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As a teacher tech coach, learning and investigating new tools is second nature.  For the past eight years I’ve evaluated them.  They are a dime a dozen, here today and gone tomorrow.  Ranging from free to “for cost,” beta startup to established, collaborative to personalized and differentiated, even common core aligned, they are out there to be investigated and devoured.  So where does one start?  What are some absolutely necessary “look fors” in figuring out which ones are worth trying out in the classroom?

Recently, based on my coursework at SPU, I incorporated a SAMR model comparison into my evaluation.  Is the tool simply a substitution of a task?  Or, does the tool augment the process in some way?  Recently, I was on the hunt for research tools.  My question was, “What tech tools are out there that will help kids note-take to help them plan, categorize, and conduct their research?”  I looked at many tools.  One was Google Keep.  It organized and color-coded my notes, was accessible anywhere I had the Internet, and floated unobtrusively in small window beside my browser window.  But, when I did my SAMR comparison, it definitely didn’t redefine the process of notetaking.  It was pretty much Internet accessible color-coded typed notes.

 

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The same day, a colleague and I were discussing my search for research tools. She said it would be great if I found a good online highlighter.  She wanted one for students that would work with Google Docs.  I browsed around and found one called Highlight Tool, a Google Drive add-on by Jason Chin.  At first glance, it was pretty nifty.  It allowed the user to customize the colors and labels for the colors.  That seemed like an Augmentation.  Then, my eyes caught on a button… Export.  Really?  I clicked it.  What came to pass before my eyes was modification in the SAMR model.  The export pulled the highlights and grouped them by category in a new document.  

Some might say that this is redefinition, but really it just saves the effort of typing and sorting by hand.  I agree that it is something I didn’t conceive possible in a simple and free highlighting tool.  Reading an article by Carroll (2014) I learned that highlighting is most useful for identifying idea/supporting details, key facts, difficult words, parts of sentence, words containing special sounds.  Just think how the exporting feature would provide value for these tasks as well!  

Next, I ran through my existing checklist, free or price relative to the learning benefit, easy to use, benefits worthy of the time-investment to learn to use it, scalable (to the district), and ratings by other educators as positive.  It passed on all accounts!  All in all, my search for tools that meet research and information fluency (ISTE Standard 3) is off to a great start!  Teachers will be able to help guide student inquiry and students will be able to organize and evaluate text, as well as synthesize and analyze their forthcoming notes.

 

Resources

Carroll, J. (2014). 5 tips for using highlighters.  Retrieved from https://www.texthelp.com/en-us/company/education-blog/april-2014/5-tips-for-using-highlighting-tools-in-the-classro

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/ISTE-standards/standards-for-students

Puentedura, R. (n.d.). The SAMR:  A brief introduction.  Retrieved from http://hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2015/10/SAMR_ABriefIntro.pdf

 

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Puentedura, R. (2009). As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice.  Retrieved from http://hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2015/10/SAMR_ABriefIntro.pdf