“Integrating technology throughout a school system is, in itself, significant systemic reform. We have a wealth of evidence attesting to the importance of leadership in implementing and sustaining systemic reform in schools. It is critical, therefore, that we attend seriously to leadership for technology in schools.” – Don Knezek, Director of the Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA) Collaborative
While technology can often be a positive source for increased efficiency and productivity in schools, today’s administrators are faced with a barrage of options to choose from. Making the wrong choice when it comes to technology can not only be expensive but result in many hours of work invested for little gain – or worse.
Below is a list of fundamental questions each school administrator should consider before investing precious human and financial resources in implementing a technology solution:
What benefits – in time, money, efficiency — are we seeking to gain from implementing this solution?
All too often, organizations will invest in a solution because of a misplaced notion that “they have to” or “everyone else is.” If a solution ultimately doesn’t save you time, reduce expenses or increase efficiency – is it really worth it?
How much will it cost to implement? What is our return on investment?
In today’s economy, schools are more concerned than ever with managing their finances. When evaluating cost, school administrators should look not only at how much it costs to purchase a technology solution but the related implementation and on-going costs of training, support, upgrades, etc.
How well does this solution integrate with our current system and our school’s culture?
A school district invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in a state of the art PC-based computer lab only to find that a majority of students and faculty own Macs. Doing a thorough analysis and survey of what technology and systems are currently used can help schools avoid implementing solutions that ultimately end up collecting dust in a corner. After all, a solution is only as good as how well and how often it is used. In addition to evaluating the effectiveness and usage of technology systems, infrastructures and standards that are currently in place on campus, administrators should also consider what technologies and standards are being used by teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders outside of school.
Is this solution scalable and can it meet future needs?
Implementing a new technology solution takes time, money and resources – so it is important to make sure that you invest in a solution that not only meets current requirements but can easily be scaled or adapted to meet future needs. Costs for additional licensing, ease of customization, additional modules, etc. are all elements that should be considered when evaluating a solution’s scalability.
The following websites are both free and educational, spanning the academic spectrum across multiple disciplines and age groups. With a little guidance these sites should help students have a great time while exploring the wealth of knowledge around them.
Howstuffworks is a site is geared toward older kids or teens (or just curious adults), although it is also a great site to use as a resource. Great for those kids who have science based questions about consumer products, current events or just topics adults rarely stop to explain.
Factmonster is essentially a searchable encyclopedia for kids. Information can either be found by typing in the search bar or by following the link to various topics, like ‘money’, ‘people’ or ‘sports’.
3. Professor Garfield
At Professor Garfield students will learn about various academic topics with a focus on art and creativity. Students can make their own cartoons and watch videos of artists at work in a number of genres.
Funbrain has tutorials and games for such subjects as grammar, math and reading for all grade levels, including more advanced subjects like physics and chemistry. You can search games by grade level or age.
5. BBC Schools Typing
Typing is not a skill that we generally think to teach young children, but it certainly makes sense to start this indispensable skill early. At BBC Schools Typing, kids of all ages can learn to type with the fun tutorials.
6. Try Science
Try Science is an engaging website where kids can do virtual experiments or take virtual field trips related to science. Through the virtual adventures kids get to go through the stars or race across various terrain.
Internet4Classrooms is a comprehensive resource for all academic subjects and is easily navigated according to grade level and subject. Resources and links include both games and supplemental materials.
Kidsknowit is a network of free sites, each focused on a different academic area. Kidsgeo.com focuses on geology and geography, while Kidsbiology.com explores the human body and at Kidspast.com you can find games that help make history fun and memorable.
9) Kids National Geographic
Kids National Geographic is all the scope and depth of National Geographic brought down to kids size. The kid-friendly site includes dozens of games and activities based on geography, culture, science, adventure, nature and animals.
10. CoolMath4Kids and Cool Math
Coolmath4kids is full of fun puzzles and games designed to help elementary aged kids have fun with math. Coolmath focuses on pre-algebra and beyond and aims to get kids to have fun with math and overcome and negative feelings about difficult math topics.
This post was inspired by Mashable’s 10 Sites to Learn Something New in 10 Minutes a Day.
Students growing up in the digital age are likely to engage with digital technology in more and more aspects of their life. Part of the role of schools is to prepare students for the rapidly changing world which is quickly becoming more digital every day as new tools emerge to replace things that traditionally didn’t require the use of computers. Here are 7 tools that schools can use to become more digital.
