Are things feeling heavy this year? Specifically, is your edtech tool belt—or list of favorite edtech tools—growing longer week by week? Are you feeling like it’s getting a bit out of control, or are you supporting colleagues who seem overwhelmed with technology tools?
I have a few ideas to consider, including five general questions to help make sure that these tools truly have you covered or to facilitate a discussion with a group of colleagues. The ideas and questions are meant to spark discussion, get your wheels spinning, and hopefully help you and the educators you work with make decisions about thoughtful technology integration.
Expanding Your Foundation
I love sharing edtech tools—and my blog and podcast are often overflowing with options. My intent is not to overwhelm you or make a case that every classroom and every teacher needs to use all of these tools in order to be successful. The reality is just the opposite. You want to have a core set of tools you can use over and over again in a variety of contexts. At times, you might introduce a new resource to your students, but your normal operating procedure should include a set of tools you turn to regularly.
At the top of the list is a learning management system (LMS), or hub, that your students use to access content you’ve shared with them. Students typically use this space to send content they’ve created back to you. Often chosen by a school or district, these platforms include Google Classroom, Schoology Learning, or Seesaw, which might not be considered a true LMS but is popular in early-elementary classrooms for performing a similar function.
The platform you choose as the hub for the distribution and organization of content can set a foundation and influence some of your edtech tool choices. I encourage you to embrace this part of your edtech tool belt and make sure any additional tools you introduce work well with the platform.
5 Questions to Ask
Your edtech tool belt includes the go-to digital tools you use for teaching and learning. The following five questions can help you review what you’ve already identified as a necessity and determine if something is missing. The needs of your students and the specific content you teach might lead you to add to the questions on this list:
- Is there a tool to help check for understanding so that all students can share their learning?
- Have I identified open-ended creation tools that give students a space to create a product that demonstrates their learning?
- Will students be able to collaborate with their peers and work toward a common goal?
- Do these tools help students build transferable skills they can apply in a variety of contexts?
- Will these apps or websites work in the environment my students currently use (home, school, hybrid), and do they take connectivity, accessibility, and hardware into account?
What’s Next for Your Tool Belt
If you’ve joined me for a webinar or workshop this year, you’ve probably heard me say something like “Don’t do all of the things or use all of the tools I just shared.” Keeping your tool belt light is essential. It’s important to know what’s out there and available, but the next step—deciding what you’ll actually use—is crucial.
The five questions in the list above are designed to help guide you to the answers that are right for you and your colleagues, and ultimately the students you all support. You might find that your tool belt includes multiple tools that address each question and there’s room to remove a few with overlapping features. Or you might find that you haven’t considered one of the questions and you’ll need a new tool to join the list of approved or encouraged classroom tools.
Although these questions are great for starting the school year, you may want to revisit them once a quarter and at the beginning of a new unit of study, or whenever your list of edtech tools starts to feel overwhelming.