Teaching Untethered: Wireless Technology in the Classroom Presentation

Teaching Untethered

I had the opportunity to present at both the TCEA (Texas Computer Educator’s Association) conference as well as the TI:ME (Technology Institute for Music Educators) National conference which coincided with the TMEA (Texas Music Educator’s Association) convention.  Lots of acronyms, I know, but I want to make sure we are the same page.  This presentation is about using tools and techniques to “untether” teachers from the front of the classroom.

Slide02What is so important about teaching “untethered?”

It’s about getting out from behind your desk, your overhead, your computer, wherever you are in the classroom that’s keeping you away from where your students are.  Technology is wonderful but, for some, it seems to be tying us down.  When teachers cut that cord (figuratively……hey, and literally), they allow themselves the mobility to teach amongst their students rather than in front of them.


When teachers can freely move about the classroom, they can better manage those disruptions and potential disturbances without losing the flow of their classroom instruction.  Proximity is a much more effective classroom management technique than simple calling out a student from the other side of the room.  Plus, the student has the benefit of changing their undesired behavior and making a better choice without a negative verbal cue from the teacher.


When teachers are free to be mobile within their classroom, it not only helps with classroom management but, also, informs the teacher about to mold their instruction for their students.  By checking for understanding in the moment, teachers can assess what their students have learned without having to wait for a graded assignment or test to see who understands the concept.  I know this isn’t new information, however, with the rise of technology, there seems to have be a lack of the active monitoring of students.  I’m far from the perfect, and I have those days where I just don’t have 100% in me to give, however, on those days, I do notice more behavioral issues and less understanding when I’m stationed at one area of the room for the entire class instead of moving around the room among my students.


Here is a musical example for my musician colleagues.  In the midst of district-wide construction, I had to manage an entire grade level of 6th graders as they prepared for their end of year promotion ceremony.  The only sound system in the room we were using (that was not near big enough) was stationed within the podium at the front of the room.  My responsibilities for the ceremony included providing background music before and after the event, providing music for the students to walk into the ceremony to and music for a musical performance by the students.  Although I could have easily sat at the front of the room and scurried underneath whoever was standing at the podium, I choose the hidden route. (And, although I put on a good show, I’m much more comfortable in the background than in the big middle of something like that).  With the use of the apps and tools I’ll address below, I was able to control all the music (and even direct the musical performance) from the back of the room.Slide06

Before I get going with actual specifics, I will say that I’m a Mac-person and most of this presentation is tailored to that brand.  I have a kindle fire but it is only for home use and I have no idea if these apps and tools are available in other mobile platforms.  MOST of the computer based programs and tools are available for both Mac and PCs but I would definitely suggest researching on your own before purchasing anything to make sure that it works for you, your situation, and the infrastructure at your school.




This sections is about apps and tools I use to wirelessly manage my classroom.

Slide09 I have actually blogged about both Class Dojo and iDoceo before (HERE) but I can’t sing the praises of either enough.  I only use Class Dojo for 1st-6th grade.  6th grade has a little less buy-in than the younger ones but I still keep it up for the ones who do.  I have recently heard criticism (in the news, not in my experience) about Class Dojo as “shaming” students for poor choices but I don’t see it as any different or worse than calling a student out in front of the class.  During my lessons, I don’t even show the dojo site because I’m using the board for showing other visuals for the lesson.  The sound is still on and they respond when they hear that “ding” or “wonk.”  Even without knowing who the point went to, they all sit up a little bit straighter wondering if it was them.  They are curious to check at the end of the lesson to see how many points they have.  To make it mobile, I run the app on my iPad while the desktop screen has a browser window with it open as well.  When I give/take away a point on the app, it shows up and makes the sound in the browser window.



