1) Build your person learning network
Imagine a place where you can ask for a child-friendly video about the Battle of Hastings at 2am on a Thursday and five people point you in the direction of a perfect resource. This is your personal learning network (PLN). It’s like that teacher in your school with all the best, shiny and useful resources locked in their stock cupboard, but your PLN is not just willing, but eager to share with you. A collection of fellow handpicked educational professional with more resources, ideas, advice and CPD opportunities than you could ever use. If you are reading this online, there is a good chance that you have already reaping the benefits of interacting and sharing resources with other educators. My website of choice in http://twitter.com as it is simple and you can wade through lots of information quickly. You can also take part in online discussions such as http://ukedchat.wikispaces.com where UK educators come to discuss an educational topic every Thursday evening. You can find me @ICTmagic. There is also http://facebook.com, http://www.scoop.it, http://www.diigo.com, https://plus.google.com and a whole lot more. Find the site that’s right for you and begin to share what works in your class.
Teachmeets are like a real life version of your PLN, where educators come together to swap ideas, resources and advice in bite size presentations of three or seven minutes. Anyone can attend and present that these free events and attendees often get a goodie bag and can win prizes. See the Teachmeet website at http://teachmeet.pbworks.com for more details.
3) Design a website/wiki
In the past creating and designing websites was the preserve of IT professionals and technically minded enthusiast and too many wet weekends. No longer! Today’s webtool allow you and your class to make beautiful, media rich, and fully functional websites in a few minutes with the same level of skill as making a PowerPoint. There are lots of free sites out there to choose from. A few of my favourites are http://wix.com, http://middlespot.com and for something a little simpler try http://smo.re. Find more on my http://ictmagic.wikispaces.com/ICT+%26+Web+Tools page.
A variation on a website is to create a wiki page. See my guide to setting up a wiki at http://j.mp/CPDmagic.
Your page could be about the activities you are doing in class or get your children to write a story website, complete with illustrates and a video from the author.
4) Get social
Children learn best when they are learning together. Collaborate and communication form the cornerstone of the modern classroom and social networking and blogging are becoming an important part of daily life. Explore the social media in a secure and safe way with fee tools like http://twiducate.com which is a service similar to Twitter which can only be seen by the class. Students can upload images, videos and write text in lots of fonts and styles. Another great free tool is http://kidblog.org which has all the functionality of a regular blog with videos, text and images. But you can choose to have a closed blog which only the class can see. Alternatively, you can have a public blog, but all posts are moderated by you. You can even get an email sent to your inbox every time your class submit something for you to take a look at. Both tools shouldn’t take to more than an hour to set up.
5) Work with another school
You could work with a school down the road or with a school on the other side of the world. Today’s webtool, like http://skype.com and email allow you communicate and collaborate almost as easy as working with a class on the furthest side of your own school. Activities can start with simple things like swapping work. Over time you will have ideas and build to something using all the things you’ve learnt from your PLN like this (http://speechbubbles.wikispaces.com) language project I did this year. There are many good websites to find schools who want to find international partners. http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldclass and http://www.elanguages.org are just two sites.
The days of the computer suite are numbered and going mobile has become commonplace, first with laptops and now which tablet computers and mobile phones. Wireless technology allows educators to get out of the classroom and into the environment.
If you have a wireless network in your school, you should be able to find network coverage for your laptops in an outdoor area, although you may need to wander around like Mr Spock with his Tricorder to find it.
If you don’t have a wireless network, you may still be able to be connected your laptops to the web when outside. Most modern mobile phones and tablets, including Android devices, have the ability to use their data connection with other devices to make a mobile hotspot.
Once outside you have so many possibilities. Science and geography activities can take on new meaning for your class and you can even play a high tech game of hide and seek, called Geocaching (see http://www.geocaching.com for more information).
7) Head in the clouds
Cloud computing refers to applications, resources and files that don’t physically sit on your computer, but are run or stored on the web. This has been with us for a while now and web email, for example, has been with us for well over a decade. But the idea has been gaining traction recently and more and more services are beginning run online. Google Docs (https://docs.google.com), one of my favourite and most used webtools, is an online Office suite. It not only stores all your documents, but the software that you use to edit your documents it on the Internet. So with your free username and password, you can access, edit and share your documents anywhere and on almost any device with a web connection. But the greatest function that Google Docs has for educators is the ability to share and edit a document in real time. You can have five students sitting at five different computers in five different homes working on one document and seeing the chances happen instantaneously. If you do nothing else I recommend in this post, get your class on to Google Docs! There are many more examples of cloud computing on my wiki page at http://ictmagic.wikispaces.com/ICT+%26+Web+Tools
We all take TV, movies and radio for granted these days, but the skills involved to produce videos and audio will become more valuable in the years to come. Recording and editing podcasts (audio files) and movies are becoming much more common in classrooms. The recording and editing software is usually free and come as standard with most computers – for example Windows Movie Maker. Most computers and devices come with a fairly good video camera and microphone. The subject matter is up to you and your class. You could record drama, news, or animate with tools like http://www.jellycam.co.uk. More tools are listed on my wiki page at http://ictmagic.wikispaces.com/Video%2C+animation%2C+film+%26+Webcams. You might even win an Oscar or two.
Don’t worry about breaking the Internet. Cynics would say that it’s broken already. But the Web is a fabulous place to explore and experiment with online tools and teaching resources. Where did your student learn to use computers so well? They played with it to see how it to see how it works. Find sites that look interesting and see how they could be used. Ask your ready and willing PLN what tools they would use for a particular topic. Then play, fiddle and explore without fearing the technology.
10) Have fun… It won’t byte!