Since the shift to remote learning in March 2020, educators have been exploring different teaching methods and digital tools. Although it is great to have so many options available to provide students with more choices in learning, it can be overwhelming at times. Students need a variety of choices that enable them to develop content area skills and essential skills, including social and emotional learning (SEL) skills and digital literacy skills, to be successful in the future.
However, we have to be intentional about not overwhelming teachers or students with the number of tools being used in our classrooms. With too many options, we lose instructional time and learning opportunities because there is little interoperability and it can become hard to navigate. So how can we provide more opportunities for students by providing fewer options?
Leveraging the right space
All students need access to devices and digital resources. We want even our youngest learners to be able to take advantage of the many possibilities available through technology. Having students create multimedia presentations or participate in interactive lessons or game-based learning requires that students create accounts or use log-ins or codes.
We also want to create more active learning for students but have to be mindful of how many different places they need to go and the number of passwords or log-in credentials they might need. To help with this, we need to leverage platforms like Canvas, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or Schoology.
Through these spaces, we can help students develop essential skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. To decide what platform and what tools are best, consider these questions:
- How can we leverage the tools that we are using to transform student learning?
- How can we spark curiosity and foster creativity for our students?
- How do we foster the development of essential SEL skills?
Consider finding tools that integrate with platforms or learning management systems already being used in your school. When we can streamline the workflow by providing students options within one digital space, it saves a lot of time for teachers, and it keeps everything centralized and accessible for students.
DIGITAL LEARNING PLATFORMS
Deciding which platform to use may come down to a decision made by administrators or technology coaches. The focus needs to be on creating a space where everything can be found by students, teachers, and families. With learning tools interoperability (LTI), a variety of learning tools can be launched within one learning platform, such as a learning management system (LMS), rather than requiring users to go to multiple sites. First, choose a unified platform and look at its LTI to make sure that teachers and students have access to a variety of tools within that space. For individual teachers looking for a solution, Google Classroom or Schoology can be used for free.
Here are four options that integrate with versatile tools, promote accessibility, and enable teachers to provide students with more choices in one space. Whether for elementary, middle, or high school levels, these platforms and tools can be used with all students.
Google Classroom: Because Google Classroom is easy to get started with, many educators may use it independently, if it’s not being used at the district level. Teachers can use interactive tools like Nearpod, a multimedia, interactive presentation tool for creating lessons that can include content such as 3D objects, virtual trips, and videos or activities such as collaborate boards, matching pairs, polls, and quizzes. Nearpod has more than 22,000 ready-made lessons, activities, and videos.
Also try a game-based learning tool like Quizizz, which has a library full of quizzes and interactive lessons that can be used as a live session or quickly shared via Google Classroom for a student-paced activity. Both of these tools also promote accessibility: Nearpod offers an immersive reader, and Quizizz has an audio feature and adaptive question bank to personalize learning for each student.
Digital tools can help students move from being consumers to creators. Last year, my students used Genially and were excited about all of the options available. Teachers can find templates for creating infographics, multimedia presentations, escape rooms, and interactive lessons. Students can design “about me” presentations, make a genius-hour idea pitch, create a résumé, or tell a story and add audio and video. For teachers using Google Classroom, there is an add-on for Genially, which means that students won’t have to log in separately to their accounts, which definitely saves time and makes it easier to share content.
Microsoft Teams: For schools using Microsoft Teams, there are many tools that amplify student learning and foster creativity, promote collaboration, and help with SEL skills. Within the Teams space, students can build skills in collaboration and communication with tools like Wakelet and Flip. Wakelet is a great option for curating class materials or having students work together on a flipped lesson, create a digital portfolio, or create their own collection to gather articles and other resources from their research. Flip is a powerful tool for amplifying student voice and creating a space for students to exchange ideas, build relationships, collaborate on a lesson, and more.
For creativity and fostering SEL, Buncee is a great option for presentations and interactive lessons. Another great benefit is that each of these tools offers Immersive Reader, which promotes accessibility for students. For additional ways to assess and engage students in learning, adding Quizlet, Kahoot, and Nearpod to the Teams space provides more personalized learning for students with access to data to inform instruction for teachers. With Microsoft Teams integrations, teachers can provide access to a variety of tools to help students develop their skills without losing instructional time.
Schoology: My school adopted Schoology last year, and it helped teachers to continue using all of the tools they were using and also streamlined the process of providing access for students. Schoology provides Single Sign-On (SSO), which enables students to log in to multiple applications and websites using only one set of credentials, streamlining the process and saving valuable time. It is also better for security because it eliminates the need for multiple passwords.
In my classroom, we use a variety of apps that are all available within Schoology, which aligns with interoperability and makes it easier for students to navigate to different tools without causing frustration or loss in instructional time. For example, my students can easily access an Edpuzzle lesson without worrying about log-in codes or remembering passwords. Schoology also provides access to class materials in one easy-to-navigate space.
Canvas: Canvas is a robust platform that offers many features for teachers to enhance the learning happening in and out of the classroom. There are more than 500 partners in Canvas, including Quizlet, Nearpod, Kami, Flip, and Formative. These are versatile tools, which means that teachers can select a few and have endless possibilities for delivering instruction to provide personalized learning, and they are are beneficial for students of all grade levels.
In addition to using the game-based learning tools and interactive lessons, teachers can take advantage of the features within platforms like Canvas, such as having students record responses using the webcam. There are tools for engaging students in discussions using applications like Flip or Padlet. Students can also create with tools like Book Creator, which includes features such as captions as well as translation in 120+ languages, and improved screen readers. There are also tools that help create more interactive and student-paced lessons, such as Pear Deck, Edpuzzle, and Nearpod.
We can still offer students a lot of different choices for learning how to share what they have learned while streamlining the workflow. When we do this, we reduce the level of frustration that comes from having so many choices. Leverage those spaces and integrations to provide and do more with less.