I LOVE iDoceo!  I use it for pretty much everything in regards to managing my classroom that Class Dojo doesn’t do.  I keep my participation grades, in the moment assessment grades, seating charts, notes about students.  It’s awesome.  Plus, it only connects to the internet to create a back-up to the cloud storage of your choice so you’re not putting student grades on the web and you don’t have to rely on an internet connection to use it (like you do with Class Dojo).


To make it even easier (for my brain at least) I use a universal rubric for all assignments and data.  It is on a four point scale: Green-Awesome-Expert-A, Yellow-Pretty Good-B, Orange-Needs Some Help-C, Red-No Clue-F.  Those aren’t the actual definitions but it gives you an idea of how I read data like in the image above.  By using the same scale for all classes and grade levels, I can see at a glance where my students in regards to whatever I’m looking at (participation, memorization, skills, assessment, etc).  Of course, I understand that this wouldn’t work so much for a general education teacher because they are required to input number grades.  It still has it’s uses those.  Plus, colors speak to me so much more than raw data on a white screen.  I think that’s why I have to color-code everything I do regarding data.  Slide12

I mentioned that iDoceo has seating charts and I love that they are completely customizable.  I can have one for risers, for small groups, etc.  The app allows for up to five per class.  Plus, you can add pictures and print out for your sub plans or project onto your whiteboard so even early readers can find their group easily.



This is just a sampling of the other parts of the app.  If I were a general education teacher, I would totally put my students’ contact information in there but, since I have 600 students, I’m not quite willing to input all that data.  I do use it for attachments and notes though so, in the event of a parent conference, ARD, or intervention meeting, I have all of the child’s data (regarding my class, at least) together and ready on my iPad.



I have blogged about my lesson planing and tracking before (HERE) and will probably again in further detail in the future because I get so many requests about explaining it and my process.  As a side note, you’ll see, it’s color coded. Since this post is particularly about mobility, I’ll skip the details about specifically planning and save those for another day.Slide16

I use spreadsheets for pretty much everything I can.  I just love having all my data organized in columns and rows (and color-coded)  Using tools such as Google Apps, Office 365, and iWork, I can edit my lesson plans, assessment data, tracking data anywhere.  For example, let’s say I create a Google Form to check for understanding in my students.  I create the initial form at my desktop computer in my office during my planning time but then I open the response page on my macbook connected at the front of the room.  I use the Google Sheets app to track who completes the assignment and what their answers were to give them instant feedback.  No matter where I am or what device I’m using, I can edit my data on the go.Slide17



I recently made the switch from using Dropbox mainly to Google Drive.  There were two reasons for this.  First, my school PC’s firewall was blocking Dropbox from downloading on the hard drive of the computer.  I could still access my files but I had to do so from a browser window.  Also, because I use so much data, I was paying $15/month for storage space in the cloud.  Then, I learned that Google provided unlimited free storage space to Google Apps for Education schools so I went with that.  So far, I’m a fan.  I still have my dropbox account and use it.Slide19

I mentioned these tools above but here they are again.  Each of these product lines allow the user to edit and view documents on the go.  Like I said, I use Google but I know other teachers that are die-hard fans of the other two.Slide20

I LOVE Symbaloo and I’ve talked about it many times on my blog because it’s just so great.  In fact, I’ve created a board with all of the links for this presentation HERE.

I use Symbaloo everyday as my homepage.  I have all my links organized by school or home plus all the other boards I’ve discussed in the past (here, here, here, and here).  I create Symbaloo boards prior to my lessons for easy access for my students.



Padlet, on the other hand, can be used in the moment as a collaborative board for you and your students.  Prior to the lesson, I can put links, images, videos, and documents together and then they can comment, share, and add to it during the lesson.  Here is a Padlet (it’s blank for my students’ privacy) for a lesson the Human Voice.  Padlet can also be helpful in a flipped teaching model as you give your students access to the information beforehand and use class time to discuss and elaborate.




