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About the Author
Passionate and curious about technology, smiles, special education, differentiated instruction, forests, graphic novels, accessibility, anti-oppression, and warm beverages. Can often be found laughing with young people and improvising songs on the spot. @teach_tomorrow

When phones in class are awesome…

During an exciting art session this afternoon, my students were saying brilliant, insightful, and deeply reflective things about how we read images (we had just created an image that represented a “frame” in our retelling of Tuck Everlasting). My colleague and co-creator, also our school’s art teacher, grabbed her iPhone, turned on the recorder, and passed it around to the students to share their ideas.

I’ve used my own iPhone in classes as a documentation tool and to save time when trying to furiously scribe for my students when they are having a group discussion…it also really ensures that we capture our students’ thinking as they are saying it…I’ve often found that my notes of their comments aren’t nearly as descriptive as actually just re-listening to them saying it.

How else can the iPhone be transformed from a phone and gadget to a powerful tool, capable of helping our students share their thinking and ideas?

My new best friend

Weebly is a teacher’s best friend.

Or at the very least, it is my new best friend.

As a new teacher, I am constantly striving to find ways to make my life easier, less complicated, and more sane. I’m not always successful with this pursuit (see the above part about being a new teacher), but one tool has made a significant impact on my, and my students’, lives.

If you have not already experimented with Weebly, I highly recommend it. I’ve made websites on Google and iWeb, but I chose to use Weebly in my classroom because it is so straightforward and simple for students to learn. I am presently teaching grade 6, and without any exaggeration, I allowed the students some time to explore the platform and within 30 minutes of playing around, many of the students feel like empowered experts when creating their own websites.

My students are using this website building tool to create their learning portfolios through the year (more on this later), but my teaching practice has become so much easier by using this tool in my classroom instruction.

My spelling program is inspired by the Words Their Way program and so I have four different spelling groups based on where my students are developmentally. With four different groups, I found at the onset of the year, I was spending excessive amounts of time just reading out words and in the back of my head, I was asking myself “I earned a Masters degree so I could read lists of words out loud? There has to be a better way!”

To solve this problem, I just recorded myself reading the words out loud (I recorded on my phone, but you could also use a computer) and upload the recordings to my own Weebly page. When it is spelling quiz day, my students just log in to my Weebly page (on our iPads, but you could also use computers), plug in their headphones, and complete their quiz. While one small group is completing a quiz, I have now been freed up to teach a small group a mini-lesson, periodically checking in with the quiz takers.

It’s just a little step, and a tiny bit more prep work, but it means that my precious classroom time is more wisely and thoughtfully used. Sometimes it’s the small victories that can make the biggest impact.

Well, hello there!

I’m excited to be part of The Cohort 21 Network and start learning and sharing about powerful teaching practices in the classroom. I think even by starting to tap in to the resources and tools that already surround us, inspiration, ideas, and possibilities start to take root and blossom.