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5 FREE Computer Tools for Every 21st Century Teacher

One of the questions I was asked in my interview for ICT co-ordinator was: ‘With the current budget in schools and little money available, how could you ensure that progression was taking place with technology and there was quality ICT provision in school?’ This was a gift of a question – I was able to draw on my fabulous experiences with the world of Twitter and the amazing sharing of ideas on a daily basis. What schools don’t realise, is that when teachers actively collaborate, even outside of departments on a whole-school basis, amazing things can be discovered! With an array of free software and websites available, here are 5 free computer tools I think are fantastic for every 21st Century Teacher:

1. YouBlisher

YoublisherThis is the latest FREE ICT tool I have discovered thanks to connecting to other teachers via twitter and have used within my school for the first time recently. I created an ICT News magazine for staff – first designed in Word to the way I wanted it,  saved as a PDF and uploaded to YouBlisher. This site creates a real looking glossy, page-flipping magazine using your PDF! You can send the link of the magazine to anybody via email. I absolutely love this tool – makes a document come to life! I next want to try this with pupils – instead of stopping at creating a brochure in Publisher, I want them to save their work as a PDF and transform their efforts into an eZine! The links to their final projects can be placed in a VLE, emailed to teachers or emailed to peers for peer assessment. Opportunities are plentiful! Check out YouBlisher for a free, creative eZine generator! (Image source: http://dnacdn.despachocreativo.com)

2. Cool Text

I can’t believe I only recently found out about this fabulous logo generator! I was told about it at a recent Fronter VLE training course and once I started using it, I have been addicted since! It is a FREE ICT tool that lets you create an array of titles for PowerPoints, Word etc that are more unusual and appealing than the standard fonts available. They also offer gif. amimations that will flash in PowerPoint when you start the slideshow! Have a go with Cool Text and see the brilliant free titles you can create with ease! (Image source: http://ct.mob0.com)

3. VoiceThread

voicethreadVoiceThread is a wonderful free site that I discovered when doing my Online Learning & Teaching for Educators course. It is a web-based application that allows you to place collections of media such as images, videos, documents, and presentations at the center of an asynchronous conversation. A VoiceThread allows people to have conversations on the work and to make comments using any mix of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file. Pupils can log on from home and leave feedback via typing, audio or video cam or they can leave an opinion on a certain picture or scenario. This is something I wish to use more! I have used it with my GCSE class – getting them to record their practicals and post them on a collective screen for comments from the class. Worked a treat! Have a look at the VoiceThread site to read more about it! (Image source: http://www.library.illinois.edu)

 4. iSpring

This is an amazing FREE tool that I use soooo much!! Teaching a GCSE class in twilight in another school means that I have to deliver lessons all over the place and email resources to pupils quite a lot. Teaching music means I use an array of audio and video clips and as you know, it is a pain to email a presentation that has these media elements as all the media has to be emailed with the powerpoint in order for it to work properly! With iSpring, it means the PowerPoint with audio and video clips is converted into a flash presentation – so only ONE file needs sent or saved onto memory pen! If you have a presentation that you wish to add video and audio to, and would like to condense it down into one compact file that can be uploaded to a VLE or emailed – use ispring! It is one of my most used tools! (Image source: http://img.creativemark.co.uk)

 5. Prezi

Prezi is really taking off as the latest presentation tool! It works a treat on the interactive whiteboards and makes a fresh change from the standard PowerPoint presentation. It does take a little longer to create a Prezi – perhaps that’s just me, as I’m so familiar with PowerPoint – however, the finished product does look amazing! Prezi is a zoomable canvas that lets you create a map of ideas in the form of text, audio, images & videos! Rather than click from slide to slide, Prezi zooms in the motion you set it to, making a flowing visual experience! As Prezi quote: ‘The result is a visually captivating presentation that leads your audience down a path of discovery!’ Pupils love discovery – this tool is worth taking the time to discover yourself! Check out the Prezi website to start using this cloud based application. (Image source: http://a1037.phobos.apple.com)

 

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Being a ‘F.R.E.S.H’ 21st Century Teacher

It cannot be denied that newly qualified teachers need to stand out from the crowd in order to get a job. Even those teachers fortunate enough to be employed need to ensure that they keep moving forward in their classrooms. In order to be an effective 21st Century Teacher, all educators  – old or new – need to adopt a FRESH approach in the classroom.

