The Right Tool for the Job- The EDU Version

I have been asked by teachers in my district lately, what ed tech tools were a staple of my classroom and how I used them. To me, the best tools are the ones that help UP student engagement and are also adaptable and flexible to my classroom productivity. I am a big believer in tech as a tool- used for a specific function. The greatest tech tools cannot and will not be a substitute for great teaching. But when used in the ideal scenario, can help stimulate and create something more.

Check out the following commercial from Chevy.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. “Faster, more efficient, work smarter not harder.” All reasons why when it comes to ed tech to make sure there is a purpose to what you are using. A “method to the madness.” Here are some of my favorite ed tech tools as well as when, why, and how I used them in the classroom.

Schoology– This was my LMS of choice. While most of my teachers went Google Classroom (which is a strong choice as well) I went with Schoology. I housed everything in Schoology. My students knew where to look for homework/classwork. It kept all of their assignments organized in 1 fluid layout. They synced it to their Google Drives, used it during discussion groups and backchannel chats, and were found on it beyond school hours. One of the biggest benefits? All work was submitted through Schoology. For me- checking in work and grading assignment became easier. I created rubrics in Schoology for all of my assignments that eased the grading burden. When used well and creatively- it becomes an extension of your physical classroom. My students would come into class, we would debate, discuss, review, learn something new, then they were off into Schoology- working individually or as pairs/groups, completing various assignments laid out in front of them. Everything should start AND end… with Schoology.

Polleverywhere–  I used Polleverywhere for so many things, I can’t begin to name them all. Specifically and routinely, however, it was my Do Now and Exit Ticket. My students entered my room and knew right away to complete the Do Now on the board by going to the designated address that they saved to their favorites for quick access. First, sometimes I would create a funny/engaging poll or question to hook them:

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Now, with student engagement UP, I would reel them back in to what we were specifically doing in class or talking about:

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When it comes to Do Nows and Exit Tickets, the program I use needs to be quick, and easy to use/manage. Beyond this, I would throw in Polleverywhere during in-class reading/discussion like this to up engagement and start a fight (errr… debate).

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And for an exit ticket- well I can’t take credit for this one, as @TechedUpTeacher opened the door to a GREAT idea… He would leave a blank poll up on the board and just quickly write in how he wanted his students to respond. I took this idea and ran with it!

Padlet– This became another very adaptive tool. As with Polleverywhere, I used this for a lot of different things- which should be the name of the game. Padlet makes for a great collaborative space. I’ve used it as an assignment/task. I’ve used it during writing workshops. I’ve used it to monitor discussions/debates. Here is an example of a close reading assignment that I used Padlet for:

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Students commented, shared, debated, and helped each other when needed. They posted connections to the reading of things I’ve never even thought about (which is a terrific way to use Padlet, as well as build your resources for the next time you teach that specific unit).

Thinglink– This became my creative tool of choice. I’ve used it as a lesson or unit that students had to work their way through or as a creative outlet for students to complete assignments. What is great is the way Thinglink plays with other ed tech tools such as Youtube, Google Docs/slides, social media, sound files, etc. All of these can be embedded within, making a basic assignment/task more interactive. For one assignment, I had students work in teams to put a truly immersive project together- that incorporated multiple moving pieces and other ed tech tools. With this, they had to pick at least 5 different literary elements and discuss how these elements are created/used throughout our reading of Huckleberry Finn. Here is what one student came up with:

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This student killed it! She annotated and left comments. She added a video she put together using Animoto. She added a voice over discussion of a particular element and example from the text (with her reading the text) using Vocaroo. She even went as far as to talk about important symbols used throughout the novel and created ANOTHER Thinglink to showcase these examples… each with their own annotation/voice over/ image/ video. Give students the tools to be creative and they will surprise you. Or not surprise you… (I knew she had this in her the entire time).

Pear deck– This was my direct-instruction tool of choice. I hated being in front of the room and just talking. I wanted to work right beside my students, researching, collaborating, and debating with them. But when the time came that I thought we needed to hone in on- this is when I used Pear Deck to up the engagement during the often dreaded lecture or presentation. This helped keep my students on their toes and afforded me an opportunity to gauge where they were with some formative assessment during this process.

NoRedInk– NoRedInk was how I got my grammar lessons interwoven throughout the year. Grammar was always a difficult thing to teach and find the time to teach in depth. I always taught grammar during writing lessons or during writing workshops. But this was a great way to differentiate for students while also allowing them to learn at their own pace, when and where they wanted. It made for great reinforcement. It really helped play into the mastery learning portion on my classroom. This is a great tool to have at your disposal, especially if you do some form of station rotation or blended learning model in your classroom.

I hope understanding how I went about actually utilizing these tools in my classroom gives you some idea as to what you can do.

 

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