Essential Tech Tools for NEW and Experienced Educators

What am I introducing to New Teachers as Essentials? While I focus heavily on the TPACK framework during teaching, here are a few of the TECHNOLOGY TOOLS/KNOWLEDGE that my course (s)  includes:

In my current role as a Pre-Service Instructor at Brock University, I have small window of opportunity to introduce (and model) to new teachers to 21st Century Education.The following sites, and resources are what I consider to be the essentials of 21st Century tools (although there are many many more). These are  my “I can’t live without” tech tools as learner and teacher.  I am listing the best time-saving, collaborative, and integrated tools around! So open up your book marking tool, your Smartpen, or your favourite note taking device and save them for later, because you will need them to survive in the fast pace of 21st Century learning.

Some tools are new for me (in 2011) and some are ones that have become part of my toolbox for a few years now 
– but ALL valuable…

1) Google Plus. Pedagogically, I use it very differently from Twitter and Facebook, (which are also essential tools in the learning environment). When Google Plus came out in Beta, I had a chance to explore (just a bit). But I didn’t see the full potential until it was fully released and I could create circles for each of my classes and professional circles.

I see four major uses and benefits to the use of Google+ as an instructional tool:


* Allows for pre and post-teaching in both OPEN and CLOSED environments
* Allows for distributed leadership within the class (students are adding information, questions and discussions as well as the teacher)
* Allows for both synchronous and asynchronous learning
* Allows for teacher/student/group meetings (using Google Hang-outs)


With so many Social Media tools – all with a variety of purposes, cross posting can be a bit time consuming and not very efficient. With this AMAZING resource, I can create recipes with my Web resources. IF I favourite a video on Youtube, THEN tweet it out. This program helps me stay in control of my digital footprint, extend my network and share more dynamically.


3) GoogleSites – Free, Easy, Collaborative
It’s never been so easy to create a website – Anyone can do it.  This is where we discuss BLENDED LEARNING.
2011 was the year of  GoogleSites for me. I present at many conference across North America as well as teach full-time for the Faculty of Education at Brock University, and rarely do I use PowerPoint when I can use a collaborative resource like Google Sites to present my material and invite participants to use, edit, share and maintain the resource. Sustainable, collaborative and organic. BEAUTIFUL.
For a major assignment in my Intermediate/Senior Pre-service Technology class, all students were to create a Google Site as a way for them to practice teaching in a blended learning environment. There is no more, “I don’t know how”. The resource is straightforward and many tutorials are found on line. So get started!!

4) Be your own News CURATOR My twitter stream often leads me to a variety of “” news items, all with specific topics. One of my favourites is from Doug Peterson who curates this Ontario Educators News source:
Scoopit: Another News curator that allows me to bookmark sites, add them to a specific Scoopit topic and then share it – in magazine format. Here is an example of a topic on Differentiated Instruction: TRY IT! A fantastic way to collect information for your students, your colleagues, your staff and your PLN (Professional Learning Network)


5) Livescribe SMARTPEN
The tools allows teachers to add audio to paper notes (seems like magic). Students simply touch the ink and can hear what the teacher said at that moment. So many uses with ELL, and LD students. Teachers can post Livescribe course notes on a website for pre/post learning. So many uses with students at all levels and abilities.
MY entire GRAD studies are on ONE Livescribe Smartpen, accessible in audio, paper format, and interactive on my computer. I can share my audio/interactive notes using Google, Everynote, or  in an audio enabled PDF. YEP – MAGIC.

6) Livebinders
What an incredible resource to help students and teachers create digital binders that can be shared. Parent Resource binder? Student created binder? Math Resource binder? Student project binder? The possibilities are endless. I first introduced this to one of my students as an accommodation to help her organize her course load, links and information.
ipad in schools livebinder:

7) Google Documents and Collections

Using Google Docs with my students is ALWAYS a hit. When they see the magic in shared learning and collaboration they are unstoppable – like I was.
This year, I used Google COLLECTIONS in a few new ways. Creating a class collection and then adding sub-collections with each student and then sharing their collection with them allowed me to hand in personalized assignments, rubrics which are co-created and co-assessed. Very handy tool.




First day of class – whether it be a grade six class, or a pre-service education class – I introduce blogging. People blog for different purposes. What I emphasis to those NEW to it – is to blog for REFLECTION, for writing practice, for ON-GOING LEARNING, and for SHARING. I emphasis to new bloggers – USE YOUR VOICE. BE VULNERABLE. RISK YOUR OPINION. ASK QUESTIONS AND MAKE IT INTERACTIVE.

Teachers should be very  AWARE of AUDIENCE.Have two blogs – one for personal reflection and professional sharing and one for classroom instruction and blended learning. Different purposes and different audiences.

9) Delicious Bookmarking – NO MORE “JUST GOOGLE IT!!”
A tool that I cannot live with out. How incredibly awesome is it that I can collect my links and resources using an online tool and share my collection with others. Even better, I can access other teacher’s bookmarks too – ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANY DEVICE.



10) Jing – Sharing isn’t just text.

Jing is a screen capture tool. I use it everyday for quick screen captures, tutorials, and for video and audio instructions. I used it for this post.



It is hard to stop at  ten. However, the biggest complaint I get is that there are TOO MANY TOOLS, SITES and RESOURCES. My suggestion to new and experienced teachers is to ALWAYS try it first for themselves. Play with it, get comfortable, learn it. Then integrate it into your classroom lessons.

