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Thursday, August 10, 2017

A One Size Fits All Tech Option for Teachers? Really???

It there a One Size fits all Tech option for teachers?? 

We are a society that wants it all.  We tend to want it all in one place, where we want it, when we want it.  Oh, we also know that we don't want, so make sure that I have doesn't have any of those things.  It starts to sound pretty narcissistic, or at least like an all you can eat buffet.  However, it is sometimes the least selfish of us that feel this way.  Teachers invest so much time, effort, and love into their students, often at the expense of their own families, that we aren't afraid to speak up for what we want and need.

   When it comes to technology, teachers needs are as varied as the students and classrooms they serve.  My sixth grade elementary classroom in Idaho is drastically different than an urban middle-school sixth grade classroom.  The idea that one tech program will provide all of the options that both teachers need is like thinking that my favorite shoes will fit every situation. 

I have used ClassDojo, Remind, Bloomz, Classcraft, Sign-Up Genius, and others. I have also researched See-Saw and others in preparation for facilitating workshops at local, regional, and national conferences on communicating with mobile technology. There has never been one option that even came close to providing every option I wanted. In addition, some provided options that scared me away.

So, what is a teacher to do? 

Decide what is most important to you!  

  • safety-are students records secure? 
  • ease of use-for students and parents as well as teachers
  • most important features (ex. behavior tracking, portfolios, parent communication)
  • responsiveness of staff-Hello, is anyone out there? Do they listen?
  • look for growth-Are they working to improve in the areas you need?

So, what about options I want, but aren't available YET?

Just like those shoes, sometimes you have to make a choice. You can wear the tennis shoes with your tux on the Red Carpet.  Some of us are OK with that. However if you aren't, consider the following.
  • Decide if those options not provided are important enough to do the extra work to run dual programs at the same time. If you do this, will it overwhelm your students and parents?
  • Look at other programs that you are already using. Can your LMS, (Google Classroom or Canvas) be utilized to fill some of the void.
  • Learn to App Smash, and teach your students to also.  Teach your students to use Pic Collage to put multiple pictures into one page. 

What I Do! After extensive investigation I have settled on ClassDojo.

Here's why.
  • Safety-Security is very important to ClassDojo and they proudly display their security endorsements for all of my parents to see. Privacy Center
  • Responsiveness-ClassDojo staff have always been very available and able to answer questions and address concerns within minutes, rather than hours or days.
  • Parent communication-ClassDojo's parent messaging service is second to none. I can even add to the School Story to reach parents school-wide instead of just within my class.
  • Behavior Tracking-I track behavior, but I do not have a classroom economy system. Students and the class are honored when honor is warranted.  There is no preset time or number of points to reach a reward. I know many other classrooms do have a classroom store system (earn and spend points) but it doesn't fit my classroom culture and Dojo allows me to still keep parents informed and track students growth and struggles my way.
  • UPDATED Student Stories-ClassDojo has a nice portfolio option with a ton of new options. 
    • Videos up to 8 minutes
    • annotate pictures
    • upload from the camera roll and apps
    • create drawings
    • journal enteries, 
    • filters, frames, and stickers
    • More on Student Stories
  • NEW Toolkit-Noise Meter, Music, Directions, Think-Pair-Share, Group Maker, Random student picker, Timer, and Today are all great tools that make teachers lives easier. 

It's true that there is no one size fits all tech option for every classroom, but there are some great options.  My choice may not fit all of your needs, and your choice may not fit all of my needs.  Each teacher will need to decide for themselves, their students and families, and their community.  As for me and my families, we find ClassDojo fits our needs better and better all of the time.

About the Author
Allen Hancock is a sixth-grade teacher at Centennial Elementary School in Lewiston, Idaho.  Allen has degrees in Elementary Education and Psychology.  With over 22 years of teaching experience including 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades, as well as, previous experience as a behavior intervention specialist, he writes various blog post for http://heartofed.blogspot.com/ and presents at local, state, and national conferences. Find out more about Allen at http://heartofed.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-professional-me.html

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