Author: Nicole Heinlein | Grades 6-8 English Learner Teacher and Coordinator
Reflecting on the 20-21 school year, when teachers were thrust into distance learning and had to figure out how to deliver digital lessons in an engaging way, we learned so much and tried so many different EdTech tools. But now as we move back to mostly in-person learning, some teachers have ditched those tools for their trusty paper/pencil activities from their old filing cabinet. However, I’m here to convince you that some of these EdTech tools are still valuable.
Raise your hand if you’ve had kids out this year due to illness, close contact, quarantine after travel, visiting family, participating in sports tournaments, and even more. All of us have.
Using Google Classroom can help students keep up on assignments while they’re gone or even catch up once they get back. All students need support with executive functioning skills, and Classroom both reinforces and supports everyday learning by providing a common place to find resources. No need for that hanging file with missing work when students can do it digitally on their own time. Even if I have students complete an assignment on paper in class, I attach it as a Google Doc on Classroom for absent students to do at home. It also is helpful for students who lose that paper copy. I no longer have to rush and make more copies, I simply direct them to Classroom and ask them to complete it digitally. If you have Grade Book Sync set up, your Google Classroom can talk to your Student Information System and push assignments and grades from Classroom to your SIS. That’s a game changer right there, because you don’t have to enter grades twice. So even in this face-to-face, post distance learning world, Google Classroom is a piece of tech that I will continue to use going forward.
This was my favorite EdTech discovery of 2020. Pear Deck is a Google Slides add-on that makes your slides interactive, making it a perfect compliment to my Google Classroom. The response options are: Text, Multiple Choice, Number, Website and with a premium subscription Draw, and Draggable TM. Other premium features include the option for the teacher to add audio to each slide (think audible directions) and an impressive immersive reader with translation options. As an English Learner teacher, I find that Pear Deck is so helpful both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I’m using Pear Deck for my 6th grade novel study. We are currently reading Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier, a graphic novel about a family whose youngest child has cystic fibrosis and moves to a northern California town that is known for their Dia de Los Muertos celebration. I linked websites, such as YouTube and BrainPOP, to support background knowledge of cystic fibrosis, California Missions, and Mexican traditions. In our vocabulary development, I want students to attune to particular multiple-meaning words, so I can set the Pear Deck to student-paced for students to work independently on looking up synonyms, writing their own sentences, and drawing a sketch using the Draw option. After we read the chapter together, students can answer comprehension questions using the Text option. I can display student responses on my TV screen to highlight interesting ideas to spark our oral discussion. Allowing students to write their ideas first supports their verbal development. And I love that responses are displayed without names, so students are not embarrassed or afraid of getting an incorrect answer. Out of the classroom, students are supported to complete this activity on their own through the Pear Deck tools. I can record myself reading the chapter so students can read along with me and still get that support at home. I also love that students do not need to leave the Pear Deck session to complete the entire assignment, even though there are multiple parts. It helps keep students organized. There are pre-created Pear Decks on the website to help me get started, question templates, or I can create my own lesson on Google Slides. And if I ever lose access to the Pear Deck platform, the decks I created are still housed in my Google Drive and are accessible and owned by me.
The last program that I will continue to use is Kahoot!, a gamification learning platform. Kahoot! is great for a quick quiz, a pre-assessment to see what students already know, or even a fun way to let loose! In my classroom, I often use Kahoot! for a quick comprehension assessment. I teach a reading intervention program that includes an oral quiz at the end of each level. I turn those into Kahoot! games and we play it together in class. Kahoot! tells me what each student scored individually, whether they played it live in class or at home on their own. I find more students participate and they have more fun than the oral quiz from the curriculum. My husband, a 7th grade PE teacher, also uses Kahoot! with his homeroom that meets in my classroom. On Fridays, he’ll pick a random game from the platform, then the winner gets to pick the next topic. They have played games like Harry Potter trivia, American football rules, and Japanese anime. It's a fun way for them to bond and wind down after a long week. We have also played Kahoot! around the dinner table at home! We each get out our phones and take turns picking a game to play. We even got Grandma involved during her last visit! Taking the opportunity to turn a quick quiz into a game or just having fun together as a class, Kahoot! will stay in my lesson plans and pacing guides moving forward.
In an effort to support and engage our students in a relevant way, what programs and platforms have stood the test of time over these past two years for you? Tag us @HSTEorg on Twitter and @hsteorg on Instagram to share your thoughts on your favorite EdTech tools that continue to be in your practice - We’d love to hear!