Now What for Digital Tools in the Classroom?
Now that many teachers are heading back to the classroom after lockdown, I thought it would be great to look at how you can utilise digital tools within the classroom. After the great response to her recent guest blog post, I’ve invited Lauren Pugh to share her thoughts on What Now for Digital Tools in the Classroom? Enjoy!
That first day back in February of this year, I did not think that by the end of the term I would be teaching from the comfort of my home with a completely new innovative programme. Well… thanks 2020. We all deserve a pat on the back for doing what some would have seen as the impossible at the start of the year. I applaud you for taking technology in your stride, for struggling through it, for falling in or out of love with it, for being resilient and doing all you can to teach your students. I know it is tough and a lot tougher than many would have thought.
With the approach of Level 2 and the reopening of our schools, you may be reflecting on your time away from the traditional classroom setting. The New Zealand Curriculum was never designed to be delivered completely through remote teaching. While there was some loss, there was also some insightful gains in the changing face of education.
No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
I am big on not replacing or reinventing the wheel, but making the wheel spin easier, go faster and shine a bit brighter. So my question is, how can we enhance our face to face learning with the knowledge and skills we have gained through remote learning? After speaking to a wide range of teachers with different experiences, I have curated a list of ideas that teachers are excited about. These practical tips will help you incorporate digital tools into your ‘have to wear pants’ face-to-face classroom.
The Power of the Internet
The Internet provides us with an endless supply of pretty instant information. This means our role as teachers can be changeable. We are no longer the encyclopaedia of knowledge regurgitating content to our students. We are facilitators – guiding them towards being confident in searching for what they need to achieve their goals. There are many ways to incorporate the power of the world wide web into your programme such as:
- Explicitly teaching how to use online search functions. Use Google A Day alongside the lesson plans to teach students how to effectively use search engines in a fun way.
- Try an online behavioural management system to gamify your classroom. Think, ClassDojo, Classcraft or Banqer and so on. These platforms offer huge potential to gamify your classroom and create a sense of teamwork and collaboration in your class. They also incorporate some of that instant gratification our GenZ students crave.
- Use some relatable internet-based reading material in your literacy programme. From News articles, short stories, videos, biographies to poetry.
Chrome extensions are something many have discovered over their time out of the classroom. There are some awesome ones out there for teachers, parents and students alike. Many can still be used in the classroom to help make things a bit easier, more shiny and run a bit more smoothly. You can find and add these to your chrome browser or push them out to your kids accounts to appear on their devices (depending on your schools admin settings). Some of my favourites are listed below:
- The Great Suspender: A battery lifesaver for those who keep a gazillion tabs open!
- Bitmoji – The very popular cartoon character based on yourself to beautify your teaching.
- Read&Write for Google Chrome – A must for students on Chromebooks in my opinion. Great literacy building tool for those who need a bit of extra support.
- Dark Reader – A night owl like me ends up feeling most motivated in the evening. This extension changes the colour of websites so they do not strain your eyes at night.
- Loom – Screen recording. A free extension to record your screen and easily edit and download videos fantastic for feedback and creating instructional videos.
- Google Tone – Get all your students on the same page by broadcasting a website through a tone sound. Any device that hears it will change to that website.
- Pocket – A place to gather all those things we mean to go back to (especially useful when you run out of space in the bookmarks bar).
Google Classroom does not have to be left in the wings now we are back at school. You can create an almost paperless classroom by continuing to use Google Classroom as a platform for distributing work the way you want to. Here are some ways you can continue to utilise Google Classroom in a face to face teaching environment:
- Distributing work material or assignments to individual students.
- Use the stream for students to communicate about assignments and material in their own time (just make sure you have email notifications turned off to save those late-night emails).
- Create flipped/blended learning tasks – provide material for students to review before they come to class or in their own time.
- Grading function – If used well this can be a great way to manage your assignments and feedback loop instead of carrying 30 books home!
- Topics can be used to differentiate groups, curriculum areas, weeks etc. A nice way to have a hub of material for all to access.
- See examples of Google Classroom resources from Hinemoa at the end of this blogpost.
See my previous guest blog post, Ten Tips for Using Google Classroom for Distance Learning.
