Whew! I hope that everyone has had time to disconnect after the craziness of last year (and the year before that as well.). I know that many people have been reflecting about what they want to keep post COVID. Many teachers have started using more technology than they ever had before and may want to keep doing it. Some districts may be purchasing more technology tools since teachers found success with them. Now that you have more access to these tools, you may be wondering what to keep and what to ditch. I have mentioned some of these ideas before (in this post– including the idea of don’t be afraid to tell students NOT to use their computers just because they have them) but I am updating it post 2020.
- How long will it take to do something on a computer? Many times, it can take a long time to get computers out, turned on and logged into the correct website. (With my younger students, I will even log in early on all of the iPads if we are going to play a game like GimKit or Quizizz.). Depending on the game, you also may have to wait for everyone to log in (and come up with their name and according emojis.). Calculate that when you are planning on playing these games or using websites. While it can be worth it, you want to limit the time that they are doing this because it DOES take time. For older students, when you want to do projects, calculate how much time they are spending using the language versus figuring out how to make things work. Is the project about using the tool or showing what they can do in the language? I personally love Adobe Spark, but it can be difficult for my students. That is one reason that I loved using Jamboard. It gave my students enough freedom to express themselves, but there weren’t too many options to make it overwhelming. Remember- many teachers will say students are digital natives, but that doesn’t mean that students know how to work every website. In addition, consider what websites other teachers are using in your school and try to use the same ones to cut down on the time that students take figuring things out.
- Who will be able to participate as a result of tool or practice? This is a tricky one. I believe that many teachers want to go back to whole class discussions because that interaction has been missing for the past year. But is that really the best? Many tools such as PearDeck or Flipgrid have given voice to students who traditionally don’t participate. (And this is also why I love Puedos from Laura Sexton which can be a low stakes speaking activity.) I encourage teachers to really reflect on how many students participate in whole class discussions- it can be smaller than you think. And grading participation is not the answer. But do we always have to just communicate through technology? I believe that we can strive to find a balance here. First, using some of these tools can give students time to think before responding. One day they can express their opinions online then have students listen and have a full class discussion. This will allow students to have their opinions and voices heard even if they don’t participate as much in class. Then, they could log online after class to share their reflections. Whether you are using an online tool or an in class discussion, it helps to give students time to think. In addition, consider having students work in smaller groups and then finding a volunteer in their group to share their perspectives to the whole class. This allows those who prefer to participate in a whole class discussion the ability to do so.
- What amount of differentiation can you provide with this tool or practice? One of the good things about using technology is that it is easy to assign different assignments to provide differentiation. I like to assign different videos when I have different levels in my classes. Thanks to EdPuzzle, I can normally easily find good videos that I can assign right away or they only need a little editing. Students can also go at their own pace to watch any section they need. Although I haven’t used it as much- I feel like GoFormative would also be in the same category of being able to differentiate. However, when you assign videos individually- are you able to scaffold as much? For me, that can be tricky with authentic resources or readings when students may get overwhelmed. Therefore, I like to also show a video or article to the whole class which allows me to scaffold. Students can work in small groups and explain their thinking. This can be important as we work with authentic resources. Typically, I like to start with a larger whole class activity THEN move onto the differentiated practice with a technology tool.
- Finally, does this resource already exist using technology or paper? While we all have had time to relax over the summer, I think we have learned that we need a better work-life balance. Especially during stressful times (beginning of the school year and before any break!). When I am making plans, I will focus on one big thing to recreate or make. Then, if I have to take a shortcut with other aspects I do. This helps keep me sane- especially with so many preps. So if you have an activity on paper that worked well in years past and you didn’t make it last year for virtual- stick with that! Same thing goes for that unit that you only taught online.
I would love to hear some of the considerations that you are reflecting about what to keep from last year.