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Would You Like Some Technology With That?

Would You Like Some Technology With That?

Science teachers learn new ways to harness technology and challenge students


Padlet.  Seesaw. Kahoot.  Bubbli.  Quizizz. Aurasma.


The secrets to technology don’t even sound like they come from the English language.


But they are expected to work like magic in science classrooms this fall as the district’s science teachers learn about and become adept at incorporating each of the creative apps into classroom lessons.


Secondary Science Curriculum Specialist Steve Henderson briefed his science teachers at a special technology training Aug. 16 on the variety of technology he’d like them to try this year.


tech training  
Some of the district's science teachers check out a virtual reality headset, which is eerily similar to the old View-Masters of a generation ago. A simpler but similar version is called "Google Cardboard." The technology actually comes from a special app loaded onto a smartphone, which is snapped into the frame. The frame can be plastic or cardboard. Either way, the viewer gets a 360-degree visual adventure.

Padlet, for example. It’s a free app for a smart phone or tablet that enables students in a class to post answers to a teacher’s questions. It’s like an online bulletin board: When all the kids log in, they – and the teacher – can all see who posts what.


A teacher can post images, links, videos and more.


Other teachers swear by Seesaw, also free. It’s a digital portfolio that students can use to document what they are learning at school. They can even zip off digital snaps of their classroom work to their parents.


Parents love being “in the loop” when they get notifications from their children during the day with class projects. The messages give them a little window into their child’s school day.



Kahoot is an app that makes quizzing students fun. Students enjoy pulling out their smart phones, answering a few questions, and being tracked for how speedy and accurate they are.


The class’s answers load into the app in handy-dandy charts. It’s easy for the teacher to see if most of the class is giving the right answer or if she needs to quickly reteach.



Some might prefer the app, Quizizz. “This is the new Kahoot,” said Mr. Henderson, of his new favorite app to quiz students. “It’s better than ever.”


The whole point of these hands-on technology workshops is to help teachers use the equipment that’s been put in their classrooms. “It’s not getting computers into students’ hands. It’s to use those computers to teach them something about English, math or science,” said Mr. Henderson.


He suggested teachers try digital ice breakers. One teacher suggested asking students to pull up one photo from their photo library, show it to a classmate, and “tell the story behind it.”


Mr. Henderson delved deeper into the possibilities of technology by introducing QR codes and the tools for virtual and augmented reality.


QR Codes

Take a QR code, for example. A teacher can link that strange square black-and-white puzzle of code to anything he wants his students to remember: a sentence, an equation, a graph, or even the teacher’s cell phone number.


 tech training
 This is the image that comes up when you scan a QR code reader over a QR code affixed to a rock sample. Up pops the answer, "Schist." Teachers can affix QR codes to anything to add a little bit of activity to learning.

Think of the possibilities, said Mr. Henderson. You can link a QR Code to the worksheets and papers from each day in class, then post each QR code to a big desk calendar. Any student who was absent on a particular day can go to the QR Code Calendar, scan the QR code from the day he missed, and be totally up-to-date on his homework – without having to track down his teacher.


Mr. Henderson set up a display of rocks along the back of the room, each branded with a QR code. When participants downloaded a QR code-reading app (free), they could aim their smartphone’s camera at the QR code, which automatically brought up the name of the rock on which it was affixed. That’s just one of 1,000 uses for QR codes, said Mr. Henderson.


tech training  
Steve Henderson shows a QR calendar on the overhead during his presentation on how to ramp up the use of technology into the classroom.  Each block of the calendar features a QR code, which a student can scan with his smartphone. The QR code can be affixed to all the work done in the class on that particular day.

A QR code activity will get kids out of their seats and solving problems that might be boring otherwise, he said.


Virtual reality

“How would your science lessons change if you included virtual reality?” asked Mr. Henderson, donning a glasses-like contraption called Google Cardboard.


Offering students snippets of virtual reality – the feeling that they actually are experiencing something they aren’t – is one of the newest, most exciting ways to teach, he said, and there are several ways to do it.


To capture a 3-D photo of a place they visit, teachers need only a smartphone, the free iPhone app Bubbli downloaded on it, and a little patience. Put it together and teachers can create a 3-D photo bubble of what’s going on around them. The app can also record sound. Then the 3-D photo experience can be posted to social media.


Mr. Henderson told teachers that one way to use it for students is to bring pictures of exciting places you go back to the classroom by first capturing them on Bubbli.


Students can also view 360-degree videos posted on YouTube. There are enough of them that a science teacher can easily immerse their students in such experiences, he said.


Augmented reality

Step even deeper into technology, said Mr. Henderson, with the virtual reality headset called Google Cardboard, available through Amazon or WalMart for about $20. Go to a specified Google website, and snap the smartphone into the headset. Now students can enjoy a virtual field trip.


You can take them from the streets of Paris, where they will stand at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and be able to look around them 360 degrees, trek down a road in Iceland, or visit faraway places like DuBois, India.


“You’re taking kids to places they’ve never been,” he said.


Teachers tested out the headsets, marveling at the seeming reality of what they were viewing, swiveling their heads right and left and turning around to get the full effects. “We look like idiots, don’t we? And I don’t care,” said one.