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Practical digital skills for teachers - good practices

Good practices


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Rationale, Objectives, Questions, and Work Flows
Support Files

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Rationale

This page basically focuses on general issues related to technology and digitally presented media I have helped fellow teachers overcome. Many of these problems can be obviated by following a few simple practices.

Essential Questions

What practices can help teachers overcome or avoid common technology challenges?

How can I simplify my classroom and content management by reasonable integration of technology?


Work Flow for this exercise

I fully realize this list may not be all that familiar at the outset of the class, but with some simple practice the ideas here can become part of your daily work.

Own your web site code. Your source code is the product of your work and imagination. Servers have bumps; they are sold to new providers who add prices for new features. Sometimes servers die. If you own have your code on your machine or flash drive, moving to another machine or rebuilding a page is easy. If not, your work may be lost.
Work Flow: View Source > Select All > Copy > Open word processing document > Paste > Save

Post all the materials you want students to have to your site. Kids lose assignments and they miss school. By posting materials to your site replacing lost work becomes their issue and not yours. It's also a great way to teach them responsibility. You may post the raw document to a server or you may do what most teachers do and post to a Google document or Google drive. Either way, give the kids the responsibility. You can view the video file about how to upload a Google document from the Support Files in the right column for a quick overview. You've already built your handouts and PowerPoints. Saving them to another drive takes little time and can make your work so much simpler. Parents appreciate it too.

Build your web pages around your lesson plan. You've already put all the work into your lesson planning. Why not share it with the kids? A good lesson plan makes a great outline for a web page. It's also an excellent way to organize your work.

Avoid being buried in building flashy pages. Opinions will vary widely on this, but generally we are teachers and we need to get the information to the kids rather than try to impress other web designers. This doesn't mean all your work needs to look like a barn door, but beware being caught up in a appearance that speaks to you. That's an ever elusive, and often just plain narcissistic, goal.

Build consistency into your student materials. The kids should be able to know where to expect information in your printed materials as well as your web pages. This is a great place to take a look at what the professionals do. Develop a brand, or style and stick to it. Conversely, don't be afraid to mix things up once in a while. It's generally a good idea to keep a place in your documents and web pages open for creativity while keeping other places, such as the navigation pane, static.

Don't overwhelm yourself with new tools. You will develop expertise with a few design tools. Learn them well. Before you add a new tool to your box, carefully consider what you will be changing out for it. And always consider the fact that when you change out one skill for another, you run the risk of confusing the kids.

Keep the cognitive load surrounding your materials low. We are not infinite data processors. Your materials should simplify the work for you and your students. The more mental horsepower you and your students spend working through your materials, the less they have for learning the material.

Avoid using color as an identifier and use high contrast type for your text. Color mis-identification is much more common researchers have previously thought. If call attention to a piece of data don't say 'Look at the red type'. Rather you would say 'Look at the center column titled home prices'.

Check your site often. I believe the best use of a site is an extension of your classroom. Concurrently, you need to be up your site. Most hosting services will show when a site was last updated. Are your links working? Most free hosts are supported by ads. Are your ads appropriate for your users? Have any external files or linked pictures been moved? Your site is not a 'one and done' exercise any more than your classroom is.

Teach your students responsible web use and monitor what they do. I This is self explanatory, but I believe we need to help kids learn ethical web use and expect it from them. In a similar light, surfing Google for a word match is not research. Consider developing a search paradigm for them within your materials.

Study your data. We run grade books and PowerSchool and spreadsheets and over and over we run averages to derive some sort of data. Averages are one of the least stable measures of centrality. We have computers now and we can do much better. In most cases a t-test will provide vastly more useful data and learning how to understand one is simple. 



Demonstrations and Links

Video file. How to upload a file to Google docs.

Here is a simple online t-test calculator.

Data for t-test


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