These slides about Audio Control are pretty self -explanatory.  The bluetooth receivers I’ve had experience with are helpful because you can use them with any sound system but I didn’t like the distance restrictions.  I would be at my classroom door greeting students and the music would be fuzzy from being so far away.  In my classroom, I use the Tango Remote everyday.  I have one iPad with all of my music on it connected to the sound system and another iPad in my hands pretty much all the time.  I have the app open on both devices so I can play, pause, stop, control the volume, etc. without running back and forth to the sound system.  When using Spotify, I use the Spotify Remote which works exactly the same way.  Spotify has also recently come out with their own version of a remote by using your phone but I haven’t tired that out yet.Slide24


These are just some examples for using audio in the more general ed classroom.  I use a lot of these in my daily procedures with an opening song and a line-up song.  In the past, I’ve also used a clean-up song (which was a parody of “I’ll Be There For You” from Friends called “I’ll Clean Up the Room.”  Yep, I rewrote all the words and recorded it so I could play when it was clean-up time).  Hal Leonard also has a book on musical transitions in both the music room as well as the general ed classroom.


Finally, on to how to be untethered from your screen.  I prefer the Splashtop Remote Desktop for controlling my laptop (which is connected to the projector) from my iPad.  You can add features such as white board capabilities and remote access.  I also sometimes use an app called VNC viewer which is free but can be somewhat temperamental.  Be mindful whenever you use screen-sharing apps to password protect so your screen doesn’t get hijacked by tech-savvy students.  I use the Keynote Remote specifically for Keynote (the Apple version of Powerpoint) presentations (such as this one) because it is easy peasy to work.  It, too, can be used to annotate whatever is on the screen.  Slide26

I love using Reflector to mirror my iPad onto my projected laptop screen. One license allows any iPad in the vicinity to be projected (which is helpful but also a scary thought to some).Slide27Even though these tips are right above for your reading pleasure, I’m going to go ahead and address each one individually because they are so important when making the switch to wireless teaching.

** Always Test-Drive – Back in December, I was so excited because I was going to run the entire Fall musical “The Nutcracker Suite) from my iPad.  The sound system would be backstage and I would use the Tango remote (mentioned above) to run it.  Although that would have worked in my classroom, I found out (through painful trial and error……and error…..and error) that it wouldn’t work in the cafeteria because the nearest wifi signal was in the next building and it wasn’t strong enough to connect the two iPads together.  At the last minute, I had to move the entire sound system to it’s usual place at the front of the stage and, thankfully, I had that last minute to do so or it would have been a very awkward performance.

** Have a back-up plan – The back-up plan will probably be to physically tether yourself back up but we learn through making mistakes so learn from it, go with it, and try again.  Don’t let one minor slip ruin your lesson or your day.

** Find out your network capabilities – Apparently Apple TV does not work with my district’s network.  I’m not sure on the technically aspects.  I found out when I ordered one and then, thankfully, my principal checked with the technology department and discovered it wouldn’t be compatible.  Make sure you know what your wireless network is capable of before making any big purchases.

Congratulations!  You’ve made it through this monster blog post!

I’d love to hear any ideas or suggestions you have to go with this topic.  Be looking for my other recent presentation about Managing iPads in the classroom coming soon!

Thanks for reading!

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6 thoughts on “Teaching Untethered: Wireless Technology in the Classroom Presentation

  1. Pingback: Teaching Untethered: Wireless Technology in the...

  2. Hello! Thanks for such a thorough blog post! Could you tell me the name of the Hal Leonard book that deals with musical transitions? I’m trying to incorporate them more in my classroom so we won’t need as much time to “get ourselves back together”. Thanks!

  3. Hi Cara! I have loved exploring your blog. This post was full of so many great ideas for students and teachers. I have never heard of iDoceo, and I can’t wait to check it out! I hope you will come back to the Tech Tuesdays link up again sometime as it continues to grow, and hopefully we can stay in touch!

  4. Pingback: Effectively Managing the 1:1 iPad Music Room |

  5. Pingback: My Favorite Things for Teaching Found & Environmental Sounds |

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