1. Flexible

Teachers are masters of multi-tasking, in fact, if you take a nanosecond to stop and just look at everything you are juggling in that moment, you will be amazed. With the demands and pressures of everything that is connected to the teaching profession, we are faced with daily challenges – pupils absent and needing caught up on missing work, admin deadlines, reports, assessments, keeping classes motivated, ensuring learning is taking place, behaviour management, telephone calls, planning ahead etc. etc. etc. – the list goes on! It is absolutely essential that teachers embrace flexibility in order to ensure that these interruptions to daily ‘teaching’ do not cause teacher burnout! 21st Century teachers are being faced with increasing demands to change lesson plans, change teaching strategies and use more ICT. Now more than ever, teachers need to demonstrate that they can be flexible with ease, adapt to change and more than that, embrace change. We all need to give in at times to what we are used to and try something new, as daunting as it may seem. The need to involve technology in the classroom is growing, so try something new, take small steps in the right direction, but show you are willing be to flexible with your lessons and with using technology. Melissa Kelly gives us some useful tips on how to ‘Learn to be Flexible,’ have a read. (Image source: http://thepeoplegroup.com)

2. Resourceful

It is clear we all need to keep thinking of new ways to teach our subject material, ways to maintain engagement, ways to make material relevant, inspiring and thought-provoking, after all, this is how learning takes place. An effective 21st Century Teacher needs to be extremely resourceful, always expanding their repertoire of resources and teaching methods. This means keeping up to date with modern technological trends, collaborating with other teachers to help our professional development, finding out new software, new ideas, new uses of interactive whiteboards that will help appeal to our students. A lot of schools think being resourceful means spending money, money they do not have, therefore they use this excuse not to adapt teaching methods. This notion is false! There are so many free resources, teaching aids, pieces of technology and wonderful websites that can be incorporated into lessons with ease. It just takes a little effort and flexibility! Check out Philip Drury’s information on being a resourceful teacher, some useful tips. (Image source: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk)

3. Enthusiastic

Enthusiasm has got to be one of the top qualities teachers sell themselves with in interviews – ‘Yes, I have great enthusiasm for the job, I absolutely love teaching children!’ But in reality, does this enthusiasm shine from their classroom and from them? For many yes, but for some, no! 21st Century Teachers need to be enthusiastic about how education is moving forward – embrace the changes rather than complain about them, see opportunites for making lessons even greater and more stimulating! Facing all of the challenges of this occupation with a positive attitude is essential, after all, we are role models for our pupils. Do we want to model a moaning unwillingness to try new things? No way! Modelling enthusiasm helps entice pupils into the lessons. It also makes our day-to-day lessons much more enjoyable when we love what we do! Read about the importance of enthusiasm with all teachers, outlined by Kayla Cunningham. (Image source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com)

4. Supportive

It may seem like common sense, but never underestimate how showing a little support can mean the world to someone. I know that because I have been brought up with technology, I am more accustomed to experimenting and playing around until I can figure something new out. To many teachers, a computer, never mind anything else, is daunting! It is imperative for 21st Century Teachers to support each other in the transition into bringing all colleagues into 21st Century education. Share your skills, take the time to help others with technology. Remember this is all new to many so have patience. A school full of supportive staff is a wonderful environment to be part of! Larry Ferlazzo has created a great article called Several Ways Teachers Can Create a Supportive Environment For Each Other, check it out for some great tips. (Image source: http://www.lawgazette.co.uk)

5. Harmonious

Teaching is all about working in a team – within departments but also within the school as a whole – but in order to be a great 21st Century teacher, that team needs to extend beyond the school walls to a local and even global base! Opportunites are endless in this technology-rich society to collaborate with other teachers – we need to make the most of this to build one large harmonious group of educators who share together. Robert Klassen and Tracy Durksen explain the importance of such collaboration for the modern teacher in their publication, Teachers Working Together. (Image source: http://www.integraphix.com)