Stanford Universtiy undergrads lookng for advice

Hi all, I'm working with a group of 3 other Stanford undergrads hoping to develop useful technological tools for teachers. We are currently still brainstorming different ideas to pursure and are trying to reach out to as many educators (teachers, administration, IT) that we can, hence this discussion (and the advice from Ric)! We want to learn more about your jobs and possibly how technology could be better leveraged to be more efficient (where can we save time) and more effective (possibly collaborative efforts)?

These are just a couple of ideas. So for the purposes of this thread, what is something that is overly time consuming and wish you could have automated OR what is the technology that you wish you had but have yet to find.

Some of the other ideas we were tossing around were:
Lesson plan creation and storage
Sharing of lesson plans, power points, resources
Easily create personalized quizzes and activities for students using existing templates

Any feedback or ideas would be much appreciated!

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I would definitely be interested in an online/software for lesson plans. The feature that would really make it useful is an easy way to share your lesson plans or part of them to an online calendar for students to view.

I teach fifth grade in Milwaukee. I wish there were templates much like in powerpoint for notebook software for Smartboard. A design/layout template would help bring simple visual interest to just in time notes. Creating a background for every new page is time consuming and frankly rather annoying. I try to stay add visual interest in my lessons to take advantage of IWB technology.

Lesson plan galleries such as in are great resources. Expanding this type of resource would be helpful.

Thanks for your efforts!
Design more activities for the Smartboard.
Design more activities in spanish across curriculum to add as practice
Hi Richard. I think it is great that you started your own discussion thread, and that it is already attracting good ideas from educators. Here are a couple more ideas that I hope will help your effort:
1. If you have not already done so, think about joining the much larger NING educator group at
2. Be sure to do your "homework", by which I mean spending a significant amount of time researching products, resources and services that are already out there. It does not make any sense for you to re-invent the wheel.
3. Take a look at this site that provides thousands of free lesson plans:
4. Take a look at this site that has a hundred links to other sites that help teachers use technology:
5. Take a look at the attached white paper titled Best Practice Instructional Technology Practices. It contain links to all kinds of resources and tools that you might want to know about before taking on a project like this.

Good luck!
Richard, in case you want to read the whitepaper mentioned above (the title is Best Practice Instructional Technology Strategies), here is the document in Word format, which makes it a lot easier to access the footnotes (as you know, you can just dwell your cursor over the footnote reference number and it will pop up in the window, which is a really cool feature of Word).
I am excited to see this distributed collaboration draw on complementary knowledge, skills and experience of teachers and undergraduate students, so I add to the discussion:

I second Ric Barline's recommendations and appreciate the thought he has given to the broad range of Best Practice Strategies. I especially value his endorsement of project-based learning:

Project-Based Learning
The benefits of in-depth investigation of real-world topics make this approach ideal for acquiring twenty-first-century skills.
• Project-based learning and technology can go hand in hand. ...

I work as the iTeams Advisor in a middle school that has been part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative since its inception (Seven years of one-to-one computing for all Maine 7th and 8th grade students). While teachers may want to use such strategies, project management can be daunting. We use strategies based in part on the TechYES and GenYES models, exemplary evidence-based programs. Boss and Krauss in Reinventing Project-Based Learning and their ReinventingPBL blog also provide useful strategies.

At the high school level, we are using Facebook and Ning to build from students' prior social networking skills and experience to establish learning networks. But at middle school and elementary schools we are constrained by legal and community standards. There, we are investigating Elgg, an open source social network over which we can maintain better control. Unfortunately, Elgg lacks some of the features that would enhance its value for support of learning.

Read more with links at Stanford University Students want our advice.
Hi Richard,
It seems like your questions focus on using technology to automate existing process, plus you are mixing together administrative and learning goals for the use of technology.

One thing that many teachers find is that the use of technology with students creates the perfect climate for more student-centered, creative work. This is in direct contrast to teacher-prepared lessons, quizzes or other resources. Technology facilitates a major philosophical shift from defining learning as something that is delivered to children -- to an active process that includes give and take within a community of learners, guided by an expert teacher.

In this model, efficiency is not really the goal. Finding technology that supports communication and collaboration, removes barriers for learners to express themselves, and provide the learner with maximum control over the computer is a more likely goal.

As Ric and Steven point out, these are more complex goals, and you really have to get into a discussion of pedagogy and what you believe about learning. The point about technology enabling project-based learning is important. Much of what we know about successful project-based learning ties directly into what we know about successful technology use in the classroom.

Today, many educators see traditional schooling as a remnant of the industrial revolution's need for factory workers. Using 21st century technology merely to prop up that system seems like strapping a jet engine to a covered wagon.
Yes, look at the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students and Teachers to see the kinds of changes we are encouraging. You might even consider using the standards as a tool for formative assessment of your learning on this project.
I appreciate your points Sylvia. I wonder if these fellows could design a "process driver" with prompts that push thoughtful instructional design.
More later, but you might like to look at this
I teach online in a 100% digital world, my issues are:

Grading - always a chore, my rubrics are in a separate window and my math skills are poor.
So I have a calculator up to figure out what's a B- in a 26 point assignment.

Integrated assignments - it'd be nice see that (and double check) that my terms (and perhaps items on vocabulary list) are used through out my own lessons - and as sort of an auto-check on my students. For me its "some" feedback on the integration and clarity of my lesson plan.

Richard, I also suggest that they sit behind teachers as they do their jobs (at home) Its a standard HCI practice to observe real people - doing their real job. Perhaps you could even explore some of the tech / URLs on this list and have them observe you using it :)

PS I enjoy teaching, not the admin side, or even the rote mechanics of education. (Technically - I teach game design - but find that I'm often more of an English 101 instructor.)
Your heart is in the right place as you are looking for something that will make life easier for instructors...the ideas that you suggest here already exist in a few formats but sometimes are rejected by teachers because the learning curve is a burden. For example, most course management systems provide all the tools you suggest and do so in an integrated manner- but it takes quite a bit of time to learn how to use the features. This can also be scary for some who are not technophiles.

I would suggest that instead of automating the tedious and repetitive work that teachers do, look for something imaginative that would support collaborative or problem based learning and that will allow students and teachers to be creative or come at a topic or research in a new way. Alternately, a tool that could be used to display ideas or research results in an exciting way would also be useful.

Spend some time in classrooms and really think about how you might set them on fire with energy and ideas. Anything that can do that is invaluable!

I'll be interested to see what you decide upon :)


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