Choice boards are a great way to continue the flexibility during remote learning. Many teachers already use choice boards for a number of reasons. With your new toolbelt of tech skills, you could expand the way you use them in the classroom. For example, allow for more digital outcomes within choice and gather evidence using tools like Google Slides, Jamboard or Padlet.
Choice boards are also a great way of continuing to include whānau in their child’s learning. Incorporate some options that connect with family and can be digitally recorded with platforms such as Flipgrid or iMovie.
Many of us very quickly became experts in Zoom and Google Meet platforms and seized the potential for connection during the lockdown. These skills are a great way to extend the four walls of your classroom and reach out to people beyond your school. Video Conferencing can encourage curiosity, communication, collaboration as well as digital citizenship within your classroom programme.
- Reach out to experts surrounding your class topic and prepare an interview time for your students. They could be from anywhere!
- Connect with another school either within New Zealand or around the world! Your students could prepare a presentation to educate their guests about their area or school through screen share.
- Collaborate on a project with students from other areas or cultures.
- Create a 21st Century Pen Pal system with another class, have weekly or termly catch-ups.
If done safely and with the permissions of those involved there is great potential to take your classroom global. We know that connection is vital and as our students get older, they will be connecting this way more often.
Gathering Information and Brainstorming
Over lockdown, teachers came up with some pretty ingenious ways of encouraging interaction from our students. This allowed for a wider range of evidence types that gave students and teachers more freedom around the tasks they could set. The idea behind gathering evidence in many ways digitally is something we can take back into the face-to-face classroom.
Some of my favourites are;
- Padlet – Free for your first three padlets, there are endless possibilities for how this platform can be used. Padlet is often seen in classrooms or staff meetings as a live brainstorming tool. It can be so much more than that. Contributors can join with or without an account as long as they have a code and can upload evidence to a ‘wall’ like space in a variety of ways. Padlet can be used for class discussion, to-do lists, project management, research collection, displaying work for a wider audience, homework tasks and so much more.
- Seesaw – If you jumped on the Seesaw bandwagon during the lockdown you can probably see the potential for this platform in your classroom. Widely used by educators, this is a great way for students to create a journal of learning to share with parents and their classmates. You may not be setting as many tasks as you have been remote teaching but they can still upload evidence of their work to their Seesaw for their families to be a part of.
- Google Jamboard – A fantastic brainstorming and collaboration tool to use on your activeboard, Chromebooks, laptops, iPads, tablets and phones. Google Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard with some very smart features and is already freely available to GSuite users. Lower your carbon footprint by using Jamboard to create pages of brainstorming for problem-solving, project ideas, writing plans – the list is endless.
Here is your reminder to go and cancel all those free trials you signed up for at the start of lockdown! Make sure you are only paying for programmes you are going to continue using.
Technology is never going to replace the value of meaningful connections and relationships which are the building blocks of our classrooms. However, we can use technology to:
- Aid our relationship building.
- Grow our audience.
- Develop 21st Century skills.
- Give more purpose to our tasks.
- Motivate our students to think outside the box and dream big.
I hope that through the remote teaching experience, you are able to recognise the amazing changes you made and skills you gained and head back to school with confidence and inspiration around how you can enhance your teaching practice with technology in a purposeful way.
Lauren’s Learning Solutions has connected teachers across New Zealand and beyond during the Covid-19 lockdown period sharing free webinars on digital tools. With the reopening of schools, her Facebook page will have a wider focus of:
- Digital Technology Curriculum Professional Development Resources.
- Webinars and Booking availability for teams and staff.
- Creating Resources for you to take into the classroom.
Digital Reading Activities for Google Classroom
If you would like this free digital reading activity, simply sign up for our email newsletter. That way I can continue to share resources and tips with you. You also get access to our free resource library.
If you like the freebie, check out more of our Digital Reading Comprehension Activities.
Digital Grammar and Punctuation Resources
Cover the literacy skills of figurative language, vocabulary, parts of speech and punctuation with our unique Digital Task Cards. These cover grammar, punctuation, figurative language, sentence structure and vocabulary/word work. Choose the slides that suit you and differentiate as you choose. These are suitable for a range of digital devices including iPads, desktops, laptops, Chromebooks and iPads. Click here to see our full range here.
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Onwards and upwards,