Technology Integration

Using Free Edtech Tools to Get to Know Your New Middle and High School Students

Older students can use these tools to introduce themselves to their teachers and each other—even before school starts.

July 20, 2023
Riska / iStock

While summer continues, for many of us the countdown to the first day is underway. Before students set foot in the classroom for the first day of a new year, educators can make connections to have a smooth opening day and week. Open houses are a great way to welcome students back to school before the first day, but sometimes these events can be overwhelming at the middle and high school levels. A class-specific virtual preopening event may be a good alternative or supplement to these events. 

Having a chance to learn about the class and meet classmates helps make the start of the year smooth and gets students excited. Teachers can set up a designated time where students can meet you and other class members online. This will allow them to introduce themselves, ask questions, and establish a positive rapport. 

You can even plan icebreaker activities that encourage students to interact with each other and make new friends. For instance, you can set up group games, virtual scavenger hunts, or team-building exercises that promote collaboration.

Your role as an educator is to set the culture and tone of your classroom from the first minute. It’s essential to make students feel welcomed and relaxed. They spend the majority of their day in school, and the more you can do to make it feel welcoming, the better.

Going back to school is an exciting time, and it’s essential that teachers create a warm and welcoming culture until the day students walk out for summer break. But how? Before the return to school, students can engage in various free educational technology (edtech) activities to share information about themselves with their teachers.

8 Products kids Can Create Using Edtech to Showcase Their Interests

1. Digital collages: Encourage students to create a digital collage using online tools like Canva, Padlet, or Google Slides. They can include images, icons, and text representing their hobbies, favorite subjects, aspirations, and achievements. They can then share the collage with their teacher via email or online.

2. Personal blogs or websites: Have students create a personal blog or website using platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, or Wix. They can share their stories, experiences, and insights, including their interests, goals, and talents. They can then share the link with their teacher and classmates.

3. All-about-me presentations: Students can create a multimedia presentation using a tool like Google Slides. They can include slides with information about their family, hobbies, favorite books, music, or movies. They can also include photos or short videos to make the presentation more engaging. The presentation can be shared with the teacher through email or a file-sharing platform.

4. Video introductions: Students can record a short video introducing themselves to their teacher. They can talk about their name, grade level, favorite subjects, and extracurricular activities. They can also share a fun fact or a special talent. Video platforms like Flip or Loom can be used to create and share the video.

5. Digital portfolios: Encourage students to create a digital portfolio showcasing their best work from the previous school year or from their personal projects. They can use platforms like Google Sites or Adobe Express to compile their work, such as art, writing samples, coding projects, or science experiments. They can then share the portfolio with their teacher for review.

6. GIFs: GIFs are so popular that many students might even have a GIF keyboard on their phones. There are many free GIF sites on the web, such as Picasion and Gickr. You can pose a question to your students as they prepare to return to school and have them respond with a GIF. It could be as straightforward as “What is your back-to-school mood?” Email the question to your students, and ask them to send a GIF as their answer. Day one could be going through the GIF collection from the students. This is a fun way to start the year and get an inside look, without prying, at how your students feel.

7. Virtual show-and-tell: Students can participate in a virtual show-and-tell activity. They can take photos or record videos of items they would like to share with their classmates and teacher. It could be a favorite toy, a special souvenir from a trip, or an object that represents something important to them. They can upload photos or videos to a shared online platform for everyone to view and comment on.

8. Goals collages: As the new year begins, students have new or restored hopes and dreams for the year, for themselves, and for what the future brings. Padlet allows teachers to create a digital pinboard that can be emailed to students and families through a unique link. Teachers can ask students what they hope for the year. The answers can give you a baseline for your planning and show students that you value them as a part of the class. For example, you could start the year by displaying the “Board of Hopes” and have students share theirs to create a culture of togetherness. It may also inspire classmates to help each other reach their dreams.

Teachers can utilize edtech to promote student voice and choice before the school year even begins. Using Padlet, teachers can ask students what they would like to have in the classroom. You can ask about the structure of centers or suggestions for books they want to read. Students are walking into your room, but asking them for input in designing the space will give them a sense of belonging from day one.

These edtech ideas allow students to showcase their unique qualities and interests while using technology creatively. Sharing these projects or activities with their teachers will enable the teachers to gain insights into their students’ personalities and create a more personalized and engaging learning environment. This positive tone will set the stage for a joyous classroom and a feeling that it’s their learning space.

Share This Story

  • email icon

Filed Under

  • Technology Integration
  • Student Engagement
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

Follow Edutopia

  • facebook icon
  • twitter icon
  • instagram icon
  • youtube icon
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
George Lucas Educational Foundation
Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.