When it comes to technology in the classroom it can definitely be overwhelming.   There are a tremendous amount of resources available to engage students and build their technology skills for the future, but often times we encounter roadblocks leaving classroom teachers wondering “where should I begin.”  I was recently catching up on a podcast from Chris Nesi who provided 10 very easy to use ideas that I have summarized below:

  1. Take you student on a virtual field trip – with AR/VR becoming easily available in the classrooms, it is becoming extremely easy to simulate virtual trips using  a variety of applications like Google Expeditions, Earth, and Tour Creator. You can use these apps to visit buildings like the Empire State building or places like the Great Barrier Reef.  Visit foreign landmarks, hold mock conversations in a country’s native language, or study the area itself from a geographic/historic perspective. Taking virtual trips can add new and engaging elements into your lessons
  2. Use Videos for mini-lessons – Enhance your lesson plans using videos as stand alone overviews for curriculum topics or use them for reviews, previews, or reinforcing topics.   Teacher Tube is a great resource to find videos to use within your existing curriculum. This easy to use tech feature can add multimedia elements to your classroom which could resonate with visual learners.  Research shows that the use of video can positively impact a child’s development in several competent areas including memory, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving.
  3. Play Podcasts (or even have kids develop podcasts) – playing podcasts can easily supplement your lessons while also engaging auditory learners.   Assign listening to a specific podcast as an out of school assignment or set up learning stations in your classroom.   You can use the podcast to find content that is relevant to your subject matter…such as interviews of an author of books being read, lessons about study techniques/strategies, explanations of curriculum related topics, lectures from world renowned professors, etc.  For upper level students, design a project where students create and play their own podcast
  4. Multimedia Slideshows –  The easiest way to disengage students is to have presentations made entirely of text.  Adding multimedia elements to a slideshow will hold the attention of students by varying the content delivery.  Within your presentations, include images, graphs, GIFs, audio/video clips, sound effects to help drive the point of the lesson.   
  5. Enhance the use of online class calendars– Keep your students informed on what content they will be learning by adding things to the calendar.  The calendar should detail lessons and highlight important dates (due dates, fieldtrips, days off, etc).   The beauty of this is that most of you are already performing this via the Canvas calendar. Using a calendar offers benefits for you and your students:
    1. Keep students informed and prepared for class, while also teaching them how to use online calendars (a task we all know and use regularly in our busy daily lives)
    2. Helps you stay organized while offering a visual representation of your class to see if you have over extended yourself or the material. 
  6. Use Virtual Manipulatives – when teaching and reinforcing concepts students can use virtual manipulatives in more ways than they can use physical ones.   There are a tremendous amount of resources available for virtual manipulatives, but one of the most commonly used ones in education is the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.  This resource is made up of tasks targeting PK-12th grade. Using virtual manipulatives is appealing to hands on learners.  
  7. Save time for Exit Tickets – Use the last 10 min of some (or all) class periods to for exit tickets. Exit tickets can take the form of
    1. online journal entries
    2. an online notepad where students write entries to summarize what they learned
    3. adding comments to a google slides presentation to review and expand on important points made throughout the instruction
    4. Twitter posts (use class hashtags for ease of finding) or twitter style responses where students summarize the most important points learned in class in 280 characters or less
    5. Google Forms/Canvas Assessement/Canvas Discussion/Game Assessment (Kahoot, GimKit, etc) for formative assessment
  8. Use Twitter Hashtags or Back Channel Chats to Take Questions –  Have student display questions they have using twitter (ensure you use hashtags) or using a backchannel chat application like (Backchannel Chat  or even Padlet). You can display the questions on the screen in front of the class or check it periodically on your own device and answer the questions as they pop up or all at once.  Encourage students to ask inquiry based questions along with specific ones related to the lessons, presentations, or homework. This method is extremely beneficial to introverts who aren’t comfortable asking questions in front of the class.
  9. Gather Student Feedback – Create forms/polls using applications like Socrative, Google Forms, Survey Monkey or Poll Everywhere to create student centered classrooms.  This will encourage student input about content processing activities. Students can provide responses using their devices providing you with incite about activities they prefer.  The results may help with improving lessons, hitting students needs, and may end up having you try new technologies based on their responses. 
  10. Offer Open-Ended Projects – Give students a list of options to choose from using things like choiceboards (search #choiceboards on Twitter for more details).  This will appeal to students distinct learning styles allowing them to effectively demonstrate their knowledge. Students can use any accessible application to complete any of the projects or provide them a list of a few to choose from (reach out to EdTech for ideas for applications or visit DCDS EdTech resources).  Project ideas could entail:
    1. Designing web content using
    2. Creating ebooks 
    3. Creating original artwork
    4. Composing music 
    5. Crafting multimedia productions

The purpose of technology in the classroom is to provide you with resources to engage students and provide ways to teach concepts in ways you may not have been able to without it.   With that being said, you must determine the best ways to use them for your classroom. Depending on the makeup of your class and content, students may find some technologies disengaging…so avoid the trap of using technology for technology’s sake.  Be sure you are constantly evaluating. Hopefully the ideas above give you a base to start from.

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