For those of you that regularly follow educationrickshaw.com – by the way, we just celebrated our one year anniversary with our most views ever! – you’ll know that we talk a lot about blended learning environments. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, there is no point in going digital if it is simply a digital substitution of what you always do. These tips will enhance your traditional teaching practices.
Digitize your daily schedule
I used to write the order of my lessons on the whiteboard everyday before class started. I definitely didn’t do it as creatively as this guy. The kids didn’t tend to read it unless I read it to them, and it wasted a good portion of my whiteboard space.
Instead of doing that now, I use padlet to write up my lessons and part of our morning meeting consists of students looking at the schedules on their iPads. I’ve made a conscious effort to democratize the process so that students have a say in the order, or even the activity, of each class period. I try to change the role of who can edit the schedule every month so that a different student is in charge of getting this ready for our class.
With padlet, I can include links to different activities (cmd + k) and provide pictures, quotes, memes, tweets, and videos to enrich their schedule with multi-media. It is also always online, right at the front of their BLE courseroom, so parents can check in whenever they want and see what we’re doing at any moment.
Digitize student planners
In the past I’ve used paper planners that students would schlep around everyday with a lot of other wasteful paper resources. Despite my every effort to get the kids to open it, including getting a parent signature every night, I wasn’t so sure how much it helped them keep up with their school responsibilities.
While I’ve used Homework.io in the past, as well as the planners on various BLE platforms such as Edmodo, Moodle, or whatever else, this year we’ve been using the “reminders app” that is native to IOS for my 1:1 iPad classroom. As I’ve argued before, the point is not which technology to use but how the technology is being used.
Students are taking advantage of their digital planner by setting alarms for their responsibilities, getting notifications well in advance for things that are coming up and by using hyperlinks to the various resources that I want them to have access to at home.
If you have the choice to go with an e-book or go with paper copies during your school’s next round of purchases, go with the digital version. Finding free digital versions is another option. Even if the version of the textbook is not built to be interactive (aka it’s a .PDF), you can make it interactive.
For my math book, for example, I use .PDF resources combined with the app, Notability. This way, students can annotate directly onto the .PDF with text, drawings, and their own voices. They can easily cut/paste or screenshot parts of their math into other apps, including Explain Everything or Seesaw (see Teacher Toolkit for Seesaw), and manipulate the math in even more ways. Once any resource is digital, you can have students engaging with the material in so many more ways – Green screen? Youtube Channel? Twitter? How about good ol’ AirDrop? The possibilities are endless, unlike the paper version that ends the moment you start writing on it.
Digitize Learning Journals
While there are many great platforms for student journaling – Class Dojo, Seesaw, and FlipGrid to name a few that I’ve used – I’ve been getting into the idea of the wiki as a journal of late. The possibilities for a wiki (think Wikipedia) are endless, and they provide ways for students to engage in more complex technology skills, such as simple html, embeds, hyperlinking, and much more. I currently use the Moodle wiki for both my reading and writing journals, and it has been such a sight to see these kids creating page after page of learning.
Putting something online from paper to digital doesn’t make it an authentic learning experience, or a learning experience at all. It just becomes a formality for you and for the student. What makes a digital learning journal so much more effective than the paper/pencil version is the inclusion of multimedia, and the possibilities for peer and teacher feedback. When thoughts are contained in a paper journal, they stay locked there inside the classroom overnight and over the weekend. The only way for students to comment on each other’s learning is by passing around the journals and marking on them. Teachers spend an enormous amount of time saying the exact same thing on 25 – 30 journals instead of using digital features such as immediate and automatic feedback, or copy and paste. Help in the form of student exemplars, rubrics, memes and infographics can be easily shared between all in your learning environment through a digital learning journal.
Digitize Class Communication Channels
All of the students in my class have an e-mail address which they use to contact their teachers and their parents when the need arises. This has cut down immensely on confusion over homework, after school pick ups, and other responsibilities that students have at school.
In addition to e-mail, I make sure that students have ways to socialize with one another in a safe way, such as with an instant messaging system or chat app. Students often solve their own problems (“When are basketball tryouts?) instead of relying on teachers and parents to do it for them.
When students share their learning with one another, that learning may also be filtered into various public channels such as Twitter and YouTube. This way, I’m not writing a newsletter every week about what we did because there is a student-updated feed of learning going on in our class that parents follow.
We at educationrickshaw.com sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article about traditional teaching practices that can be enhanced by technology. While it is clear that any one of these five tips can be misused so that learning is not maximized, we hope that there was enough included in the article to steer you towards something that you are comfortable trying out in the coming weeks.
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