There is an old saying that begins, "If I had a nickel..." If I applied that saying to how often a teacher approached me for help but began with, "I have a stupid question,” I'd have a lot of nickels.
The fact is, an overwhelming number of teachers don't feel confident in their ability to teach in a digital age, let alone establish a digital culture in their classrooms where students are makers and doers. This lack of confidence is problematic when we consider the direct impact on effectiveness. My remedy is an arsenal of fail-safe tools that will engage students in the curriculum and empower teachers to do more. Not only will teachers be encouraging digital learning opportunities among students -- they will score a personal High-5 for having effectively implemented the tools themselves.
I think it’s safe to say that classroom management is the cornerstone of effective teaching and learning. The ability to establish and maintain a safe, productive classroom environment is critical, because without it, no other initiative can thrive. Class Dojo has dual benefits for teachers because 1) it motivates students with avatars and a point system that holds them accountable for monitoring their own success; and, 2) it's another great way for teachers to transformatively teach their curriculum. Teaching and reinforcing positive behavior IS part of our curriculum, and Class Dojo can be the platform for positively encouraging it in our classrooms.
“It’s easy to have Class Dojo pulled up and go to it during my lessons -- it helps my kids to self-motivate. I use the messenger portion to communicate with parents. I hardly ever upload a picture to Facebook, but I update my Dojo stories all the time.” – Megan Gorski, 1st Grade Teacher at Mulberry Elementary School, NC
Assessments are a heavy topic in today’s classrooms ... and now they can be fun. Yes, I said it, FUN! Kahoot! offers a device-friendly, interactive way to quickly evaluate what students have learned. This tool is especially appealing to the teaching professional who needs a confidence-boost for using integrated classroom technologies. After creating one free educator account, students can participate simply by navigating to an assigned URL and joining with an associated code. There’s no need for setting up individual student accounts or managing the dreaded student passwords! The visual, auditory, and tactile appeal of Kahoot! has the capacity for reaching a broad spectrum of learner diversities and can make the experience motivating, exciting, and engaging for students. It’s also the perfect tool for nudging the hesitant tech-integrator towards technology greatness in their classroom.
"Kahoot is so easy to set up and use in the classroom, and trust me, I'm not a tech-savvy person at all. When I can implement Kahoot into my schedule, my students love playing and it gives me more confidence with using technology as a teaching tool." – Dustin Transou, 6th Grade Social Studies & Language Arts Teacher, East Wilkes Middle School, NC
Not all assessments have to be of a summative nature. Some are casual, ongoing, and spur of the moment, like “Ticket Out The Door" activities. Padlet has taken this strategy to a whole new level, and, like Kahoot!, requires very little teacher maintenance. After creating a free account for themselves, teachers can create digital post-it boards where students respond, vote, inquire, etc. to a prompt or idea with virtual (no paper required) sticky notes. Teachers simply share the URL for their Padlet, or embed it on a webpage, and it becomes instantly available for student response. So the next time you’re fishing around in your bag of tricks for a technology-shy colleague, be sure to reel this one in.
While considering the lack of materials money allotted these days, it makes total sense to move toward a digital form of poster-making. Piktochart engages teachers in a purposeful infusion of technology while scaffolding students towards higher-levels of critical thinking. Piktochart is an excellent medium for the creation of student-driven presentations where they get to be the expert. Teachers and students will need accounts to access and use the free resources from Piktochart, so for best results, technology coaches or tech-savvy peers should assist with this process -- the great news is that all parties can log in using their Google account; which is especially convenient for schools using Google Apps for Education. The completed student infographics will serve as the evidence your teachers need in order to say, “I CAN do this, I DID this, and I WILL do this again.”
Eventually, my teachers start looking for more opportunities to use technology. When this happens, I almost always recommend Weebly. After several successful experiences with quick, easy-to-manage web tools, a classroom web page doesn’t seem so intimidating.
To get a web page up-and-going, start by brainstorming a vision and ask questions that will guide content. For example, ask, what important happenings from your classroom do you want to share? Are there important pieces of information that can be added for parents and students? What will the layout look like? And then most importantly, how can the site be used instructionally so that the learning in my classroom is redefined? The creation of a classroom web page is definitely a step in the right direction when moving toward a digital classroom culture, and Weebly is a great medium for getting there.
There are no stupid questions
We have all felt the pressure of trying something new, and with every educational trend comes another nudge pushing us away from our comfort zones. We’ve felt ashamed of asking questions, and we’ve probably been made to feel like our inquiries were “stupid.” BUT, there are no stupid questions; just anxious teachers trying to feel their way through the digital world. When teachers develop security in their ability to seek out, test, and implement new strategies that involve technology, it’s a victory for them, and their students.