For decades, educators have discussed, debated, and implemented the use of technology in school. This began with an Apple IIe in the classroom then adding two to three desktop computers; installing CAT 5 wiring for Internet access; adding a computer lab in the school; adding mobility to the lab with a laptop cart; installing SMART Boards; and providing tablets, Chrome Books, or Streams. This evolution has built a robust technology presence and use of the Internet to bring accumulated knowledge from any location on the planet to our individual classrooms. Many feared that technology would replace the teacher. However, technology has become a tool for teachers to use as they stand before their students within the confines of the typical 20×20 classroom.
In March, however, all that changed in a blink of an eye. A committee was not created to spend months or years studying the change. Schools, along with workplaces around the world, were suddenly closed to protect the health of students, staff, and families. Administrators were suddenly faced with a new challenge: How do we continue to educate our students when the school population can no longer come together in our brick-and-mortar facilities? The answer is to use technology, not just as a classroom tool, but now as a platform to deliver instruction to our students, wherever they are located.
We do not want to overuse technology, but rather use it in a way through which our students will gain knowledge and experience. Technology will not replace the teacher, even in these uncertain times. It is important that students still have that personal contact with their teacher, even if that contact is through an image on the screen.
During our current situation, schools are providing technology for students to use at home to continue their learning on a variety of topics. These times are unique and provide an opportunity for our collective innovation to use interactive educational tools with our students. There are many existing tools which teachers can utilize to enhance their online lessons. The following are a few tools to check out.
This tool is included in Smart Notebook, and you will need to have Smart Notebook on the device you are using to deliver the lesson to your class. You can download Smart Notebook. It is an easy tool to use to set up a review, introduction, randomizer, and more. You can choose the subject and words that you want students to work on and the program will use a premade game that students can join. There are also free and paid lessons on their Smart Exchange website. Here is a tutorial on how to use a simple version of this
Google Slides allows you to create a presentation similar to a PowerPoint. The convenience of Google Slides is that the presentation is stored online allowing you to access it wherever you are. There is a function in the presentation mode of Google Slides that allows the presenter to create real-time closed captions of the presentation using your computer’s microphone. This is helpful for audience members who have a hearing deficiency or for a large group presentation when you are unsure that everyone can hear and understand you.
Newsela is a great tool to locate text resources on a variety of topics and you can set the reading level based on the students’ abilities. In a classroom with students at different reading levels, this is a strong tool to use to be able to meet your students at their individual reading levels and make adjustments as they improve. It also is a good tool to use for enrichment. The students can have access to their own progress on assignments and can select additional articles. Newsela is being offered FREE for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
This tool has a free version and a paid one. The free version limits your videos to no longer than 15 minutes. This website allows the teacher to record their screen including a thumbnail photo of her/himself in the corner. This is great for tutorials and other types of recorded lessons that students can use to see what your expectations are for the activity. This program could be used in conjunction with some of the other tools (like Google Slides with captions) to create an engaging presentation.
Quizlet allows teachers to create interactive review games, flashcards, and matching games. It can be used to help students remember vocabulary words, spelling, and more. This is a tool which can be used in most subjects for the students to review or for the teacher to check the students’ understanding of the concepts that are being taught.
Teaching in ‘normal’ circumstances is challenging. Those challenges are compounded by our current situation. These are just a few of the tools available to assist teachers as we reinvent how we teach. Here are additional resources.
Take care of yourself and stay safe!