I have had many roles in my education career. I have been a Resource Specialist (RSP) teacher, Special Day Class (SDC) teacher and now I am an Academic Coach. In those roles, I have selected technology tools for different purposes. Many times whatever technology I wanted to use had to be free or inexpensive because I had to purchase it myself. I was always on the lookout for free sites to help my students and make my instruction more engaging. If I did not buy it myself and the school site was able to purchase it, I still was aware of the budget so I could get more for my money.
As an SDC teacher, I selected technology tools that helped me as teacher and websites that could capture the student’s attention while being easy to use. I used the PEC system to create visual schedules for my SDC class at free websites like Starfall, PBS kids, and CoolMath for the students to work on in centers. When I first started out as an SDC teacher, the students did not use much technology, and I slowly incorporated the use if it which helped me with classroom management as well as creating engaging instruction. As an RSP teacher, I would select technology tools that would assist my students in their general education classroom to help them access the core curriculum. I would look for assistive technology and computer-based programs to support the students. Tools such as text to speech such as Snap and Read, and Co: Writer, were some tools that I incorporated with the approval of the school site because they all had to be purchased. Since then, I found out that Google has extensions that can do the same thing as these programs.
In my current role as an Academic Coach, I no longer have students of my own. I work with the site principal, teachers and parents. When selecting technology tools, I ask specific questions to see if the device or website being chosen is the best fit for both the students and the staff. The questions I ponder on in regards to students are, How will this technology help the students?, What level of Depth of Knowledge (DOK) does this help students access?, Does the device and or software cater to multiple student’s needs? Other questions I think about are, Is the cost worth it?, How will the technology work with the teacher and activities its being used for?, How will teachers be supported?. Educational technology tools that I have helped teachers, and administrators choose are Read Naturally builds reading skill. ALEKS and iReady provide a computer adaptive assessment then provided students with lessons to address their skill level. All tools provided data for the teachers to monitor student progress.
When selecting educational technology tools remember to ask yourself, how will this tool help my student? Does the tool meet the needs of multiple students? Who will purchase the tool? How will this tool support my instruction and how will I be supported? Whatever technology selected needs to benefit both the student and the teacher. Be mindful to analyze potential student privacy issues. Scrutinize how the company makes their money, how well they take care of their customers and how open they are to feedback. Ultimately, you know your students and what they need. Selecting a tool is just part of meeting their needs. If it no longer fulfills its purpose, you can always try another.