Are you waiting for more bandwidth in your school or computers in your classroom before you take the plunge into edtech and blended learning?
Wait no more. Based on a study released last Spring by the Pew Research Center, your classroom may not be wired, but your students are definitely connected. In fact, 95% of teens ages 12-17 have access to the internet and by some estimates nearly half of them are carrying around their own smartphones.
With a little bit of effort, some accommodations, and the right blended learning tools, you can deliver motivating and technology-rich learning experiences to the small percentage of students who don’t quite have access at home. Using BYOD and purposeful infusion of edtech tools, you can also successfully incorporate technology into your lessons and activities when not in a 1:1 technology environment.
Each of the tools below are FREE and available on smartphones, tablets and laptop/desktop computers, which means your students can complete their work or connect with you on almost any device. These dynamic and comprehensive tools provide access to ongoing data that will improve teaching and learning in your classroom.
Establish Your Communication Hub
Using Edmodo as the hub of your student’s online learning provides a place that keeps students organized and connected both in and out of the classroom.
Create an account on Edmodo and use it as your online home base with all of your students. Students create their own account and enroll in your class. You can post your assignments, poll your students, share videos, divide students into learning groups, give quizzes, and maintain a calendar of events. By posting the daily agenda and links to resources, absent students can connect from anywhere and get started on make-up work.
Learning becomes social and visible using Edmodo: students can share their ideas in online discussions, post their work to receive comments from classmates, and receive instant scores on quizzes. Students can submit assignments to you through Edmodo that you can view, grade and even annotate. Parents can also access Edmodo by creating an account and linking it to their child’s account to keep track of their child’s progress.
Edmodo’s infrastructure keeps students and teachers connected, extending the boundaries of the class period. High school Choral teacher, Carolyn Placa has her students use their personal devices in class to record their singing and upload to Edmodo for peer review as homework, and high school German teacher, Vicky Matthew, keeps her students communicating outside of the classroom by posting resources and having her students respond in German, practicing their budding language skills. Also, Edmodo’s partnership with other edtech companies such as No Red Ink, Pixton, and Dogo News, enables your students to access a plethora of other online tools through their Edmodo accounts. No need to remember multiple logins and passwords!
Again, Edmodo is accessible on almost all devices so you can leverage your students’ connectedness to get started and stay organized using tech in your classroom.
Make Reading Interactive
Curriculet offers an amazing digital reading platform that fundamentally changes how you assign and track student progress on any reading assignment you include in your curriculum. Use Curriculet to place a layer of Common Core aligned questions, quizzes, videos, images, and text annotations on top of any text you teach from novels to Science labs, primary documents to current event articles.
As students read on Curriculet, questions and quizzes jump out of the text. Students can get the definition of any word they encounter by double-clicking/tapping on it, and they can annotate the text as they read. When they read on Curriculet, students get instant feedback on their comprehension of the text and can access videos and images that make the text more meaningful. Teachers can customize the annotations, questions, and quizzes, so you can better meet the needs of your students. Hank Klos, a high school History teacher uses Curriculet in a limited-access to tech classroom, explaining, “ I utilize Curriculet as a homework tool for my AP United States History classes with primary documents. By doing it this way I have found that all the students have access to “some” type of device to accomplish the tasks.”
There are already hundreds of “ready-to-teach” layers available on the site for popular novels, poems, news articles, and primary resources. If you can’t find the text you want to teach in their store, you can easily upload your own documents or grab content like news articles from the web. They also recently announced a partnership with HarperCollins <http://www.curriculet.com/blog/new-harpercollins-titles-available-curriculet/> allowing you to essentially rent many of their most popular copyright protected ebooks for as low as .99¢ per student per text. Public domain texts will always be free on Curriculet. For districts that are budget-conscious, Curriculet meets their needs for providing resources for their students, as English teacher Natalee Stotz can attest, “Curriculet opens up a world of literature to my classroom that I might otherwise not have access to. We are a small school with little money. By using Curriculet, I am able to provide all students with access to texts as well as teaching tools.”
Best of all, you get data reports showing you who read the text and completed the embedded questions and quizzes and who did not. You can also track student understanding and mastery of Common Core standards. Morgan Toal, a high school English teacher, uses Curriculet to track reading assignments, stating, “ I’ve used it for our most recent unit on drama – my students scored better overall using Curriculet to read the material, and I’ve tracked all that data so I know it’s true! Since my students love technology, but not everyone has the ability to use a computer at home, homework is given as two options: the traditional textbook route, or several informational texts via Curriculet. Homework scores have skyrocketed and my students really enjoy reading the articles.”
Curriculet is browser-based and can be accessed on any browser-enabled device from smartphones to tablets to laptops. Students can start their reading assignment in your classroom and finish it on their smartphone while riding the bus. No more excuses about forgetting books in lockers or losing photocopies of articles. By using Curriculet on a personal device, students can have just about any text readily available at their fingertips.
Keep Students Invested
There is a reason why ClassDojo is growing like wildfire. ClassDojo makes it easy to hold students accountable in your classroom for good decision making and behavior.
Using their simple interface, available on any computer or mobile device, you can award your students points for the decisions and behaviors you want to reinforce and deduct points for choices and behaviors that are disruptive or off-task.
It is simple and quick to add custom behaviors on both the positive and negative side so that the tool fits your classroom goals and expectations. Liz Calderwood, a Middle School science teacher uses Class Dojo on her teacher computer and iPad during labs stating, “I use it to ensure that the lab groups are focused, on task, following the safety rules and not disrupting other groups. I have created different positive and negative awards that correspond with the behaviors that I am trying to enforce or deter. As the students are working, I walk around giving out positive or negative awards. The points are then added to their lab grade.” Class Dojo can also be used for test reviews according to Calderwood, “I play a Jeopardy style review game where each team picks an avatar, and I use Class Dojo to keep track of the team scores.”
Students and parents can create accounts using a code you give to them. By all accounts, students and parents are eager to login at the end of the day to see how they did that day and over time.
Flip and Blend Math Instruction
The first breakthrough tool for blending learning and flipping instruction in your classroom is still the go-to product for delivering Math instruction by leveraging student connectedness. Khan Academy offers an unsurpassed breadth and depth of Math content including videos and problem sets for third grade through college level Math classroom. They also offer additional content for the Humanities, Science, and Coding.
A healthy library of videos providing instruction are easily watched and accessed on any device. The personalized learning engine automatically creates problem sets based upon the student’s performance, providing continuous feedback on student progress and encouragement to persist to mastery. Heather Beattie, a MIddle School Math teacher, uses Khan Academy for supplemental learning to strengthen previously taught math skills and provide practice for new skills, stating “I can see their progress, their answers to all of their questions, and I can see if they are struggling. It gives me a lot of visibility into how they are approaching questions. For homework assignments, I make them due in a week so that students who don’t have a computer at home can use the library.” Beattie has even used the Spanish version of the Khan Academy for her ESL students. Students can show their math skills no matter the language!
Students can create an account independent of your class, or join your class or group so that their progress is available to you in helpful reports. Both students and teachers can earn badges celebrating usage milestones and achievement.
Teaching in a 1:1 environment provides limitless learning opportunities for educators and students, but having limited technology in your classroom should not inhibit your ability to purposefully use technology in a limited-access or BYOD classroom. Using free tools such as Edmodo, Curriculet, Class Dojo, and Khan Academy, you and your students can stay connected and engage in interactive digital learning.