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Why Is This In My Room?- Starting the Year With EdTech

Tangle of dusty computer cables with sockets on the tableHey, how’s your year starting? You have probably been delving into your own professional development, reading and research in preparation to be an even MORE awesome educator this school year. Part of being a well-equipped educator is knowing both how and when to use a variety of tools and resources to lead our students in becoming better learners.  Today, these tools are often electronic, which can add more complexity and stress if you are not used to using them on a regular basis.

Just like every book has a cover and every pair of scissors has a blade, every device in your classroom setup has an intentional design that serves a specific purpose. The key is to be able to define this purpose. This comes from understanding the features/benefits of the tool’s design and knowing how to manipulate these features to have full control over its integration in your classroom setup and, ultimately, in your teaching. Let’s think about a few ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for OWNING these technology tools in our classroom.

Why is This Thing in the Room?

Have you ever used another teacher’s classroom and were completely thrown off by the technology setup? “What is this rando cable hanging off of the desk and taped to the floor?” “Are there seriously three remotes?” What follows is this flowchart: Is the other teacher around? If so, can I ask them what the heck is up with their setup? Shoot, they are gone today. What is the phone number for the Tech Department again? Will they even pick up? Slowly crumple into a ball of stress.

new-tech-flowchartLet’s take a big step back. Before you even walk into the other classroom, what are your GOALS for teaching that day? Will you need to show a slideshow of a student’s service learning trip (yes), play an audio clip of Michelle Obama’s speech (most likely), have students collaborate using Google Documents on their iPads (yup)? Good. Now that you have a better picture of what you and your students will most likely need to succeed during that class period let’s nail down the types of devices required, as well as the features we will need to use to provide the greatest benefit in learning.

Here are the most common categories of tools used in today’s classroom, including a few features:


Projector, TV, interactive whiteboard

Power button, power cable, video inputs, remote, settings menu


Wall speakers, portable speakers, TV audio, built-in computer speakers

Audio cable connection, volume control, power cable

Mobile Devices

Tablet, Laptop, Chromebook, MP3 player

Power/syncing cable, OS software, microphone, speakers, apps, settings


WiFi, Ethernet

Access Point (Router), ethernet cable, SSID (network name), settings

Let’s step forward again into the other teacher’s classroom setup. What type of display device is provided, and where is it in the room? Great, you found the TV. Now, where is the content stored that is being displayed? A Shared Photo folder on your laptop? Cool. How will the laptop be connected to the TV? Nice! That HDMI cable was almost hidden from view under the pile of papers on the desk. Is the TV powered on? If not, where is the remote? (etc., etc.)

Do you see how our line of thinking changed from major freakout stress ball mode to a more soothing, “I’m going to ask myself some essential tech setup questions” voice?

Draw Your Setup

It can be challenging to truly understand your tech setup without a visual illustration. Imagine if you were in the situation above. A basic illustration (from the teacher that normally uses that classroom) outlining the main tech tools, how they are connected (with labels), and where they physically are in the room could have helped, right?

This concept can also be useful when needing a stronger grasp of your OWN classroom setup as well. Learn what is in your room, why it is there, how things are connected (types of cables) and what features are available with that tool to enhance student learning.  Then, DRAW IT.

Own Your Tech

set of modern computer devicesWe have looked at the technology in a classroom setup that may initially seem foreign and uncomfortable.  Your goal is to make that “weird” setup your own (in your own classroom) by mastering its flow, knowing all its intricacies and practicing being in the driver’s seat when it comes to troubleshooting.

In preparing for this school year, what gaps do you have in the understanding of your tech setup (or a co-teacher’s)? What goals do you have for maybe mixing it up and trying something new? What resources do you have for finding out more information about a device/component, or learning how to troubleshoot more efficiently?

A great way to pull this all together for yourself in a nice little easy-to-reach package is by creating a digital Technology Resource Guide. It can include all of the information discussed in this blog post, plus whatever else you want to include! Here is an example of what this could look like.

Have a great start to the school year, and be the inspiration you want to see in the world.

12552853_10106094991430133_361763803454191376_nEmily has been teaching and supporting Apple technology for almost eight years and has extensive experience supporting technology in the K-8 setting as a Technology Support Specialist at Hillbrook School (Los Gatos, CA). For several years, Emily was an Apple OnetoOne/Joint Venture trainer as well as a corporate A/V technician. She is passionate about leveraging relevant technology in the classroom and strives to support this at the highest level possible. Previous presentation engagements include the CUE 2015 Fall Conference, USF Research and Pedagogy Symposium (RaPS) 2014, the DML Conference in 2012 and ISTE 2016. Topics addressed were “Own Your Tech!” (hands-on workshop), the app resource website tapanapp.org that she designed, as well as creating engaging presentations with Keynote for iPad.

Follow Emily on Twitter (@eh48) and read more about her technology escapades on her blog (tech4word.blogspot.com).

Classroom Cribs Reimagines Your Room

Environments impact life. The kind of environment an animal evolves in impacts what that animal becomes, what its strengths are, and how it approaches the world around it. Is the environment harsh and inhospitable, barely allowing its inhabitants to eek out an existence? Or is it lush and vibrant, and those who dwell within are free to frolic and grow safely?

Often the educational environment is divorced from the most hospitable learning environment. Sure, we say “learning environment”, but what we mean is “the room the school assigned me where my kids gather every day.” We don’t actually think about it like the environment where they (and we) exist every day, learning to live and thrive. Do we consider the educational impact of what we’re setting up from an evolutionary scale? Are our rooms built to take our kids to the top of the food chain?

Classroom Cribs, taking place Oct. 17 in Fairfax, CA, wants to get teachers thinking about their rooms and how they, on a teacher’s budget, can move their rooms from the “place where their kids are” to “a vibrant learning environment”. This one day event, which still has openings so get in now, features five presenters who want to help teachers bring their rooms to life.

I spoke to conference lead and CUE Rock Star extraordinaire Jon Corippo about the reasoning behind Classroom Cribs. “This is to bring together five educators who have all worked on the idea of classrooms as a learning space instead of gravestones with quiet boxes…Schools are in a place to starting truly thinking about how the space affects the learning.” He went on to say that attendees will be given the tools to think about their rooms as “classroom studio environments”, and as a teacher myself, that sounds like an outlook I have been going for myself.

When we think of classroom redesign the first thing that pops up, after all the Ohhhhh I want THAT are dollar signs. Jon knows that, and Classoom Cribs was intentionally designed to get around that. “I know your have a room full of furniture from the 80s, if you’re lucky. We’re not looking to build fantasy classrooms. We’re bringing teachers usetup and replicatable ideas.” The conference won’t break the bank either, with a registration tag of only $99 for a full day of innovative learning. When pressed on what these wonderful and cheap alternatives might be, Corippo mentioned his belief that every classroom should have a green screen, whiteboards on every wall, and a simple, smart power plan for charging any technology you might have. Speaking as a teacher, just hearing him talk about ideas like building a six-inch plywood stage for students to present from had me making a Home Depot shopping list. Alas, I work in Portland, OR and won’t be able to make it to Fairfax on Oct. 17. But if you can, you should.

Think about your students. How comfortable are they? What can we be doing to improve the space where they spend the majority of their year? Beyond pedagogy, is there more we can be doing to help them learn? Classroom Cribs is your step in the right direction.

mt6Doug Robertson is the CUE blog editor and an eleventh-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST.

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