Thanks for reading – Zoe

Blogging for Real Reform -Teaching Teachers to become Global Educators – an inquiry approach

In September, my teaching assignment changed drastically – from teaching 12 year olds in a Grade Six Class (HWDSB) to teaching pre-service Teacher Candidates at Brock University,  in Hamilton, Ontario. Although the curriculum, standards and focus changed – my intent stayed the same – to develop a program that provoked my students: to think critically, to engage in discussion, to see the potential of the Internet as a hub for collaboration, and to provide a platform for them to develop their own learning communities that are authentic, safe and supportive. I wanted them to see that learning can now take place anywhere, at anytime, and by anyone and that they have choice of how they want to learn, whether it be through video, music, text or images. I wanted them to realize that they have access to information, so long as they ask the questions. I wanted them to see the power that educators around the world have, so long as they stay active and participate in discussions about reform and change.

As a sixth grade teacher, I was used to teaching the same group of students for an entire school year. I had time to develop relationships and trust. I had time to get to know their needs. But in my current role, I have ten weeks and I ask, can a ten week course have the kind of impact that I set forth for these Teacher Candidates? I want to say yes, but time will tell. One thing I know for sure is that I can’t do it alone – no one can.  At Brock,  I never considered myself to be the “teacher”. But instead, a facilitator. In this 10 week course, the teachers were YOU. Maybe not you individually, but “you” as in my Learning Community. ‘You’ as in my twitterverse and blogosphere. ‘You’ as in my Skype colleagues and conference attendees. ‘You’ as my friends.

In particular, a few of YOU, volunteered YOUR time to share your passion and expertise with my Teacher Candidates.

Aviva Dunsiger (@grade1) – joined us to talk about her primary classroom and their role and expectations in the world of web2.0 and information. Her session led to deep conversations and thought about her students and what they will need in high school in just eight years from now. We talked about student blogging and parental concerns which led to questions such as, why do students even need to be connected at such a young age? How can we ensure students are being protected from cyberbullying? How do we really know this is good for students at all? Unfortunately, there is no recording for this event. Doug Peterson (@dougpete) joined us to talk about OSAPAC (Ontario Software Acquisition Program) Link to Recording. His presentation was geared specifically for these candidates, going into specialized programs and what programs/software will be available to them as they enter the field. Jen Deyenberg (@jdeyenberg) from Picturebutt, Alberta joined us to talk about practical considerations with Web 2.0 and Blogging- Link to Recording. She talked about her web2.0 endeavors as a junior/middle school teacher and her connections to teachers and students across the world. Jen talked about Cybersafety and her approach to safe internet use and student moderation. Rodd Lucier (@thecleversheep) Joined us to talk about his expertise with Creative Commons in education,  Link to Recording. Rodd shared with us strategies for collaboration and authentic learning platforms and tools as it relates to Secondary Schools and teacher learning.

Like my 12 year olds, I wanted my adult students to become involved global citizens. I wanted them to  know what if feels like to get your first comment on a blog post, or to have a discussion with a teacher or another student,  from across the world. I wanted them to see that their actions will have impact that reaches further than their confines of their classroom walls.  I wanted them to know what students from primary to high school classes across our world are already experiencing: A global education.

I developed the course assignments to  do just that. First, the teacher candidates developed their own blogs as they platform for  responding and reflecting on the other assignments (and to begin the journey of sharing) I included links to these in the sidebar of this blog.

The Teacher Candidates  had to choose one web-blog community to follow and contribute to the posts, comments and discussions.  They were encouraged to ask questions and seek clarification from the authors (and other contributors) and use an RSS feed to track the blog.  I thank those of you who participated, knowingly or not. You made a difference.

IMG_2121Teacher Candidates were also required to participate in a LIVE AND INTERACTIVE SESSION and to provide a one page (blog) synopsis  (Example – of the discussion as well as links and resources obtained and they were encouraged to find session times and topicsat Cassroom 2.0 LIVE ( These pre-service teachers discovered that teachers everywhere are banding together to talk about current and relevant issues in education. Their resulting posts include, Safia’s reflection on “Professional Development from the Comfort of your own home”; Candida’s post called: My footprint from the Netgen ; Krista’s “Just another art Class” ; Jackie’s post called “Learning from the Students” ; Melissa’s post called, “The Relevancy of Education”; Emma’s post about, “Elevating the Reform Dialogue” ; Dan’s post about, “procrastination-and-facebooking”; Kelsey’s post about, “I’m so networked I feel net-overworked”; Jordan’s post, “Learning while teaching”;  Rob’s reflection on an Elluminate session called “Harnessing the power cells in Education” ;Chanthorns views on blogging; Alisha’s post about Flikr; Rosie’s post called, “Education for a good life” and Alisha’s post called, “In a blink of an eye”

To answer my earlier question, can a ten week course impact my students, so that they will become Global Educators, to think critically and to be active citizens? We’re in week 7 and I think they already have – Not because of me, and this course, but because of the community of educators that share and support one another everyday. Thank You PLN!

“As a future educator it is vital to acknowledge how societal changes permeate the walls of schools. It comes as no surprise that technology has become a cornerstone of a student’s life. Since we as educators must strive to create meaningful and authentic learning experiences for our students, it makes perfect sense to bring technology into the classrooms! Last year I attended an educational workshop at Brock University called “Getting Equipped To Use Free Web 2.0 Tools: Bridging The Learning Gap”. I remember being fascinated by the presenter, a former head of Science in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, and his passion for electronic gadgets. In a period of just 3 hours I was introduced to a few of the amazing ways to creatively use Ipods and cellphones to enhance the curriculum. However as with all forms of learning, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Half the battle is learning how to use the technology, and the other half is learning how to use it in a way that engages students”. Source: