Could You Teach Without Technology?

In November last year I wrote a blog post about how I was missing my interactive whiteboard (IWB). My projector had broken and I was without it for all of Term Four. My classroom program suddenly became less authentic, less personalised and less engaging for both the students and myself.

Ironically, the same thing has happened this year! I have been without my IWB for two months and there are no signs of it being fixed any time soon. Luckily, I team teach in a double classroom with Kelly Jordan this year and we both have an IWB. So while this is hard to adapt to, I’m not totally lost!

All this has got me thinking…

Could I teach without technology?

I’m thinking the answer is no.

I mean, of course I could teach. I’d be capable of it. I just don’t think the teaching would be engaging, personalised, authentic, creative or collaborative enough to make me want to do it!

Not many people know that about three years ago I was ready to give up teaching. This would be hard for some people to believe considering how obsessed I am with the career now!

I had been teaching for about four years and I was already getting bored of it. Every day seemed to be the same and I felt confined to the four walls of my classroom.

Technology saved my career and aren’t I glad about that!

I was granted Teacher Professional Leave in 2008 which allowed me about 30 days out of the classroom to explore how technology could be used in the classroom. Through school visits, professional development, a visit the Education Department and a lot of experimentation I suddenly became extremely engaged in my career again!

I became familiar with blogs, web 2.0 tools, iPod Touches, interactive whiteboards, global collaboration and suddenly I was no longer confined to the four walls of my classroom. I instantly saw student engagement levels increase and student learning improve.

I became hooked and wanted to learn more and more about how technology could amplify my teaching and enrich my classroom program.

The journey I’ve been on over the past three years has been hugely satisfying and I am now more passionate than ever about my career.

Technology fuels my passion while enriching my students’ learning; it is now non-negotiable in my classroom program.


What do you think?

Could you teach without technology?

How did you get into technology?

Why do you like using technology in your classroom?

Virtual Maths Manipulatives

I nearly always use my IWB (interactive whiteboard) for Maths whole-class introductions and often small group instruction.  Publisher McGraw Hill and Glencoe have a great maths resource for your IWB that is an alternative to IWB software. It is called Virtual Manipulatives.

Virtual Manipulatives is a Flash based website with interactive manipulatives that students and teachers can use to introduce or reinforce maths concepts. It is suitable for students from Kindergarten to Year Eight.

This site is very simple to use (mostly drag and drop) and requires very little preparation.

You simply choose a background from the collection of Game Boards, Story Boards or Work Mats. Work Mat options include place value mats, tens frames, graph paper, algebra tiles, in and out equation tables, blank calendars, number lines and number charts.

You can then set up or solve a problem by choosing from a set of manipulatives such as base ten blocks, counters, fraction tiles, cubes, spinners, tangrams, calendars, clocks, teddies and number cubes (dice).

You can narrow the choice of backgrounds and manipulatives to your grade level to find the most appropriate resources.

There is a pen tool to draw on the screen and completed work can be printed. There is also a stop watch feature to time the completion of tasks.

virtual manipulatives

Leave a comment. How could you use Virtual Manipulatives in your Maths lessons?

Tech Tools for Teachers # 6 – Word Magnets

Each week Simon Collier and I collaborate on a weekly email newsletter to inform teachers of great online tools. Find out more here.

This week we review the site Word Magnets.

word magnets

Word magnets is a tool that allows you to paste in some text and then change the text into word tiles like fridge magnets that you can drag and rearrange.

There are background proformas you can use to arrange the magnets, like Venn diagrams, tables, A-Z, numeric lists etc.

