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Tools of the Trade: Tech Tasting

by Rita Sorrentino

September arrives with the turning of the calendar. It marks endings and beginnings, a bittersweet month. We transition from the free and relaxing days of summer to the more focused and organized schedules of autumn. We begin to feel a nip in the air, take note of the days getting shorter, and marvel at the graceful navigational skills of geese overhead.

For me, September is the perfect time for reflecting and setting goals. The fall foliage colorfully convinces us of the certainty of change. The year ahead is full of promise and energy. Without the fanfare of New Year’s, September whispers a gentle yet serious invitation to set the pace for our personal and professional lives.

Recently, I received an invitation to attend a Back-to School Professional Development Social Event: Tech Tasting. Yes, you read that right – tech tasting not test taking. Although I could not attend, I found the concept and the format intriguing. The event was sponsored by PAECT (Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology). In addition to wine samplings, participants had an opportunity “ to taste” a variety of technologies and approaches to learning. With or without the wine, this type of event fosters enjoyable and rewarding learning opportunities. I can imagine the energy that resulted from exploring technologies and discussing implementation strategies. How wonderful to infuse our practices with a taste of excitement for teaching and learning.

Listed below are a few tech tools for browsing. As you meander through the selection, taste the added features of a familiar learning tool or explore a new tool to support teaching and learning. Wine is optional.

Google Drawings


There are a variety of tools and apps for using drawings and graphics to enhance teaching and learning. Google Drawings is a simple yet powerful web-based tool. When you need more than a document but less than a slide presentation, Google Drawings might be the perfect medium for your creations. You can use Google Drawings to create a Timeline, Infographic, Concept Map, Interactive Poster, and much more. Check out Matt Miller’s (@jmattmiller) post, “10 engaging Google Drawings activities for classes” for creative his ideas and scroll down to the comments for interesting and innovative suggestions from other teachers as well.

Penzu


Penzu is a free online diary and personal journal focused on privacy. When want to keep a record of your thoughts, but you aren’t ready to share them with the world, try Penzu. It is the virtual equivalent of paper and pencil with color customization and syncs to the cloud so you can access your journals and diary from anywhere. Other features include inserting photos, creating a sharable link and searching your archive of entries.

Quizlet Diagrams


Quizlet has been a convenient tool to find, create, and review content via digital flashcards. With a variety of options for individual or collaborative use, many students benefit from its rapid review and reinforcement of vocabulary especially for languages and content areas. In a new feature, Diagrams, you can create an interactive diagram using any illustration, map, chart or photo by simply uploading an image and adding custom locations to label parts of the diagram. Students can create one or search a database for a specific topic .to study Using Quizlet Diagrams helps students see what they are learning

As the new school year begins, I hope all learners experience the rewards that spring from browsing in digital and/or physical spaces, for it allows us to connect with a deeper interest or ignite a creative spark. Perhaps that is why I often find what I’m looking for when I’m not seriously searching.

What are your thoughts on implementing a “tasting experience” for yourself, your staff, and your students? Please share in the comments below.

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