Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Technology

Ed Tech Can Be an Invaluable Tool for Teachers. Here’s How to Use It Best (Opinion)

As with many things, using ed-tech holds benefits and disadvantages for our students.

This two-part series will examine a few of them.

You might also be interested in The Best Posts and Articles Highlighting Why We Need to Be Very Careful Around Ed-Tech and in The Best Advice on Using Education Technology.

‘Blended Learning’

Kayla Towner is a technology trainer/instructor for Utah Education Network (UEN) and a Utah Hope Street Fellow in Salt Lake City. Follow her on X @mrstowner9 or email her at [email protected]:

The most effective way I have used ed-tech as a 5th grade teacher and educator to adult learners is through blending learning techniques. Meaning the technology is being used with a purpose, and it is meaningful to all participants.

As a 5th grade teacher, I saw my students pick up on technology very quickly. However, like everything else in elementary school, it needed to become a procedure. Therefore, one of the most effective ways I used ed-tech was Microsoft Teams. It was our way of communicating throughout the day, especially during the COVID pandemic. For example, students would see reading assignments in the language arts channel and be able to ask each other questions about the assignment.

Other times, students would read articles for science and hold discussions on the science channel. If I was holding small groups, students knew they could ask questions within the channels to get support if I wasn’t available. In general, Microsoft Teams purpose was to support daily communication, collaboration, and participation. My students loved it.

Another excellent blending learning tool I used in my classroom and with my adult learners is Nearpod. This tool is excellent for delivering lessons where participants can interact with their learning. Any learner can collaborate and take assessments without feeling like they are being assessed. Nearpod can immediately capture the attention of any participant. I often started with a poll to get my participants interacting right away. Another way I would capture their attention would be through a VR field trip where they could explore new places. They could see this wasn’t just some typical lecture. Next, I would hook my students with some kind of video or short reading so they understand what they would be learning. Afterward, they would be able to collaborate on a collaboration board where they ALL could comment.

Their ability didn’t matter; all students could answer somehow. Some students wrote the text, some students who struggled with writing could create a video or record an audio reply, and others got creative using gifs. Lastly, there were countless ways to assess my students without them feeling like they were being assessed. Sometimes, students would write or record their independent responses. Other times, students would color on a PDF or drag and drop on the slide. Their favorite way to check their learning was through Time to Climb. It was game-based, making the “test” more engaging and fun. Overall, Nearpod was being used to deliver learning that was interactive, collaborative, and fun. It was meaningful to all.

The power of Minecraft Education was the last ed-tech tool that was highly effective. Many educators think they must be experts to use it, but it’s unnecessary. My favorite ways to use Minecraft Education were through Minecraft Lessons/Challenges and assessment projects. For example, I was trying to teach the mathematical concept of volume but wanted my students to be engaged. Therefore, I came across a Minecraft lesson that helped my students learn the concepts of volume by being detectives.

They had to figure out what creeper (creature in Minecraft) represented each volume they came across. Students had to collaborate/communicate, think critically, and explore different possibilities. It was terrific seeing all of my students engaged and ready to learn. Another way my students loved using Minecraft was through assessment projects. We were learning about different kinds of civil rights, and each group had a choice in how they wanted to share their knowledge. One group decided to learn about the Bandit Runner. This was about how girls were banned from running marathons because prescribed doctors said women would have serious injuries or death if they ran more than 1.5 miles.

They created a marathon road and characters in Minecraft as they told their story. It was amazing. This group learned more about this civil rights movement than they initially intended to because they wanted to create an authentic scene. By giving us a real experience, it captured everyone’s attention.

Overall, ed-tech tools that utilized blending learning techniques were the most effective because they significantly impacted students’ learning. There was a true purpose, and it was meaningful to my students.

‘Collaborative Projects’

Chandra Shaw has more than 24 years of experience in education, as a teacher, reading specialist, instructional coach, and now a literacy consultant at one of her state’s regional service centers. Chandra is a TEDx speaker and amateur YouTuber:

With today’s massive number of technological innovations, it’s important that teachers strive to effectively use ed-tech tools and resources in ways that enhance learning outcomes for all students. Two of the most important ways to use ed-tech in the classroom are for individualized practice on skills that students still need to master and for student-created collaborative projects.

Ask any teacher what their number one struggle in the classroom is, and they will likely mention the lack of time they have to meet the various needs of their diverse students. Teachers often share the frustration of trying to “reach” all students when there is such a wide spectrum of student capabilities in any given class. Using ed-tech programs that have the ability to personalize learning for students at any level can save teachers time and make learning more relevant for students.

Placing students, for limited times, in programs that help them to build skills in which they need extra help provides the additional practice and repetition students need for continued success. Using online quizzes, self-assessment tools, and automated grading systems can provide quick feedback to students, and using learning management systems can help teachers track and analyze student progress over time. It’s really a “win-win” for everyone involved.

Another effective use of ed-tech resources is when they are used by students to collaborate in the creation of projects or products that they can present to an audience or their learning community in some way.

For example, as a teacher, I had students create argumentative presentations during the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students were given a scenario in which the U.N. was considering revising the document, and they were tasked with selecting a right which they felt must absolutely remain on the document and tell why?

