This is not hyperbole. As an elementary school principal, each one of these technologies has improved my life, both personally and professionally. Total cost is around $400.
TrackR bravo (Set of five for around $100)
Starting your day without knowing where your wallet or keys are can be frustrating. My family knows this all too well. This is why my wife purchased these coin-sized devices for me. You attached them to your keys via a ring or your wallet with an adhesive pad. Then, connect them individually via Bluetooth with the TrackR app on your smartphone.
The peace of mind in knowing that your valuables are now findable through a TrackR bravo is worth the cost, even if you never have to use it. The company also suggests using their technology with television remotes, a purse, and even pets. In addition, you can “crowdsource” your valuables by making your TrackR bravo’s frequency public. If someone else with the same technology on their smartphone is in close proximity of your lost item, you will be notified via GPS.
Livescribe 3 smartpen ($200, which includes a notebook, sticky notes, ink cartridge refills, and extra stylus tips)
I’ve given up on using an expensive stylus with my iPad to take notes during instructional walks and other observations during school. The battery dies early. The stylus loses it’s connection to the tablet. My writing is not accurately translated onto the screen.
I think I have found the solution in the Livescribe 3 smartpen. What I write on specially designed paper is translated onto the Livescribe+ app on my mobile device. I can also record audio while writing, which is combined with my handwritten notes to create a “pencast”. This multimedia file can be saved in Evernote, emailed, or saved in the app itself.
I have used this technology many times this school year. For example, when I do a ten minute instructional walk in a classroom, I can put technology to the side and focus more on the teaching and learning happening with only a pen and paper. I feel more present now that I am not trying to make a stylus work or typing on my laptop’s keyboard.
Also, the Livescribe technology has allowed me to conduct interviews for my action research project around literacy engagement. I can have a conversation with students and staff without feeling like I have to write every word they say down. Instead, I will write key words which connects to the audio recorded at the time.
WordPress ($99 for a premium subscription)
You didn’t lose anything important and you documented some excellent learning experiences during your classroom visits. So how do you celebrate? I recommend writing about it.
WordPress is the best blogging platform out there. I don’t know of any educators who started using this tool and then decided to try Blogger or Tumblr for writing and reflecting online. WordPress’s advantages include an easy setup process and writing experience, many design themes to choose from, and lots of options to personalize your site.
While you can use WordPress for free, I do suggest the premium option. First, you can create your own domain, such as “readingbyexample.com” instead of “howeprincipal.wordpress.com” (my first URL). Second, multimedia is a lot easier to embed within your posts through tools such as Video Press. See the following video of me shamelessly plugging my new book as an example.
No more embedding HTML codes from YouTube. Just record a video, upload it to WordPress, and you’re good. Communication is more than just words to be read.
What technologies do you find essential in your role as a school leader? Please share them in the comments.