How to create spaces for students to connect and learn online

Boosting remote discussion and collaboration with ed-tech tools
By: | April 28, 2020
(Photo by Surface on Unsplash)(Photo by Surface on Unsplash)
Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC.

Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC.

With so much technology available to us today, finding the right platform or tool to use in our classrooms (online and in-person) can present some challenges. Among them:

  • Which tools will benefit our students the most?
  • What purpose will each tool serve for our students and for our professional growth?
  • How does technology enable us to provide more for our students?
  • And perhaps one of the most common questions: How much time will I need to get started?

When it comes to technology use, there are also concerns, such as access for students, the cost involved (if any), privacy and security, and how any collected data will be used. We must consider each one when we bring tools into our schools (and into online learning) and also focus on each tool’s purpose. 


Read: 208 free K-12 resources during coronavirus pandemic


Fostering learning beyond the classroom

What are some ed-tech options that allow students to communicate and share learning beyond the traditional classroom? I will cover three that educators can use to promote student choice, foster the development of digital citizenship skills, and extend learning to meet students’ interests and needs. Using them, students can be creators, rather than simply consumers. They can take initiative and decide which tool format best suits their needs and interests, and then use it to build skills in more personalized ways.

Educators can use ed-tech tools to promote student choice, foster the development of digital citizenship skills, and extend learning to meet students’ interests and needs.

These ed-tech options also allow educators to hear from each student and to provide the authentic, specific and timely feedback that is important for student growth. Each tool can be used to facilitate global collaboration between classrooms, promoting cultural awareness and creating a more authentic and meaningful learning experience.

The three tools are: 

  1. Wakelet, a free tool, has become a versatile one in the past few months. It started as a content curation tool, and I used it to bring together a variety of resources. Due to the recent integrations with tools such as Buncee and Flipgrid, educators can now use it for student collaboration on projects, discussions, resource sharing, and recording of short videos. Students can use it as a digital journal or to create a mix of responses to evidence-based learning.
  2. Parlay is a discussion platform in which teachers can create their own discussion question or topic or select from the discussion topic library. With Parlay, students use a code to join a discussion; they can join a live roundtable or continue it asynchronously. For the prompt, students have materials to review and can then submit their responses, provide peer feedback, and participate in a Socratic-style discussion. Teachers have access to data and can provide feedback to students in a timely, more personalized manner. (Parlay offers some free prompts as well as a paid subscription option.)


    Read: How to make STEAM hands-on—behind a screen


  3. YoTeach! is a free backchannel communication tool, which has become an alternative to the now shuttered Today’s Meet. Using YoTeach!, educators can create a chat room to post questions and moderate discussions. They can delete responses and control who is communicating within the chat room. Some additional interactive features: the option to submit a drawing, create a poll, use the voting feature, and promote collaboration between students. All are helpful for fostering the development of social-emotional learning skills.

Rachelle Dene Poth (@Rdene915) is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC®.


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.


Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.