As an Instructional Technology Coach in Georgetown County, South Carolina, I have the amazing opportunity to work closely with teachers and students as they use educational technology in meaningful ways.
It is clear that COVID-19 has changed how teachers use educational technologies to support teaching and learning. During the “Emergency Teaching Era” of the pandemic, educators grew quite familiar with edtech resources and developed many new competencies and strategies for integrating those resources into instruction. However, as the education community tentatively moves into what I think of as the post-COVID world of education, the competencies and skills teachers built, and the edtech tools they acquired, can be used in new ways within your classroom. Here are some of the best strategies and skills I’ve recently learned for the new technologies I began to use during the Pandemic:
Write Around the Room: This is a great activity to do with upper elementary through high school aged students, and capitalizes on devices students received and the keyboarding skills students picked up while learning remotely. For those of you who have ever found yourselves searching for creative ways to inspire your students to write while also reinforcing important skills related to story structure, having your students “write around the room” is a fun way to get your students excited about writing.
Each student will need a Chromebook or laptop or tablet with word processing software like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Give each student in the room a DIFFERENT story starter. Mix it up if you want…Make some story starters funny and others informational. Set a timer for 3-6 minutes, and instruct the students that they are tasked with writing the BEGINNING of that story. At the timer’s end, tell students to get up and move to another device anywhere in the room and continue the story on that device. Set your timer for 3-6 minutes once again and have your students write the MIDDLE of this new story. When time is up, have students move to different devices one more time to write an ending to a third story. Many times students will start their section of writing with a new font or font color which makes it easier for them (and me) to track their progress through that piece. The real fun is in the reading of the stories. I love it when students throw in plot twists and surprise us all!
Spur of the Moment Reviews (with a twist!): Let’s face it…It happens to us all. We finish up a super lesson that we are most pleased with ourselves for creating, when we realize we still have 10 minutes before lunch and NOTHING planned to fill that time. With students online, it was the perfect time for a bio-break–now, with students in your classroom, you must have a plan for gaps. The good news is that your students ALWAYS have important skills and topics to practice and review. You can review multiplication/division facts, operations with integers, prefixes/suffixes, verb tenses, physics facts, important events in history, and any other topic your students may need at a moment’s notice!
Quiz software is something we all learned about during the pandemic. For this strategy, it’s as simple as signing up for a FREE account with an online quiz game creator like Blooket. I kept Blooket handy when we were forced to teach remotely, and it is just as effective (if not more) when launched in a live class session. Warning: Your students are going to get excited, and maybe a little loud. Blooket is VERY similar to the popular Kahoot! service, however Blooket allows you to decide which game format you would like to present to your students for that session. My students always loved the “Battle Royale” game because Blooket randomly put them in teams (with VERY silly names) that would compete against each other. Both platforms offer libraries of reviews created by other educators as well. These games have been life-savers for me as we transitioned back to face-to-face instruction and found ourselves adhering to a rigid schedule.
Embedding Videos in Assessments:: Before COVID-19, teachers were moving away from the old model of using video in the classroom. In the post-COVID world, teachers definitely do not have the time to show a video for 30 minutes! So, I’ve found that educators are using their time more efficiently by pairing their assessments with video. One edtech resource that allows this is the award-winning Discovery Education platform.
With this tool, you have the ability to embed “quiz” questions into videos or video clips. These video quizzes can then be assigned to your students. I have found, however, that they are most powerful when launched “live” in class. Students go to their DE accounts and join the live activity with a code. Some of my most insightful class discussions this year have been sparked by these live video quizzes. The students love the immediate feedback they receive at the end of each quiz. They can view their total number of correct/incorrect answers, AND they can view each question individually with the correct answers. In my state, the Discovery Education platform is available through our Department of Education and several other states have similar agreements as well. Check with your principal or school administrators to see if you have access in your school.
Collaborative Multimedia Projects: Allowing our students to work together either in partner pairs or small groups to complete a multimedia project related to a particular unit of study was important during the “learn from home” era and can still provide powerful insights into student understanding or misconceptions about a topic. Many resources such as those found in Google (Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Drawings, etc.) allow for students to “share” with one another so that multiple students can contribute to the same document or presentation. That feature came in very handy during our remote learning days when we wanted our students to work with a group. It was nice to have some semblance of student collaboration during remote learning, however something was definitely missing. The students were missing those meaningful discussion opportunities that arise in face-to-face collaboration. Students were able to complete their collaborative projects, however the projects were lacking that personal, creative touch that comes from students bouncing ideas off one another in the traditional classroom.
We can still use those great collaborative resources we came to love during remote learning, and now we can capitalize on the students’ abilities to interact with one another to create more powerful products. Rather than just have a group of students create a Google Slides presentation on a topic, why not allow them to “present” their project in video form using an extension such as Loom? Students would literally be given a “voice” to show what they know! In addition to the research students put into creating their presentations, they are challenged to tap into their creative sides to develop speaking parts for their video presentation. Allowing students to present in video format also provides more reluctant students to feel comfortable speaking without fear of “messing up” in front of the class. We can ALL appreciate the opportunity for retakes! I try to strategically group my students when preparing for projects so that each group of 2-3 students represents varying technology skills levels. In the in-person classroom, I take into consideration how DIFFERENT personalities and academic abilities might compliment one another, as the interpersonal interaction is key. Yes, the overall goal is for students to display understanding of the curriculum content. However, I also strive for students to work on their “4C” skills and learn something new from one another that might benefit them as they create future projects on their own.
At the onset of the pandemic, school systems worldwide made unprecedented investments in educational technologies and worked hard to provide educators the professional learning to use them effectively. These resources’ utility has not ended. As educators, we need to practice continuous improvement and find new ways to integrate our new tools and skills into the “new” learning environments of the post-COVID world.
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