Integration Help

I received the following email today (edited very slightly and name withheld). I will answer the best I can, but I sure don’t have all the answers. Anyone willing to share their ideas here?

“I am a fifth grade teacher who really wants to integrate technology but is having a difficult time of it.  There are a lack of resources, administrative support, and my own lack of knowledge.  That being said, I feel knowledgeable about technology, just not how to effectively integrate it into lessons.  I was wondering if you would be willing to give me some pointers on how to add it to lessons.  I am specifically interested in furthering my use of blogs, wikis, and podcasts.”

Please go at it in comments with ideas and resources.

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19 thoughts on “Integration Help

  1. Students enjoy being able to use to record the daily homework or weekly spelling words. All you need to do afterwards is email the link, add it to your blog, or whatever school communication you are using. It’s quick, easy, and free yet very powerful in giving the students this important role. Enjoy! Keysha

  2. Integrate first with Social Studies – whatever the unit of study the students can brainstorm/mindmap what the important points are for teaching that unit to a peer. Search for 5 appropriate pics at Pics4Learning, save and upload to Voicethread on one account (mine all use my account set up for them on one computer) then set up desktop microphone. Groups explain the important parts of their unit. So the Civil War would be divided, maybe, into years or battles or famous people. Kids can listen before they save. They will learn how to find pics and record very quickly. Parents, other teachers, admin can all visit the Voicethread and it can be embedded on either a blog or wiki.

  3. I usually start teachers out with some lesson with which they are already familiar and look for a way to do the same thing with technology, but as you are already comfortable with technology, I would recommend starting with one technology with which you are already familiar and then look for a lesson or classroom routine that can be done with that technology.

    A lack of resources suggests that you’ll probably want to work with one computer as a whole class activity. Here’s an example: at the end of the day I liked to include a wrap-up activity where the students had to remember one thing they did that day. As a whole group, you could have a classroom blog, and record those ‘what I did today’ comments.

    Expect a few things to go wrong, it is technology after all. Stick with it for a while and see if the activity you select doesn’t suggest other ways to do the same thing in other areas or extend to something new. Most of all, start somewhere with the idea that you are exploring how it impacts your classroom. Spend time reflecting on what you and the classroom did and how you might do it again better.

  4. I would agree with Matthew. Pick something you are already doing and see how you can use technology to do the same thing.

    Having said that, a voicethread would allow you to use only one computer. The children could take turns adding comments and voice to what they created.

    Podcasting is also easy to do without much technology. Use a cheap digital recorder or your computer mic to record how-to podcasts, weekly news updates, etc. Edit a bit in audacity (free), upload them in (free) and voila – a podcast is born.

    Here is a link to my site with many tech examples. This is a fifth grade class, too.

  5. One of the ways that I’ve started to get my kids involved in blogging is by having them read and respond to blogs even before we began keeping a classroom blog. All too often, teachers and students dive into writing a blog—which takes more techno-savvy and more digital resources—-first, and then their blogging efforts end in failure.

    Instead, I have my kids read blogs that are being created by other students and then leave comments for other bloggers. They do this on my 3 classroom computers during silent reading time. I’ve created a Pageflake with student blogs for them to explore:

    Some of the blogs are above their grade level and some of the blogs are below grade level. My kids enjoy reading both.

    I’ve also given them a list of commenting tips—which you can find at the end of this blog post:

    I photocopied these and have them sitting at each computer to remind kids of what good comments look like. While silent reading, they’re expected to leave a comment for the author of the piece that they’ve read.

    This has worked out incredibly well. My kids have discovered another source for reading material. They also are seeing examples of other student bloggers. Finally, they’re practicing short bits of reflective writing of their own….which we can easily convert into posts on our own blog at a later date.

    So long story short: Consider starting by getting your kids to read and respond to other bloggers before beginning to write. It’s easy to do and it will lay the foundation for good blogging later.


  6. I use wikis with my fifth graders a lot. We’ve done them for some things that are just fun (a list of books we’ve loved so they can find new ones to read). But I also use them for units that I want them to be able to remember well. For example, we do a big social studies project at the end of the year that refers back to everything we’ve studied. So, we have a wiki for each culture we study during the year. They add the information with links or citations for their sources. Then at the end of the year they can look back at the wikis to help with their projects.

