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What’s an Interesting Use for EdTech That Many Haven’t Tried Yet?

FETC registered logoThe 2019 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place in Orlando, Florida, from January 27-30. In this Presenter Q&A Roundtable, a number of conference presenters share their perspectives on some of the compelling education questions of today. Read below to see what they shared, and to find out what sessions each will present at FETC.

What is one interesting use for edtech that many educators may not have yet tried, but should?

From my view as an educator and as a parent, I see a majority of my colleagues still using edtech primarily for skill and drill and parent communication.  However, I do not see as many adopting a makerspace mentality. There are numerous ways edtech can be integrated with STEAM in order to meet cross-curricular objectives, including social-emotional learning, ELA, and Social Studies.  When we empower students to create with digital tools, we give them a voice. Students with whom I speak are often frustrated or disengaged with learning at school because the curriculum does not seem relevant to their tech savvy brains.  We need to move beyond requiring PowerPoint presentations to providing options for fun and interesting individual or group-based projects, such as comics, digital posters, movie trailers, songs, photo galleries, playlists, etc. What is holding us back from encouraging more creativity in the classroom?  Is it a lack of devices, connectivity, know-how, or ideas? What would happen if we ask our students to lead the way?

Supporting students who have challenging behaviors or social-emotional issues can be daunting even for seasoned educators. Technology can be a game changer as the format can be perfect for discreetly handling student difficulties. The KidConnect app for the iPad was designed to support the social-emotional needs of students without the need to pull them from the classroom.  In just a few short minutes, students can get to the source of their issues by following a self-driven route based on Cognitive Behavioral Theory. KidConnect helps students understand the emotions that drive their behaviors by either speaking or typing their responses to a few specific questions. Then they take a strategy to use in the next time they feel the same emotion.  Over time, students learn to connect their emotions to their behaviors and find more classroom-friendly ways to express them. Because everyone’s needs aren’t the same, teachers can customize KidConnect for each student. Check it out.

One use for EdTech I love sharing with educators is how to use virtual reality without a headset. There are so many great resources for 360 panoramic images and 360 video. YouTube has channels dedicated to curating this type of content and although it might seem gimmicky at first, virtual reality is a powerful classroom technology. Students can learn about new places they’ve read about in a novel, or explore the same spaces they’ve heard about in a social studies classroom. With free resources available from National Geographic, the BBC, and even the Discovery Channel, students can access virtual reality experiences from a tablet, smartphone or interactive whiteboard – without picking up a headset. You’re students might even become inspired to film their own 360 video content by the end of the school year!

The primary function of technology in education is to provide more options for how learners can access content and then create content to share what they know with others. One interesting use of technology in education is for contemporary educators to us it to design instructional experiences that provide multiple options. When done so, the learner can be put at the center of the instruction, rather than the content or the instructor. When the learner is placed at the center of design, a fundamental shift in how education is conceptualized can occur. This shift in mindset, coupled with the technology, gives educators the opportunity to design instructional experiences for all learners, regardless of their abilities. Technology in education provides an opportunity for every educator to challenge themselves to design instruction with flexibility and variability to meet everyone’s needs.

  • Chris Bugaj, Inclusive Design Coach, Loudoun County Public Schools

I think using edtech as a tool for all students to learn self regulation is an overlooked opportunity to proactively address behavior. Apps like “Moodmeter” for grade 5 through adults, “Peek-a-Pak” for K-5, and “Breathe Think Do with Sesame” for Pre-K-2, can teach students easy strategies to deal with and eventually understand their emotions in a healthy way. If we could invest more time in using edtech tools like these to teach and help students practice social emotional regulation, we could diffuse some big behavior problems before they start and build the foundation for student success not only in academics, but in life.

  • Mia Laudato, Technology Resource Specialist, FDLRS Action Resource Center

One of the most interesting and impactful applications of edtech that many educators have not yet tried, but should, is this: Have students use digital tools to regularly gather data on their effort, progress, and their emotional states throughout their learning journeys. Learners can use any cloud-based multimedia production tool such as Google Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Evernote, or FlipGrid, to track and visualize these powerful mastery indicators during the three phases of learning–surface, deep, and knowledge transfer (Hattie, 2016). Using edtech in this way provides students with rich opportunities for reflection on their learning while building their capacity for deeper reflection-during-learning. Student use of edtech for compiling and analyzing their learning data closes a powerful feedback loop that generated by the learner him or herself, not their teachers. However, when coupled with the necessary guidance provided by their teachers, this type of data collection serves to build students’ capacity for self-reflection, self-regulation, and self-determination (Magana, 2017).

