Working at a BYOD (bring your own device) school at the middle and high school level has created a lot of opportunity for 21st century learning; a style of education that goes beyond pencil and paper. The integration of technology in the class room doesn’t come without its challenges, but when used effectively and efficiently it can empower teachers and students alike by helping to maximize instruction, and collaboration, as well as meet the needs of our ever diverse classrooms.
I use a variety of technology in my classroom including a variety of apps and online tools and websites. Three tools I have used throughout this past school year more frequently are EduCanon, Socrative, and Google Classrooms.
Educanon is a place where teachers can create and share interactive video lessons. Using a video from YouTube, Vimeo, or other sites with video content, teachers are able to transform that traditional passive viewing of videos in the classroom to make it more meaningful and interactive for the students. Activities are linked within the videos and provide active engagement opportunities for the students. Activities can include short answer questions, multiple choice questions, a reflective pause, questions for discussion, and fill in the blank among a few others. Furthermore, these activities can act as formative assessment strategies for teachers and help to inform not only the direction of the lesson for that given day but for subsequent days as well. I am a big proponent of using various mediums within my lessons as often as possible, however I have sometimes struggled with how to make videos meaningful for all students. Teaching in such a diverse classroom in Vietnam, this tool also helps me reach my EAL students on a different level. While some of the questions might be geared toward a deeper understanding of the content and thus towards the higher level or native speakers in the classroom, other questions might be more straightforward to simply check for understanding and comprehension. Those deeper questions, that low level EAL students might not fully grasp, can be accompanied by small group discussions which can facilitate understanding for all students involved. Furthermore, Educanon provides the option to print your questions as a worksheet, which is creates a method of differentiation for your students. I used this tool multiple times in both my Modern Languages class and my 6th grade language arts class. Usually I would have the students watch the videos as a class the first time, field any questions about the activities posted within the video and then have the students break off into small groups to actually complete the activities and view the videos one or two more times. We would then reconvene as a class to discuss any questions that were not asked to have a written answer.
Socrative Teacher & Student
The Socrative tool kit is another fantastic active engagement tool to use in the classroom. Whether it be used as a formative assessment tool in the form of an “exit ticket” from class, or as a summative assessment tool for a unit test it, Socrative provides a way for teachers to personalize, engage and assess student learning. Being that our middle school works on a BYOD program and we are heavy on the google tools, a great feature of Socrative is the google integration. You can use your google account to sign in, and it directly connection to the google drive account connected to that email address. Socrative automatically generates reports and creates spreadsheets into a self-generated google drive folder. Furthermore, student results are shared in real time with the teacher and can also thus be shared in real time with the students when it fits the teachers needs. Again, this is another effective tool for both formative and summative assessments in the classroom. I often use this tool as a method for homework checking in my language arts classroom. When students are sent home with mentor texts to read for a specific unit, they are also asked to annotate their work. The monitoring and grading of annotated work can be difficult to keep track of at times, but I found Socrative to be an effective tool to gauge my students completion and understanding of the reading material. I have the classroom code posted from Socrative on the whiteboard and when they first sit down in class they are asked to log in and complete the quiz. Some questions would be general comprehension questions which would tell me if they did the reading at all and some might involve deeper thinking/comprehension, which would inform me of their deeper understanding or ability to make connections from the reading to the unit we are studying.
Google Classroom might be my most favorite of the new technology tools of 2014-2015. Released in August 2014, myself and a few other teachers on staff were quick to jump onto the google classroom bandwagon and integrate it into our everyday classroom use. I used it both in my Modern Language class and my 6th grade Language Arts class throughout the year. Google classroom is a place where teachers can simply update their “wall” with daily homework reminders, with assignment for students to complete or a place to initiate class discussions. Much like Socrative one of the reasons I love google classroom is because of its natural integration with all google tools. What I love about the google classroom, as stated on their own description “More teaching, less tech-ing”, and this exactly what this tool lets us, as educators accomplish. Our students are already familiar with and use to sharing documents on google drive. Google classroom is directly connected to the google drive account associated with the users email address and thus this allowed for a pretty seamless integration of Google classroom, in my classrooms. Furthermore it creates folders in google drive for each assignment and for each student, which helps keep everyone organized. The assignment page of the classroom, helps students keep track of what is due and when and it also helps teachers keep track of who has completed their homework (and if it was completed on time). There are so many features of Google Classroom that makes it an easy paperless answer for a lot of teachers. For the upcoming school year, I have already created a classroom for my incoming 6th graders. We had each student complete a survey about common middle school concerns. They also asked any questions they had about 6th grade. On their new Google Classroom I created a FAQ section for them to help ease their worries. During the second last week of school I dropped into their classroom and completed a quick tutorial with the students which allowed them to see all its features and the FAQ section. I’ve since posted a few “announcements” for the students to help them feel prepared for the 2015-2016 academic year as middle schoolers.