.

TOOL TO TRY: Common Lit

Next, you’d want to jump over to the Social Justice & Anti-Racism Section, which features many types of platforms and tools, including several listings that can help you diversify your classroom materials.

TOOLS TO TRY: 1001 Blackgirl Books, Diverse Book Finder, We Need Diverse Books

Teacher Tech Scenario #2: Your Kids want to Publish their Work

Scenario two: Now let’s imagine you’re teaching ninth graders and seniors. Your ninth graders have spent the last month writing children’s books for the kindergartners in your neighborhood.  Your seniors are creating a digital poetry collection that you’d like to have printed for your school library. You need a program or app to help each group’s final project shine, but a quick Google of “publish student books” isn’t working. How can the guide help?

This is a great time to dive into the Book Publishing section, with many options for creating digital books and even a couple for physical books. Digital books are so much cheaper that you might want to give serious thought to setting up an ongoing showcase of digital books created by students, rather than publishing a physical product. But if you do want to publish something kids can hold, Blurb is a great option, or you’ll find help for publishing a book that you can actually sell on Amazon as a fundraiser.


Teacher Tech Scenario #3: You want to Focus on SEL and you have no Idea How

Scenario three: Now you’re a teacher in a school that is really struggling to bounce back post-COVID. Students have been through so much, and they’re just really still not engaging in class. You’ve decided you want to focus on SEL and outreach to their families for a while, but you need concrete steps you can take to make this happen quickly. How can the guide help?

With all the new emphasis out there on SEL after these difficult years, the guide now features a special section on SEL. Some of the tools offer specific curricula if you want something designed for you. Along.org provides a video check-in platform you can use to leave short messages for students. The Parent Engagement section has help for reaching out to families through tools like Bloomz (for parent engagement) and Talking Points (to help translate your communication for parents who speak other languages).

TOOLS TO TRY: Along.org, Bloomz, Talking Points

Teacher Tech Scenario #4: Your Kids are Lacking Digital Literacy Skills

Scenario four: Based on the last current events  project you did with your students, you’re feeling like you need to put together a quick unit on choosing strong sources and identifying fake news. While you’re confident in your own digital literacy skills, you’re not really sure how to teach them to your students. How can the guide help?

Time to explore The Media and News Literacy section! Common Sense Education has curriculum to simplify the process of teaching digital literacy. All Sides provides students with a chance to see the same news from the left, enter, and right, and examine how different spins make the same event appear differently.

TOOLS TO TRY: All Sides, Common Sense Education

Teacher Tech Scenario #5: Your Students are Isolated

Scenario five: You’re teaching in a relatively small town, and you feel like your students are a bit isolated from the wider world. You’d like to help them connect to other kids in other places, and learn more about the variety of opinion and belief out there. How can the guide help? 

The Global Learning section holds sites that help students build connections with people in different parts of the world. Empatico can help your students find a match in a classroom somewhere else in the world to write back and forth or do a project together. The Global Read Aloud can guide your students in reading the same book as other kids around the world and sharing experiences on social media. Flipgrid now hosts a number of international events that bring kids together from all over.

TOOLS TO TRY: Empatico, The Global Read Aloud, Flipgrid Events

Teacher Tech Scenario #6: Your Students are getting REALLY into Podcasting and it’s hard to Keep Up

Scenario six:  You’re working on a podcasting project with your students, and they’re getting really into it. They want your help to find music for their shows and to put them onto a platform where they can make them public. You’re feeling a bit overwhelmed trying to keep one step ahead of them and figure out the copyright and privacy issues so that you can help them shine safely and legally. How can the guide help?

The full podcasting section not only shares tools that can help students find music in the public domain, it links out to Cult of Pedagogy articles that walk you through creating a podcast and guides you to teach your students how to build products containing legal use components that can eventually be made public.

Teacher Tech Scenario #7: You’d like to help your Students be more effective with their Visual Communication

Scenario seven: It’s clear to you that visual literacy and visual communication are important elements in ELA today, but you have no background in design or knowledge of art and design platforms. You’d like to get your kids designing effective infographics, podcast covers, social media graphics, and informational videos, but you’re wondering if you need to take a summer design course to get rolling with this. How can the guide help?

There are so many different categories in the guide now to help with this! You can find sections featuring help for students to make their own digital art, graphic design tools, infographic makers, and libraries of images and icons. Canva is a stand-out right now for all things design, since students can simply find templates they love and tweak them for their video slides, podcast covers, posters, infographics, social media designs, and more.


Teacher Tech Scenario #8: You have a Free Day to Fill and need a Quick and Epic Option

Scenario eight: For the final scenario, I wanted to give you a chance to share something you just love inside the guide. So here it is! You’re a master teacher, and everything is already perfect in every single class and with every aspect of your knowledge and communication. However, you’ve got a little gap between units and you’d like to fill it with something wonderful. You open the guide and find…. 

Google Arts and Culture is a collection of historical document and primary sources but also so much more! Here you’ll find photos and artwork and a whole lot of ways to interact with them. Students can participate in experiments and try out all the fun tools, like turning famous artwork into coloring pages and jigsaw puzzles. Send students on a scavenger hunt through this site and amaze them with its many possibilities!

TOOL TO TRY: Google Arts and Culture

OK, that’s a wrap on our scenario game today. If this conversation has you curious about Jenn’s guide, you can find out more with my video tour below and then follow the link for all the details. I hope you’ll have fun exploring all the tools she shared!

Check out the Teacher’s Guide to Tech here

Connect with Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy

Check out Jenn’s website, Cult of Pedagogy, gateway to her blog, podcast, and courses.

“With this site, I hope to create what I did not have myself: a vibrant, encouraging, stimulating community of teachers, supporting each other toward excellence. I believe if we can reach across the limits of geography and find each other, there’s no limit to the amazing things we can accomplish.” -JG

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