Thursday, March 31, 2016

5 Digital Tools to engage 100% of your class

You know that moment when the spotlight shifts from the teachers to the student, when you feel that you are in the background and your kids have take over and are completely engaged in learning? I love those moments and I try to create as many of them as possible. This process becomes so much easier with technology.

“We need to embrace technology to make learning more engaging. Because when students are engaged and they are interested, that's where learning takes place.” -Edtechreview

One of the realities that we face not only in school but in everyday life is that technology is all around. Why fight it? Why not use it to your advantage? Our students are bringing computers to school every day in the form of smart phones. Our schools are being outfitted with wifi networks so this eliminates barriers to access especially if you do not have a laptop or iPad for every student in your class.

1. Here is a guide to get you started if you have not ventured into the Twitter ocean.
  Most of your students are on twitter already. If they are not then it is easy to register and create a profile. Why not have a class twitter chat? You can create your own classroom hashtag and use it for review, or even assessment. I can see this as a great way for students to help each other and for your to provide a little assistance with homework or review for a test?

2. One of the best features of Google Docs is that once it has been shared with another person, the ability to work synchronously on the same document is possible. This is a tremendous benefit for small teams to be able to edit and contribute at the same time on one file. So, lets say that you want your small groups to write a document that address a question or challenge pertaining to the objective of your lesson. They can do so in and outside of class together in their own homes remotely. This is a beautiful thing that only Google and technology has made possible! Here is a brief Google Docs Guide to give you more specific information.

3.   One of my favorites is Google Hangouts. Your iPad or smart phone to have a discussion/collaboration between small groups in your classroom and another classroom in the district/state/country/world. A colleague of mine just set up a hangout with a class in Spain. If you are interested in connecting with other professionals in and around the country/world I highly recommend getting involved with Google+ communities. You will be able to find others who are interested in connecting with you. Here is a brief guide to Google Hangouts.

4.   If you are looking for something to get your kids out of their seats and move around a QR code challenge is a nice way to get blood flowing to the brain and the body. You can create a QR code with free easy to use QR code generators like this one. I have taken YouTube video URLs and using smart phones or iPads, students can scan them and then complete the task that is assigned. QR codes are one of the most efficient and effective ways to direct students to a digital source. I would use them and put them on my walls in a certain order. The solution would be visible at the top of another QR code somewhere else in the room. So, if the team completed the math challenge and arrived at a solution that was nowhere to be found at the tops of the QR codes around the room, they knew there was a mistake. If their solution matched one then they went to that code and scanned. I usually offered a prize to the team that completed the whole set of challenges. 
5.   Padlet has really stepped up their game. If you have not used this tool for a while there are new options. They now feature the ability to upload voice/video recordings, attachments, take a picture or upload one that is saved, or upload  a link to a web page, or just write a few words in the note as has always been the case.
When you create a class padlet, you can utilize this forum in many different ways. It can be a "parking lot" for questions or insights into what they have learned (exit tickets). This can be a way for student to demonstrate mastery of a concept or skill by using one of the media upload features. The possibilities are endless.

How do you engage your students? Thank you for reading my post. Please pass it along to anyone who might be interested!

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