Digital books can be read on laptops, the iPod touch, netbooks, or eReaders like the Kindle or Nook. With the Kindle, students can get access to almost any book in about a minute as well as preview a vast library. The Nook allows a sharing feature so books can be shared between devices for a limited time for certain titles.
Using Tandem for Schools, schools can not only improve communications with parents, staff and faculty but also more effectively manage school resources.
Identify New Revenue Opportunities
There are many reasons why schools should make the switch to internet calendars from the traditional paper-based model. According to Tech Crunch “while more and more schools are turning to the web as a platform, less than 5% of schools, both public and private, are offering parents internet school calendars.”
1. Help communicate more effectively through digital tools
2. Reduce carbon footprint/save paper
3. Encourage greater involvement of students and parents
Managing events for an entire school of up to thousands of students can be a monumental task. School event scheduling software like Tandem for Schools can make this task much easier with a streamlined facilities request system, automatic conflict checking, and simple publishing of events.
If you are a parent and would like to support internet school calendars, you can suggest that your school consider switching at SchoolCal.org.
1. Receive text message updates of specific school events
2. Users can request to reserve a facility
Members of the community could even be invited to request facilities for community events when the facilities are not in use, and the school can earn extra money.
3. Double booking conflict checking
4. Post pictures and news of events
5. Manage school bus transportation to events
6. Sync calendar with personal online calendars
7. Access the calendar from anywhere you have internet access
8. Filter events/Create custom calendar
9. Customize calendar with school colors and logos
10. Multiple views of the calendar
To learn more about the useful features of Tandem for Schools see the following blog post:
Google Wave is a new service from the internet giant that has the potential to greatly enhance the way students communicate with each other when creating group projects for class. Wave combines many of the best features and benefits of other real time editing tools into a near total solution for group work and project development.
When Google Wave is launched a student or educator will immediately be presented with a window where waves are separated into viewing fields in the center and right hand side of the screen. A handy organizer (much like an e-mail folder lit) and contact’s list are present on the left side.
A button aptly labeled “New Wave” will start a new project, and this is where a teacher or student can really begin to utilize the features of this service. If a social studies class project requires four partners to work together to create a presentation, then each of the four students can be quickly added to a new Wave specific to their assignment.
Each participant can log in and out of the Google service from home, school, or a public library while conducting independent research. Videos, pictures, and other attachments can be uploaded directly into the Wave viewing field for quick and easy access to all source materials; this also provides an easy way to back-up all versions of a project!
Wave provides many handy features and keyboard shortcuts that make it an ideal choice for schools where students are encouraged to utilize laptops for note taking and homework assignments. Students can add materials, chat about the progress of a class project, and more after mastering a few quick commands provided in an introductory video to Wave compiled by Google (this video will show up in a sample wave the first time the service is accessed).
Teachers concerned about unevenly balanced workloads within a group project can easily view a Wave with the built-in playback feature and see the development of the Wave (and research) to ensure that all students are properly credited for work done. Teachers can also use this feature to ensure that all participants are behaving according to school rules when communicating with each other in the course of a classroom assignment and to make sure that no instances of cyber-bullying occur. Parents and teachers can also rest assured their students are safe, as Waves can only be viewed by contacts who have been cleared to contribute to the project.
Google Wave provides a tremendous amount of benefits to the teacher or student wishing to maintain a hub for real time project collaboration in a controlled environment. Classroom and school utilization of Google Wave will help students learn the collaborative skills needed to succeed in a business world that centers around social media integration and introduce them to practical applications of technology.
Google Wave demo video:
Parents, students, and faculty can be away from the computer for most of the day, but many people carry around a cell phone with them at all times. If they have a user account with their school’s Tandem calendar they can change their preferences so that selected updates get sent directly to their phone via text message.
Currently users can log in and set reminders for specific events so that an email will be sent to their email inbox to remind them of an event within a specified time before the start of the event. You can also get email updates sent for all changes or new events for a specific group like Girls Varsity Soccer or Drama Club.
Text integration of a school calendar can improve school communication and save time for parents students and faculty. For instance, say you are a busy parent driving to a school baseball game, which has been canceled due to rain. You may receive a text message on your phone alerting you of this if you have signed up to track events for Boy’s Baseball and have them sent to your phone. Say you are a principal of the school and you want to alert students, parents, and faculty that school will be delayed for 2 hours due to an unexpected snow storm. You can add an event to the school calendar under a group called “Important School Notifications”. Now everyone who has signed up to track this group and receive text updates in their Tandem account can be notified of this important information via a text message.
Interested to learn more about Tandem school calendar software? Set up a free 1 on 1 demonstration on your computer here.