Thursday, August 17, 2017

Back to School Checklist - 2017 edition

School - for some - has already begun. Here's our revised checklist to assist in restarting the edtech program for your classroom or school. It's a big list! Read it and decide what's more important for your circumstances, and dig in.

The start of the school year brings with it more than a few ‘gotta-do’s for a classroom teacher. For that matter, if you’re also the designated ed tech “go-to person,” there are a LOT of tasks for you to consider. With a technology program, ensuring that the various aspects of technology are ready for you, your colleagues and your students is a huge task. It’s hard to envision all the aspects of tech that you might need to worry about, and if you or the team miss something, it only creates more heartburn and wasted time later.

To help your student-centered tech program get off to a fulfilling start, we have put together this checklist. Take a look, and depending on your circumstances and role, decide what needs attention to support a highly engaging, fully functioning student-centered classroom.

With Your Administration and IT Team…
  • Confirm your ed tech budget. Hopefully, this was already done last school year.
  • Update your Acceptable Use Policy. Has anything materially changed in your school’s approach? Switching to mobile devices? BYOD? A new device take-home program?
  • Check the mobile carts – are the devices charging? Is the timer working? Are the power supplies working? Do you have spare devices?
  • Power outlets: are there enough outlets where the devices (on carts or whatever) will be stored? Has anything changed in your layout (or the number of carts or devices) from last year?
  • Device tune-up: update/refresh/re-image your tablets, laptops, and desktops. Add a website launcher like Symbaloo to your class page to make it easier for students to rapidly get to your favorite sites. Add apps to your tablets. Clean them up (don’t use harsh chemicals!), check batteries, and replace missing keys or other malfunctioning items. Do your laptops/desktops need more memory? If so, who’s doing the installation? When will it happen?
  • Tune up/check your Google Apps for Ed (GAFE aka GSuite) policies and settings. New features hit periodically, so take advantage of them! Here is a LONG list of recent updates, to GAFE, Android and iOS apps. These improvements are happening constantly. Keep abreast of what’s new by signing up for updates info from Google!
  • Confirm equipment storage location(s). Did you buy new laptops or tablets? Do you need a new cart or in-class storage unit? It’s not trivial to set up a new device (some are MUCH easier than others but all take time), and new carts can still take hours to get set up just the way you want.
  • Review/create a procedure for “resource” check in/out. This can include carts, labs, cameras, iPads, Chromebooks, you name it. Whatever can be checked out needs to be done so in an organized manner or chaos will ensue. Here’s a good Google Form add on called CheckItOut that will help you accomplish this. There are other tools – search around!
In Your Classroom…
  • Create a Tech Boot Camp agenda to train students on application basics; start rollout early.
  • Determine your go-to techie students. Get them to help (before school starts) with the cleanup noted above.
  • Develop your first ed tech integrated lesson. Try to not just substitute paper and pencil; instead, try to transform your lessons in ways only technology can (student videos, flipped lessons, etc.). Learn more about the levels of technology integration by visiting the Technology is Learning site.
  • Confirm all wireless access points and printers are operational. Have you increased your device count? Are you adding in personal cell phones, etc. that can also bog down your system? Does your network have the capacity for the bigger load? Hugely important…
  • Update student lists! Google Apps for Education, Learning Management System (LMS), Student Information System (SIS), online education sites…now is the time!
  • For online education sites, do you have all usernames and passwords?
  • Ensure document cameras, projectors, etc., are functional. Do you have a spare lamp for the projector(s)?
  • Find your digital cameras. Are they charged? Create a checkout sheet.
  • Develop a brief parent communication about your ed tech plans so they understand its importance. Include something about digital citizenship and home screen behavior. Subscribe to Common Sense Media, which has a WEALTH of tools to help your students grow as digital citizens. Get parents to subscribe as well! Great lessons on appropriate online behavior, copyright/plagiarism, treating all with respect, website and movie ratings, and more!
  • Freshen up your class webpage! Add that Symbaloo link noted above.
For Yourself…
  • Partner up with another teacher to grow your ed tech knowledge and skills.
  • Find a blog that will help you learn more about new tools, tips, and techniques. Here are some good choices:
Freetech4teachers - many excellent instructions and info on a multitude of free tools
Edutopia - wide variety of edtech and teaching strategies, tips, how to's
Catlin Tucker – Blended Learning - all about blending tech into a classroom
Alice Keeler – Teacher Tech - many more easy to understand edtech tips and how to's
  • Find like minded people and groups on Twitter. Here's The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education. 
  •  Add one new application to your tech tool belt. Here are some good, easy choices to add to your repertoire. They each have a “LOW” entry point – you and students can start to use them very quickly and get results FAST.
StoryboardThat – Storyboard and comic creator
Quizlet – Flashcard and study games that engage learners - also see Quizlet Live for collaboration in learning!
Padlet – Collaborative whiteboard for brainstorming and planning
Kahoot! – Fast and fun game-based formative assessment. Very easy!
Lots of items to consider, but don't be discouraged. Determine your top three or four to do's and go for it. It’s never too late. Doing anything to improve the edtech experience for your students and you will pay big dividends!  Partner up with another competent, engaged teacher and divide and conquer! Talk to you administrator, show this list, and ask for additional resources.

We are confident, if you can squeeze in some thought about edtech during this most-busy time, you can make marked improvements! And your students WILL benefit. As you see how excited your students are to be in your high-tech classroom with engaging lessons they will enjoy, you will be glad you took the time!

Good luck!

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