Teachers Tout Favorite Classroom Tech Tools

By Rob Klindt

Gone are the days of writing classroom notes and lessons on a whiteboard using colored pens and editing with messy erasers.

Technology has made that age-old practice obsolete.

But, guess what? The whiteboard lives on.

Just ask Joni Clark, a special education resource teacher in Fremont, Calif. This year Clark put away her colored pens and erasers and started using eBeam technology in her classroom to deliver interactive lessons to her students in grades three to six.

The whiteboard is still the focus in her classroom lessons, but now it’s part of a tech package that includes a computer, stylus pen and an Elmo document camera.

“It’s like a Smart Board but it uses your whiteboard,” Clark says. “I am able to use it in a variety of ways, from interactive math and reading lessons to projecting a worksheet by switching it from the LCD projector to an Elmo.”

Although she’s been using eBeam for only a short time, Clark says it’s become one of her favorite classroom tech tools.

“Instead of writing on the whiteboard, I can use the stylus pen to write (on the eBeam device) and capture the step-by-step lesson for a quick-and-easy review for the next day without having to rewrite it, a real time-saver as well as effective teaching method,” offered Clark.

Clark also likes eBeam’s ability to use sound, which helps students with hearing problems or those who can be easily distracted.

Clark says it’s particularly helpful when showing tutorial videos, because the sound is amplified in front and she can pause the video and interact with it by writing directly on the image or circling key points.

A Vote for WordPress.com

While Clark finds eBeam technology helpful in her classroom, other educators have varied favorite tech tips.

Rich Yacco, a career technical education teacher in Union City, Calif., says WordPress.com is one of his favorite tech tools because it lets students create online portfolios of their work.

“This allows them to not only share written work and two-dimensional art, but also multimedia including audio, video and animated presentations such as Microsoft PowerPoint slide shows,” Yacco says.

Yacco has embraced technology in his classroom in a big way. Working through the Mission Valley Regional Occupational Program at James Logan High School, Yacco:

  • Uses a projector to share his computer desktop during lectures and demonstrations.
  • Posts daily assignments to a class website, which includes links to handouts and video tutorials.
  • Has students use classroom computers to complete many of their assignments including research, writing scripts, editing videos and learning video industry professional software.

High-tech home schools

Homeschoolers also are embracing technology. For Lee Anne Hawes Tanaka, a home school educator in Nampa, Idaho, technology is a key tool in her curriculum. Because cost is a factor, Hawes Tanaka looks for free or low-cost tools. Among her favorites are free online classes offered through a variety of sources including:

Hawes Tanaka says one of the best sources for high-tech learning materials is your local public library. “Public libraries have lots of free DVDs and downloadable audio books,” she notes, adding that, “These are quality materials already paid for with tax dollars.”

Technology has made a wide range of teaching material available online for free or at little cost. But Hawes Tanaka cautions that it’s important to avoid being overwhelmed by all the choices.

“The real challenge isn’t finding stuff. It’s finding stuff that meets your needs,” Hawes Tanaka notes. “Take 15 minutes daily to Google something and try it out to see if it meets your class or personal needs.”