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As students return to the classroom after a tumultuous year of pandemic learning, educators will turn to digital learning tools to boost engagement

8 fun digital learning tools for the new school year

As students return to the classroom after a tumultuous year of pandemic learning, educators will turn to digital learning tools to boost engagement and ease anxieties

This fall’s back-to-school season brings with it a variety of emotions–excitement, relief, anticipation, and hesitation prompted by concerns around COVID-19’s Delta variant. And because schools may move to hybrid or virtual learning despite starting in person, digital learning tools that work in the physical or virtual classroom can prove invaluable.

Recent research from Texthelp shows that teachers believe students were significantly less engaged this past school year, but that digital tools were a bright spot in their classrooms. In fact, 90 percent of teachers say they plan to use edtech tools this upcoming school year.

Through using these tools, teachers say they experienced increased efficiency across the board and that students now have the accessible and engaging tools they need.

Educators who are searching for new digital learning tools to use as students return to classrooms can browse the below list to see if any of the resources fill a gap in their school or classroom:

1. Along, from Gradient Learning and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is a free digital reflection tool designed to help teachers make each of their students feel seen and understood. It lets students send quick video, audio, or text directly to their teacher so they can open up about who they are and what’s really on their mind.

2. Photomath provides step-by-step guidance to math equations via AI photo recognition technology. When teachers can’t be present during homework hours and when students need additional guidance, visual guided learning is a great tool.

3. A Kids Company About aims to create challenging, empowering, and important stories for kids and their grownups, but also furthers that mission into new resources to reach extended age groups:
• A Kids Podcast About Network: A growing network of now 7 original shows where each podcast tackles various challenging, empowering, and important topics. The four new shows cover climate justice, activism, and trending news.
• A Kids Class About: Like Master Class created specifically for kids, this interactive video series focuses on exposing teens and tweens 10-15 years old to careers, life skills, and big ideas to help answer the question “who” you want to be, instead of “what” you want to be when you grow up.

4. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for students, and in-class mindfulness can work wonders. A study on the impact of a mindfulness program for young children shows a significant increase in students’ positive behaviors and an even larger decrease in students’ problem behaviors. The study, “Effects of a School-Based Mindfulness Program for Young Children,” was conducted in partnership with the nonprofit Shanthi Project and Muhlenberg College psychology researchers. Published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, the study evaluated the effectiveness of Calm+Kind+Focused, an eight-week mindfulness program that took place in grades K-2 at Marvine Elementary School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in Fall 2019. Teachers reported an approximate 14 percent increase in their students’ positive behaviors (being considerate of others’ feelings, sharing with others, helping others) from pre to post program. Teachers also reported an approximate 18 percent decrease in their students’ problem behaviors, such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and conduct problems.

5. Verizon’s new free education portal, Verizon Innovative Learning HQ, will scale the resources of Verizon Innovative Learning–the company’s education initiative addressing barriers to digital inclusion–and its approach to integrating technology into the classroom. Verizon Innovative Learning HQ will provide next-gen learning for students, covering a range of subjects from history to biology, through access to the latest augmented reality and virtual reality education tools. The education portal will help teachers take advantage of immersive technology and recognize the benefits of tapping into next-generation tech in their lesson plans. The free education portal includes content curated by Columbia University, New York University, Arizona State University, and other academic institutions, that pairs immersive AR and VR experiences with lesson plans. A key part of the portal will include professional development courses aligned to research-backed micro-credentials from non-profit partner Digital Promise, to help empower educators with personalized learning pathways that directly address their digital learning needs.

6. The U.S. Department of Education’s Return to School Roadmap aims to support educators and school leaders, parents, families, and communities and lead students on a path to return to in-person learning this fall, where they are safe and supported. The Roadmap contains three “Landmark” priorities for each school, district, and state as they work to reengage students this summer and bring them back into classrooms. Check out this handbook on safely reopening schools, too.

7. Currently, just 1 in 5 U.S. high schoolers takes personal finance, yet nearly every student takes Algebra. Cross-curricular instruction–delivered by confident Algebra teachers with world-class curriculum–has the potential to impact the future of the entire next generation of young people, not just the lucky few. The NGPF Financial Algebra course is free and is for high school math teachers who are looking to weave real-world personal finance applications with math standards alignment and deep algebraic rigor.

8. Aperture Education, provider of researched-backed SEL assessments for K-12 schools, has released a free 2021 Back-to-School Guide to help teachers and administrators support students and families as schools resume. The Guide is packed with SEL information, resources, lessons, and activities that can be used to help teachers and students manage stress, strengthen SEL skills, support student engagement, and more.

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Laura Ascione

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