I like technology. I like how it makes my life easier and more organized. I like how many things there are available to us through technology. I also (somewhat begrudgingly) admit that I like how my fiancé has transformed me into a Mac nerd. I may be a little late to the ball game, but I'm enjoying learning more and more about it.
I attended some free webinars about using iPads in the classroom a few weeks ago. I learned about some GREAT new tools, and started exploring them and others available to me. Last week, it was my turn to lead devotions for the other teachers, and I invited them to my classroom to share a few of the tools I'd discovered. It went over really well, and I thought I'd share some of the apps and programs I've found and get you a little better acquainted with what's out there. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming how much there is, and knowing where to start and how to sort through it can be difficult. So I'm here to help! These next few posts will cover some of my favorite apps, websites, and tools that I highly recommend to teachers, parents, and anybody who knows a teacher, parent, or kid! :)
This has got to be my new favorite thing as a teacher. Class Dojo is a website (and app) that allows you to award positive or negative points to students based on their behavior. You pick the specific awards, enter in your class, and it's ready to go after you track attendance on it. You have the option to select one student, multiple students, or the whole class. If you award the whole class, the attendance tracker is helpful because the absent students will automatically be blocked out from getting selected.
The students find it to be a great incentive for good behavior. I put it up on my projector screen during the day and award positive points to them. I enter in negative points on my own time without them seeing so that students don't see which classmates have been bad. I believe public shaming should be avoided when possible. There is also a spot on each student's records page to write in comments. The parents have found this extremely helpful as their children have a hard time remembering why they earned negative points, especially since I add the negative points privately.
My favorite thing about this program besides the fun colors, ease of use, and cute monsters is that parents can sign up to have a weekly email sent to them of their student's points that includes a graph showing what they received/lost points for. The parents can also log on whenever they want to view the behavior. This has eliminated the conversation with their child after school of asking about their day and the child only having good things to say about themselves and their behavior. Now the parents know what specifically has been a problem, which allows for follow-through at home. I had a student who was being very disrespectful and argumentative when I was correcting her behavior, so she got a point taken away for disrespect. Her parents saw it on the Class Dojo and contacted me about it--saying they would talk to her about it at home. The rest of the week, she didn't argue with me once!
A couple tips for using Class Dojo: the iPhone and iPad apps are still being developed so you can't do as much on them--specifically take attendance. So if a student was absent the day before and you marked it on the website. The next day, you wouldn't be able to mark them as present on your app; you'd need to do it on the website. Also, I've had trouble using the website on Safari with points not showing up. Google Chrome is the best, and Mozilla Firefox has worked well too.
My class has the tendency to get pretty noisy while they're working. The excited buzz of busy children is not necessarily a bad thing--I actually encourage mine to chat. A silent classroom is nice when you're teaching something new so everyone can hear you, but a silent classroom isn't necessarily a very fun place to be. But, I do want them to be conscious of the level of combined noise. They don't really understand the concept of that. This app is extremely helpful in getting them to understand their noise level.
Too Noisy uses the built in microphone on your device and picks up the noise around it. You can set the frequency of the noise you want picked up, but I've found that its default (around 70) is just right. The red line hovers in the green unless the noise is approaching too close to the frequency, in which case the happy face turns to a nervous face and the red line is in the yellow. If the noise is at the frequency or beyond it, then the happy face bursts into tears and the red line is in the red. It's an easy visual for the students to see how their noise is affecting the work environment.
A couple notes from my experience: play around with it as a class. I didn't do this so then I had students purposely using loud voices to see how their voice could make the line move. Use a reward system to reinforce the desire to stay in the green. If there's no accountability and follow through with it, then it's kind of pointless, I've found. I use a happy/sad scoreboard that helps them earn a class party, and I add points to either side depending on if they've kept the happy face happy or made him sad on the app. Also, it's important to note that the iPhone app didn't work as well in the classroom setting for picking up a lot of noise. My iPad uses it great though!
I'm going to categorize this app with Behavior Management because it's a way to manage parent communication (leading to positive "behavior" from them!) Remind 101 is a texting app that allows you to send texts to your parents without them seeing your cell phone number or being allowed to respond. (Brilliant, right?) ;) Every teacher has their own way that they like parent contact. Some like physical notes, some are fine with phone calls and texts, and some prefer email. Personally, I don't care for parents having my phone number. I give it to them on field trip days, but that's it. And I tell them it's for that day only, and that I won't respond if they use it outside of that day. You might think that's a bit harsh, but I, like anyone else, have a need for a personal life. I think the important thing is for teachers to prove that they are available in some form--whatever that form may be for the individual teacher. My preference is email; I tell parents honestly that they can't contact me by phone, but that I will get back to them within 24 hours if they email me, and I follow through. I always have parents thanking me for my quick responses. I think it builds trust with them.
Anyway, Remind 101 is perfect for quick reminders about free dress days, money being collected, and class parties. Parents have the option to sign up to get the reminders by text or email, which allows for them to use their preferred method of communication as well. It's quick, straightforward, and easy to use. I haven't used it a ton; I tend to forget about it since I send out a newsletter and a homework folder reminder every week already. But it is nice to have when something last minute comes up.
Stay tuned for next time when I talk about the best academic apps I've found! What about you? Have you found any apps that have helped make things easier for management in your classroom?