Students worked in groups of three to four to research all 30 of the universal rights and then come to a consensus on which one they felt was the most important and why. They could present their speeches live in the classroom using multimedia presentation ed-tech tools such as Prezi, Canva, or Google Slides, or they could record their presentations using digital creation ed tech such as video editing and audio recording tools. What resulted was students giving brilliant dynamic presentations to our classroom’s mock U.N. while learning all about argumentative writing and speaking. Students were highly engaged, and all groups finished the projects on time. At the end of the year, many students noted this particular project among their favorite activities.

Ed tech can be powerful when used effectively to help all students meet their individual needs or to create engaging, relevant projects that have a profound impact on students’ learning and understanding of the world.

Combating Misinformation

A full-time classroom teacher for 15 years, Jeff Wilhelm is currently Distinguished Professor of English Education at Boise State, the director of the Boise State Writing Project, and a teacher of middle or high schoolers each spring. He has authored 42 books about teaching and learning:

With the increasing presence of artificial intelligence in our lives and in schools, with the advent of ChatGPT and its variants, DALL-E and other video fabrication tools, I claim that we cannot effectively use ed tech unless we also create a culture of understanding and respect toward what Jonathan Rauch calls “the constitution of knowledge.”

We must ensure that our use of educational technology promotes the valuing of evidence-based worldviews and the related capacities to critically evaluate sources and judge the credibility of evidence. Without understanding what sources are most reliable and what data are most justified (this would include understanding how AI works, its uses and limitations), we cannot make the best and most profitable personal decisions, nor can we set useful public policy. We cannot truly understand nor effectively use math, science, history, or any other subject. And finally, “evidence” or “facts” (by which I mean justified understandings supported by patterns of reliable data from authoritative sources) are essential to democratic life, to justice, and to freedom.

All disciplines and content areas are based on time-honored and time-tested ways of developing, testing, revising, and refining what is the best of what is thought and known—and how to use it. I believe that every teacher from K-12-college and in any subject area must actively induct students into the process of how knowledge in their discipline is made, tested, revised, and justified (often with recognized limitations—because knowledge-making is complex, and knowledge is ever evolving).

It is not enough to teach the scientific method, we must involve students in using the method by developing experiments to test their evolving understandings, revising what they think based on evidence, and testing and justifying (while acknowledging limitations) what they think again and again.

ChatGPT is a large language model that scans the Internet without any truth or accuracy metrics. What could possibly go wrong when students use it for school assignments? (I acknowledge that it has other uses.) It’s an example of GIGO: Garbage In = Garbage Out. I tell my students that composing meaning of any kind is a way to develop their own competence and their own identity and to create new kinds of knowing. I work to create a value in knowledge-making processes and in taking our own evidence-based positions and meanings.

One hope of mine is that the emergence of AI will help us all develop more personally relevant and instructionally robust kinds of teaching, including:

Teach the differences between reading linear vs. digital texts (and the roles of point of view, positioning, source, and narrator reliability in each).

Also, use the Stanford History Education Group’s Civic Online Reasoning Questions whenever students read anything, especially online.

1. Who is behind this information?

2. What’s the evidence?

3. What do other sources say?

You can dig deeper into Question 1 by asking:

Is the source(s) authoritative and credible? How so?

And into Questions 2 and 3 by asking:

Is the evidence credible and “safe” (acceptable to all reasonable people)?

Is the evidence from an authoritative source?

Is the evidence repeated across other authoritative sources? (employ lateral reading!)

Is the evidence relevant (i.e., on point for our current questions or inquiry)?

Second, teach students source evaluation, particularly of online content, and to understand what research really is (not just some talking head spouting opinions) and what constitutes strong research-based evidence. We can do so by supporting students to ask these questions of any supposed “research” study.

Question 1: Who’s doing the study? AUTHORITY OF SOURCE

Question 2: Who are the participants and how representative are they? EVIDENCE SOURCE

Question 3: What instruments are used? COLLECTION OF EVIDENCE/METHOD

Question 4: What causes what? ANALYSIS OF EVIDENCE; CAUSALITY VS. CORRELATION

In today’s world, these are essential learnings in any subject area and at every grade level.

Find a free resource on teaching to control information pollution here.

Thanks to Kayla, Chandra, and Jeff for contributing their thoughts.

The question of the week is:

What are the most effective ways you use ed tech in your classroom, and how do you define “effective”?

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at [email protected]. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email. And if you missed any of the highlights from the first 12 years of this blog, you can see a categorized list here.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

News

Less than two weeks after a Pennsylvania school board unanimously voted to cancel a gay author’s anti-bullying speech at a middle school, the board...

News

new video loaded: Johnson Condemns Pro-Palestinian Protests at Columbia University transcript Back transcript Johnson Condemns Pro-Palestinian Protests at Columbia University House Speaker Mike Johnson...

News

A wave of pro-Palestinian protests spread and intensified on Wednesday as students gathered on campuses around the country, in some cases facing off with...

Academies

Scrapping single-phrase Ofsted judgments would lead to civil servants, politicians and the media “drawing their own conclusions” about schools from the narrative in reports,...