Edtech has become a ‘buzzword’ in education over the past 18-months. With the entire country plunged into virtual learning, schools had to consider how best to utilise technology as a tool to support their pupils. Since returning to ‘physical schooling’, many places of learning are still looking at an increased implementation of technology within the classroom – something I have been supporting through the Edtech Demonstrator Programme supported by the Department for Education (DfE). This style of ‘blended learning’ acknowledges the huge benefits of technology as a tool for learning as well as appreciating the worrying possibility that a ‘bubble’ may return to the virtual arena.
In this article, I’ve assembled (in no particular order) five of my favourite edtech resources that I use daily within my classroom.
Each day my students arrive in class, open their Microsoft Surface and log into Microsoft Teams. We share the daily timetable on General Channel with the class, where they can log in virtually when learning from home, or simply use to consider the day when at school. They have built-in task lists of work they’re currently continuing, and they can watch back through previous lesson recordings built within Microsoft Stream.
The diverse functionality of Microsoft Teams makes it a staple tool for classroom teaching, learning and communication
Throughout the day they can communicate with their peers in group projects through the chat function, moderated by a teacher, and can complete assignments that are then marked by myself or partner teacher with individual feedback through the use of a built-in rubric.
The diverse functionality of Microsoft Teams makes it a staple tool for classroom teaching, learning and communication.
Supporting the curriculum through videos, articles and quizzes, Discovery Education Espresso provides a wide variety of resources to support the 21st century teacher. With the ability to search quickly for current video resources and then assign them to a pre-built class, it facilitates feedback and assessment. As class teacher, I can view pupil interaction with assigned content and review answers they have given on quizzes.
Beyond the video response tool, Discovery Education offers resources for the entire school curriculum, from historical lessons plans to a digital PSHE programme (Health and Relationships) which includes so much RSE support and advice. Most recently, I have been playing with the AR tools that turn an image on paper into a 3D fact file with the use of a class iPad.
When looking to provide digital resources to my class, I would always recommend Discovery Education’s platform because of its intuitive interface, supportive staff, and high-quality resources.
Providing class-based discussions and peer-to-peer response is a natural way for children to learn from each other as well as from the class teacher. When forced into a virtual arena, this sense of communicative learning was lost. FlipGrid offers a digital response to child-led conversations.
Teachers can create and assign videos within different Topics built into FlipGrid and then allow the children to respond in their own time with short videos. Pupils are then encouraged to respond to each other and comment on videos. By facilitating classroom discussions on a virtual platform, children can respond to tasks in smaller groups, from home and even over the weekend.
FlipGrid has become a necessary app for my classroom, providing each pupil a voice and a platform to be heard.
Built within the Microsoft Teams app, or available by itself, Microsoft OneNote has replaced the need for digital whiteboards and printed worksheets within the contemporary classroom. Where I work (Cornerstone Academy Trust), we utilise OneNote in three keyways. Firstly, as a space for daily, weekly, and termly lesson plans to be kept – fully stocked with relevant teacher-made resources, embedded videos and activity plans. In this space, teachers are encouraged to digital ink, writing on their Microsoft Surface with a pen whilst projecting to a TV within the classroom. The teacher is facilitated, for the first time, to face the class as they talk and write, walk around the room, and engage with the pupils and model correct handwriting.
The second use for OneNote is the provision of a collaboration area, where students are encouraged to collate ideas and are all able to access real-time, commenting, typing and digital inking themselves.
Thirdly, the pupils all have their own area to store a portfolio of their historic work from throughout the Academic Year. A great place for parents to sign in from their mobile devices and home computers to see the hard work that has been accomplished by their child at school.
Microsoft OneNote facilitates teaching and learning within the 21st century classroom and it is something I am seeing more and more schools adopting.
The final app in my list is Sway; this is a browser (and therefore cloud)-based app where smart and professional presentations can be made. I have begun to use Sway alternatively to PowerPoint as children can easily navigate the app, add additional headings and titles, search for images from the web, drag and drop files stored on their PCs and embed resources from select sites.
This app saves automatically, is available through their O365 accounts, can be accessed anywhere and can be shared with anyone through a simple URL.
Sway offers a quicker, simpler, and professional way of pupils presenting their findings, sharing projects, and making ‘basic’ websites – gone are the gaudy PowerPoints full of bright colours, spinning text and stomach-churning transitions.
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