  7. My take on this is that teachers can’t expect to start implementing every technology at once. Those of us who use technology have to remember that we probably didn’t start out doing blogs, wikis, and podcasts in one year.

    I’d also focus on what the teacher wants to accomplish rather than the tool. For example, I really want students to further their discussion of a particular writing through a written dialogue…so I’ll try blogging. I want my students to prepare oral or video reports on what they’re learning…maybe podcasting might be appropriate etc.

    I also received a similar letter from a teacher starting to use technology and responded in In Practice…

  8. I agree with the comments above. Take something you are already doing and instead of the students writing a report or answering questions on a workshop give them 3 choices of how they could represent their understanding. Examples:

    1. Upload a photo to Voicethread and then add text or audio comments to explain the concept.
    2. Go to or to create a comic/mosaic/collage to represent the understanding.
    3. Make an Inspiration concept web (or use to share connections of concepts.

    Each of these ideas will appeal to different learning styles

  9. The people before me have shared a lot of really good ideas already. I would suggest you also start reading some teacher blogs to see what other people are doing until you read about one you want to try and then go for it.

    I also agree with whoever mentioned that you might want to look at something you already do and think about how technology might help you and your students do it easier and more efficiently.

  10. As usual great advice from all. Thanks all for helping out. I would add to start following education bloggers and read current and older posts about things they are doing and have done. Look at examples and pick something that both appeals to you and fits into your comfort zone and ask questions. In addition FIND SOMEONE, preferably at your school but it doesn’t have to be, to take the journey with you. It helps.

  11. I use a blog to let kids open adn discuss things not related to school. I also use to assess text structure, something we focus on very heavily (unfortunately). I use a wiki as a quickwrite session for students. I give them three of the five Ws and they have five to ten minutes to write. The only problem is that the majority of the students typing skills are so bad that in the time alotted they get about three lines of the story.

  12. You’ve got some really great suggestions here. I found that classblogmiester (David Warlick’s) tool is a great blogging tool for beginners. I’ve helped teachers set up blogs for their students for just one project – a lit circle type collaboration for one book. The students blogged for just a few weeks at the end of the school year, but it was enough just to get them started. I’ve noticed a lot more people using edublogs (which has a student component) lately too. Start with one goal in mind. Here’s some things I can think of off the top of my head.
    In your blog, ask questions about the content of the text or literature book and expect the children to give thoughtful, purposeful answers.
    From your blog, send them to a site that provides information or multimedia that goes along with the content you are studying and ask for reflections, connections, or comments.
    From your blog, ask the children to connect a concept that they are studying to real life and ask them to write a short summary of what they observe.
    Set up groups like in lit circles and have students take turns to write summaries, vocabulary studies, predictions, etc. and have group members comment.

    All this can be done with a wiki also. I recommend wikispaces. Join Ning groups like education.ning or classroom20.ning for further input from teachers who integrate technology.

  13. Lots of good ideas already but here is my advice “start small” and get parent permission. If you shoose to blog get a few good writers to get your blog off the ground. We even have parents who blog with us.

    You can see what we’ve done in the last year or so–

    I’ve blogged about using blogs and wikis here

  14. I think you have to start with something that technology can do for your lesson that you can’t do without it, like using Google Earth to find ocean trenches or travel from continent to continent. Don’t use technology for technology’s sake. Use it because it’s better than what you used before.

  15. If you are truly lack resources, look into other means of providing technology for your students. Do you have a local library that you could take a field trip to? I know that our library (within a short drive of several elementary schools) has a new laptop lab for public and staff use, in addition to public-use computers. Students can then access the project from home, the library or another location if you show them the resources.
    You could also partner with your local high school. Is there a computer club that could come in after school (for them) and show your students how set up their accounts etc.
    I would start though, with asking your students how much they already know. If they are like most students anymore, half of them will have a MySpace page, and already be familiar with the concepts of blogging, posting, commenting, and wiki-spaces, even if not in those terms. Do your students write a weekly journal? There are a ton of online ed-blog resources. Pick one you like and experiment with having them journal online.

    Most of all, have fun with it. And let them know that it will be a learning process for you too!