I think that all teachers should try using edtech resources found within Google or Microsoft to create forms that track and analyze data. It’s what our session is all about.  The idea that data collection can be made less time consuming and that educators can immediately analyze the data they have collected to inform their practice and instruction is super exciting.

  • Robin Williams, Human Resource Development Specialist, FDLRS Action Resource Center

What are effective ways to use edtech or digital content to enhance student engagement?

The idea of a “brain break” has gone viral in elementary schools, but the truth is that we all need one every so often to maintain our engagement. A great strategy to begin introducing more edtech into the classroom is through play and a mental check-in. Whether you play a quick Shmoop video as a movie trailer to the next concept you introduce or play a Kahoot game that’s infused with educational facts, there are many ways to allow technology to break up your traditional classroom flow.

Let’s rethink assessment. Does it matter in which way students prove that they’ve learned something as long as there is evidence? Technology can enable students to show their competency in a way that is reflective of themselves and their learning style. Maybe one student pretends they’re a teacher recording a video lesson for others to view. Another student writes an article or blog post about the lessons learned. A student could even demonstrate mastery by applying the skills learned to a new concept. Maybe instead of taking a quiz, the students have to build a digital one they can swap with their neighbor. There is no ceiling to the creativity we can have and can enable our students to explore the traditional guidelines we’ve established in school.

The action of laughter is a universal symbol of connection. When you laugh, you share in a joyful emotion with other people and it enables a sense of connectivity, comfort, and familiarity. At any given moment in a classroom it’s safe to say that some students have drifted to processing stress from home, a feeling of anxiety, or even a sense of isolation and loneliness. Through technology, the most accessible tool to our students, we can immediately connect students to something of a positive distraction and a redirect their focus to their surroundings. An example could be after a section of a lesson that ran long, get students to engage in a Shmoop video relevant to the subject. Guarantee a bit of laughter, a dynamic change, and connection to the lesson. In another scenario, conduct a quick survey with a mix of questions that are humorous and relevant. Maybe you ask something like which two students are wearing their hair the same, how many people were a bit confused by a topic discussed, what is the best caption for a meme? Due to technology, students can easily relate, connect, and react to the answers of the whole class. A moment of forced connection with peers and engaged distraction can serve as relief, reset, and refocus.

  • Kelsey Olson, Director of Partnerships and Services, Shmoop. Visit Shmoop at Booth 1649 in the FETC Expo.

I want to take a step back to look at this question from a different angle, and ask how we should think about creating edtech in ways that will enhance student engagement. The answer we’re exploring right now at the Conrad Challenge is this: let students take a lead role in the process of designing innovative edtech.

Education is one of the only fields that doesn’t invite the consumer or end-user to participate in the product development process. To increase engagement and, with it, achievement, we have to change that. In this year’s Transforming Education Through Technology competition category of the Conrad Challenge, we’ve partnered with SMART Technologies® to put this into action. Student teams are reconsidering the physical space of learning environments, schools’ curriculum and content, how content is delivered, and more, as they develop new edtech fueled by their passion and creativity.

Educators can promote student engagement by sharing high-quality, relevant video content and providing opportunities for students to create with digital tools. One way to use EdTech to engage students in creation activities is through the use of open-ended creation tools. Students can combine multimedia to share the story of their learning using a movie-making tool like Adobe Spark or an ebook creation tool like Book Creator. This gives students an open space to demonstrate what they’ve learned about a topic and share this with an audience. A second way to use EdTech to engage students is through the use of high-quality, relevant video content. I love the resources on Ted-ED’s website and the 360 videos you can access through the New York Times and CNN.

In today’s world, students are constantly consuming digital content. There is a fine line between “content” and “educational content”, but utilizing a curiosity-based learning approach can easily turn the traditional digital content into educational material. Through curiosity-based learning, digital content becomes the doorway to spark a students interest. Once there, it becomes much easier to implement a lesson or integrate traditional learning material by connecting it to the digital content, all linking back to a student’s own personal interests. This is something we focus on day in and day out here at Belouga.

This article originally appeared on The Ed Tech Round Up

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