Friday, November 6, 2009

The Essential Tools For The Connected Teacher-Part 1

First, a little background. In my role of an Instructional Technologist my goal is to help teachers understand that there are some really awesome tools out there to take their teaching to the next level. I get asked all the time about what tools should teachers be using in the classroom or for professional development.

A few weeks ago I posted my Administrators Technology Toolkit where I wanted to give school administrators some simple tools to get started with to really understand what it means to be a Tech Savvy Administrator.

But I got lots of questions about teachers. What tools do teachers need to use to be Tech Savvy Teachers?

So was born the List of Essential Tools For The Connected Teacher.

Of course these are not all the tools teachers need. Nor are the tools in each category the only tools perfect for that category. They are just a jumping off point. A way to get started.

So for the next 4 Fridays I will be posting a different category of connectedness and several tools.

Here we go...

Week 1-Tools To Communicate

Part of being a Tech Savvy Teacher is communication. Communication with students, parents, community and other education professionals is a must today. Here are several tools to get you started.


Class Websites
-They are a perfect way to get your classroom message out. Post homework, projects, class photos, videos, lessons and more. Think about it. You do a lesson. Johnny is out of school because of Swine Flu. No need for Johnny to fall behind because he can go to your website and get his lesson and homework for the days he is out. The parent doesn't even need to come to the school to get the assignments because you have taken the time to post your information to your website. I am sure you can think of 100's of other ways to use a class website.

Some schools now provide a website space for teachers. If you are not using it you should! If your school doesn't provide for one, get one! There are lots of great, free, services to have a class website if your school doesn't provide one for you:

Google Sites- Very easy to use, and easy to link to Google Calendar for homework and other important dates. You can also post lots of 0ther gadgets that really provide for a lot of flexibility when putting up lessons.

Webs- Another easy to set up and use website service. The only drawback is their are ads on your pages and there really isn't any control over what ads are shown.

Wix- Has to be one of the best website design programs out there, and the best part, its free! You can create some really slick, Flash-based, pages with no programing knowledge really. Very easy to use but when done, looks like a pro made it.


Blogs- So maybe a website just isn't for you. Or maybe you are looking for another way to keep up the communication. Introducing the blog. There are a couple of ways to use them. It could just be a place to summarize what kids did in class that day and to post your homework. It could be a place that is an extension of the learning. Some teachers will post a question or a reflection that they then have the students go in and comment. Or it could just be a place for you to reflect and talk about what it means to be a teacher.

How ever you use it, blogs are a great way to give the world outside your classroom a little insight into what you are doing.

There are tons of resources our there for blogs. Here are just a few:

Blogging In The Classroom-What does it mean to blog with kids in the classroom. Check out the vast amount if information here for great info.

Support Blogging- This wiki is a great place to find tons of info on blogging but in the classroom and professionally. And be sure to check out their list of educational and classroom blogs.

Blogging Platforms for Teachers- Check out this article to discover some great places to start blogging.


RSS Reader- There are about 50 blogs and websites that I like to keep up with. However, visiting each of these would take up most of my day. There has to be a way for me to visit one place yet still be able to see new blog posts and articles added to my favs.

RSS to the rescue! Really Simple Service (RSS) is a way for you to keep up with all of your favorite sites in one place. Most websites now have RSS feeds so you can know the instant new information is posted to your favorite places. All you need is an RSS Reader. The reader organizes your feeds in an easy to read format. This also allows for information filtering. While you might have a favorite website or blog, you might not want to read everything every time something is posted there. The reader gives you a preview and you can decide if its worth a look or not. More importantly, as a professional, its important to know the news surrounding education and to hear what the educational bloggers are saying. So a reader is an easy way to keep up with that information.

To start, watch this video on RSS In Plain English.

Google Reader- One of the easiest to set up and use readers out there is Google Reader. All you need is a Google Account, and the address of any website you want to keep track of. Google Reader does the rest. Check out this video on setting up your reader, this video on how to organize it, and this list of Must Read Feeds for Teachers.


Drop.Io- There will come a time when you have to share a file, program, document, something that you can't post to a website or add as an attachment in an email. That is where Drop.Io can help. Simply choose the files you want to add to your Drop. Upload. And you get an unique web address that you can give to anyone so they can retrieve the files. Perfect for a class to upload finished projects or documents. Or as just another way to share information with your students, parents or community. Oh and did I mention you can leave voicemail there? Sweet!

Check out this video for a tutorial then head over to Drop.Io to create your first drop.


So there you have 4 ways to start with Web 2.0 Communication. Are there others you think teachers should use. Leave me suggestions down in the comments.

Tune in next week for Week 2-Tools to Create...

Photo from Flickr CC Search. View the original here.


  1. Great post! Here are a two super easy and free websites for teacher-website newbies: and

  2. This is a great list! I'm going to use some of your suggestions to help our Girl Scout Service Unit get connected!

  3. Totally agree with this list. There have been kids out for days, but they miss nothing with my Google Site. I teach 8 classes and I drop for each of them. It makes it so much easier to grade and keep students on track.