Tool of the Trade: Technology as Teacher’s Pet
by Rita Sorrentino
How would you respond to the following poll?
- Were you ever considered a teacher’s pet in your K-12 learning years?
- As a teacher, were you ever criticized for favoring a particular student over others?
Recently, on a late-afternoon ride to center-city Philadelphia via Market-Frankford Line, I overheard two adolescent girls commiserating about their day: a boring class, too much homework, unfair dress codes, and the existence of a teacher’s pet in a certain class. The first three complaints did not surprise me, but I was curious about the latter. With rubrics and standards for assignments, behavior and competencies, I would have thought the term “teacher’s pet” was no longer front and center in a repertoire of these students’ pet peeves.
Undoubtedly, both teachers and students face a plethora of pressures in their daily interactions with curriculum content, expectations, evaluations and communication. For the most part, policies and procedures are in place to support a healthy teaching and learning environment. However, preparation and planning make great demands on teachers’ time. Schoolwork, homework, and extracurricular activities often leave students with little time for relaxation and socialization. Fortunately, in today’s educational landscape, both teachers and students have access to apps and web tools to help make teaching and learning more manageable and meaningful.
Practical Ed Tech
Richard Byrne is one of my favorite go-to persons for all things edtech. In addition to Free Technology for Teachers, he also maintains iPadApps4School.com and PracticalEdTech.com. Richard Byrne believes that technology has the power to improve student engagement and achievement. It enables teachers to form powerful, global, professional learning communities.
I like to think of apps and we tools as a technological teacher’s pet. Reliable and frequently updated resources balance digital know-how with pedagogical perspectives. In the 2017 edition of Byrne’s free Practical Ed Tech Handbook, there are suggestions for finding the best tools for communication, web searches, digital citizenship, informal assessments, and projects and publishing. Pros and Cons for each section assist teachers in making decisions based on their circumtances. You can subscribe to a weekly newsletter that provides a summary of the most popular posts with examples of how each tool can be integrated into instruction.
I was particularly interested in the disussion of digital portfolios to not only share students’ multimedia projects, but also to provide space to curate materials around a particular topic of study. As teachers share their curated resources (websites, twitter feeds, videso, etc), they model for students the process of analyzing and evaluating items for inclusion. When students create and document their learning projects, they develop fluency with tools of technology, and heighten skills for reflecting, evaluating and documenting growth over time.
Seesaw is a free app and web-based service designed for creating multimedia journals (K-5). After the teacher creates a class, students scan a QR code to access their account (no registration necessary). Teachers and students can add photos, audio files, videos, or drawings that could be annotated with voice comments, text and drawings. Seesaw is a safe and secure place for students to share work. Access is by invitation only.
Weebly offers a free, no-ads platform for creating classroom digital portfolios and content websites for assigned projects(4-12). Additionally, Weebly for Education provides features built specifically for education. Teachers get 40 free student websites with an Education account. Besides the basic “drag and drop” features, Weebly allows you to use a photo gallery, slide show, YouTube videos, and Google Maps. Weebly is a good choice for creating literary magazines, organizing digital content and posting reflections.
iPad as the Teacher’s Pet.
Another of my go-to tech gurus is Tony Vincent, an innovative educator and advocate for connecting teaching and learning with technology. From his “Learning in Hand” website, you can access his blog posts,, tweets, and tech-tip archives. A handy infographic, “iPad as the Teacher’s Pet ” urges teachers to interact with their students by using suggeted tools and apps.
- Show on a Big Screen – Mirror your iPad to a projector or TV to allow students to see what you see on your iPad as you walk around the room. Featured App: IPEVO Whiteboard can turn the iPad into a document camera.
- Manage the Classroom – Use your iPad to randomly select students, display messages and set a countdown timer. Featured App: Make It Big enlarges the text you enter to fill the screen. Shaking the iPad will make your message blink.
- Assess Student Work – Use your iPad to grade student work, collect learning artifacts and keep anecdotal records. Featured App: FreshGrade enables teachers to create, collect and grade assignments in a variety of formats.
- Interact with Students – Use your iPad to communicate, collect responses and host a game show. Featured App: Remind sends emails or text messages to students and/or parents without revealing any phone numbers.
- Manage your Files – Store all your documents online for easy access anytime, anywhere. Featured App: Evernote syncs all your files for access from other devices and computers.
- Make Instructional Media – Use apps to make and model instructional multimedia content. Featured App: Adobe Spark Post guides users to creates attractive informational images that are saved to the Photo Library.
- Learn New Things – Life-long learning in the palm of your hands. Featured App – iTunes U gives you free access to university courses and teacher-created curricula.
Now how would you respond to the following poll?
- Do you welcome technology when used meaningfully and purposefully as a teacher’s pet ?
- Do you favor certain technologies over others to incorporate into your teaching and learning practices?
Please share your thoughts and other ‘pet’ web tools and apps in the comments below.
Rita Sorentino taught at Overbrook Elementary in the School District of Philadelphia. She studied Reading Specialist/Education at Saint Joseph’s University.Rita is a fellow of the PA Writing & Literature Project. She is currently studying Italian and writes regularly on technology issue for the pawlpblog. Rita lives in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.