For this week’s blog post, we have a guest writer with years of experience in edTech – both teaching himself as well as training teachers on how to incorporate tech into their classrooms.
Justin Degonda grabbed his M.Ed. from the University of Minnesota, has seven years in educational technology as an Associate Director of IT and Applications for 42 schools on the east coast of the United States and as an IT Director for a bilingual school in Central America.
It does not matter if the classroom is online or in a physical space, studies show student engagement is key to great learning results! Why? Because interaction with learning material engages more than just listening or reading. Good educational technology assists you (the teacher) in designing and delivering an engaging learning environment AND activates student learning potential. When utilized correctly, it’s a great combination for a teacher to create an inspiring learning environment for students.
An effective way to enhance student learning with the help of technology is by integrating automatically corrected quizzes into student work. By assigning students an interactive learning video that stops them throughout the video, quizzing their learning along the way, is a great way to gauge if students understand or not. “Stop and play” quizzes provide students an opportunity to reflect on learning, practice active recall and consolidate knowledge, all important steps in the learning process. It gives no extra work to teachers as the quizzes are graded automatically and teachers are provided with results in real time. This in turn gives the teacher an opportunity to adapt current and future lesson plans to difficult parts of a topic so students get immediate feedback on what they need help with the most, thus helping students improve their performance.
Scaffolding alongside technology is an effective combination, but let’s not forget the importance of teachers as well. As a teacher you have one thing that can not be replaced in education today, emotion! Your attitude drives the learning environment for students and provides students with opportunity to connect with the material being learned. Technology has shifted the role of an educator from a deliverer of knowledge to a mentor of learning, most predominantly in “flipped” classrooms. Think about that for a second. As a mentor of knowledge your job is still to engage student learning by implementing good scaffolding techniques. However, with technology teaching students outside the classroom through videos and quizzing at the same time, it provides an opportunity to shift teaching strategy to focus more time on topics of struggle. In other words, you are scaffolding more often. Good support can be displayed through positive attitude and emotion to engage students when scaffolding.
Be inquisitive and be creative. Search for great material by looking at the results of homework or quizzes. If the students’ work reveals that a teaching strategy did not work, switch it up. Each group of students has their topic of struggle. As an example, I was teaching a Java programming class in 2015 where I implemented interactive videos with stop and play quizzes in between. The quizzes gave my invaluable knowledge about what students struggled with and with this insight, I knew I had to teach differently, but also that some topics are more difficult than others for students.
The fact that I could get my results in real time as well gave me an advantage of being agile and continuously adapt my classes to the students’ challenges. So, if I found a challenging topic from the quizzes, I included a different teaching strategy for the next lesson. At one point, I even brought in several toy cars and a small stop sign to show students how “classes” can be represented in Java programming and the resulting quiz afterwards showed that they mastered the concept. This way of teaching gives me feedback about how well I teach, but also feedback on how I can help students improve. And seeing students climb that knowledge ladder is at the end of the day what’s important.
There are many small steps you can take to be an effective user of technology in your classroom.
First of all, adapt to the material quickly. Find what students are struggling with from interactive quizzes as soon as students finish. This will provide you with quick data points to realign student learning to focus on topics of struggle.
Secondly, learn the technology. I often see this as an area of struggle for more veteran teachers that did not grow up with technology in the classroom or in their household while growing up. With user intuitive technology this is now becoming less of an problem. Bottom line, do not be afraid to get assistance from a help desk offered by the school, or even the resources help desk. Learning the technology and all the tools it offers will help you become a more effective integrator of technology and free up more of your time after it is learned. Yes, it might take time to learn the technology. However, once you have a comfortable level of knowledge, it will become easier.
Finally, use great scaffolding to drive student learning. Online this can be done through forum posts or messages that provide good written scaffolding techniques. In the physical classroom, emotion can drive student learning through engaging questions, discussions, and lectures. Most importantly, do not forget to scaffold using a positive attitude and emotional connection to the topics. Good technology integration brings the teacher closer to the student learning process. It should be an assistant to your scaffolding.
– Justin Degonda, M.Ed.