We like Word Magnets because it:

  • is free (Note: there is also a paid version of this tool available called Word Magnets 2.0. You are shown the ad for it when you first enter the Word Magnets site.)
  • is suitable for all year levels
  • has a range of uses
  • is quick and easy to use (no preparation required)
  • is great for thinking skills and all subject areas
  • is a form of assessment


  1. Go to and press “next”
  2. Type in the words you want to turn into magnets and press “next” (if you want to type in your words later, you can just leave the box blank and press “next”).
  3. Choose the background you want to use and press “next.”
  4. Drag your magnets to where you want them.
  5. You can add magnets by typing them in up the top and then pressing the + sign.
  6. You can change the colour of a magnet by clicking on the colour and then clicking on the magnet.
  7. You can delete a magnet by clicking on “remove” and then clicking on the magnet you want to delete.
  8. Use the up and down arrows to increase or decerease the size of the magnets.
  9. You cannot save your Word Magnet but you can take a screen shot of it using the “Snipping Tool” in Windows 7 or by pressing “Prtsc” key and pasting in MS Paint in other versions of Window.


Kathleen has used Word Magnets with her Grade Twos as a sorting activity. The students simply brainstormed uses for the sea and then sorted these ideas into “fun” and “work”.

sea word magnets

In the above activity the students came up with the words. Another activity Kathleen’s Grade Twos completed involved the teacher coming up with the words. For a food A-Z brainstorm, Kathleen created word magnets of foods with the first letter missing. The students had to drag them to the correct letter.

Word Magnets has many other uses in the classroom such as…

  • type in a sentence or copy a paragraph of text and have the students arrange the words into the correct order
  • type in a sentence and then have students create extra word magnents to extend the sentence
  • colour code the nouns, adjectives, verbs etc in sentences
  • sort ideas about any topics into a Venn diagram
  • create a flow chart or mind map about a certain topic or idea
  • create a family tree
  • make all sorts of lists or comparisons!

Have a go at using Word Magnets with your class!  Let us know how you went by leaving a comment.

Missing my IWB!

Two weeks ago the projector for my Interactive Whiteboard stopped working and I am missing it! It’s been over 12mths since I got my Promethean IWB and I have gradually integrated it into my teaching to the point of using it for most lessons with my Grade Two students. Without the IWB, the atmosphere in my classroom has seemed to change and teaching and learning has suddenly become less engaging and debatably, less effective at meeting my students’ needs.

I use my IWB for almost all lesson introductions whether it be a video, story, brainstorm, research, interactive game, quiz or activity. The IWB has also become a key feature of my small group work for reading, writing and maths. Working with a small group on the IWB really allows the chance for interactivity and delving deep into concepts.

I have found the biggest benefits of using an IWB to be

  • student engagement and the ability for the subject to “come alive”
  • the ability to cater for different learning styles and create a personalised learning environment
  • lessons become more memorable and relevant
  • the chance to “bring the world into the classroom” through the Internet
  • higher order thinking can be encouraged through multi sensory graphic organisation tools
  • the opportunity to encourage co-operative learning
  • enhanced modelling and practice of concepts.

Hopefully my IWB will be back in action soon but until then my class and I will continue to reaquaint with the traditional books, posters and activities we were using not so long ago!

Check out my favourite IWB links by visiting my delicious site here.


Explanation videos

Two sites which I often use for “how to” or “explanation” videos for my Grade Two students are the How Stuff Works video centre and Howcast site.

How Stuff Works is provides “credible, unbiased, and easy-to-understand explanations of how the world actually works”. I often use short videos from this site to assist with the explanation of a concept to my students. While probably more suited for middle primary to upper high school students, I have found some good content to use with my Grade Two students.

Howcast provides the answer to any how-to question” and encourages people to submit their own how-to videos on the site. My students have loved some of the procedural videos in the “kids” category on this site such as the origami, social skills, cooking, craft and science videos.

Both of these sites need to be monitored by the teacher for inappropriate content (particularly Howcast, from my experience). I prefer to chose the videos I want my students to watch and show them on the IWB, iPod Touch or classroom computer.

Here is an example of a Howcast video that I showed as a introduction to a lesson on length. My students had to make a paper plane and measure and record how far they could fly their plane.