How to harness the power of voice during online learning
With most schools looking at online instruction for the remainder of the school year, creating a virtual space where we can keep learning going and engage students in meaningful and authentic work is important.
Moving instruction beyond the traditional classroom space, or finding ways to extend the “space” of learning for our students, has been a topic of discussion for many years, so it is not new. It is simply something that, perhaps, educators thought would evolve over time. However, with the current COVID-19 situation, educators and schools have to act quickly and sort through the many resources available.
Selecting digital tools
Having a specific platform or digital tool in place that all students can access and that all educators can use is key. With so many choices out there, it can be tough to figure out where to begin, especially when time is a factor.
As I’ve been talking with some friends over the past few weeks and offering a series of webinars, the biggest concern is the fear of overwhelming students and their families with a lot of tools from their teachers. We have also discussed the importance of trying new things, especially now, as we decide how to best provide for our students through the rest of the academic year.
One of the things that I miss the most are the conversations with students and being able to interact within our classrooms. While there are other forms of communication—email, messaging apps, blogging, or other presentation formats—there is something about the power of voice. The teachers that I work with want to read to students, have students engage in discussions, create their own representation of learning, and more.
One of teachers’ biggest concerns now: the fear of overwhelming students and their families with a lot of digital tools.
Considering multimedia options for engagement, interaction
There are two tool types that I recommended trying because of their versatility and multimedia options. These tools are also good for engaging families in fun activities, such as recording video messages for family and friends or even creating a family album.
- Social learning tools. Flipgrid is an example of a resource for educators and families that allows them to learn together and connect to share experiences. Educators can record videos; screen-record; and add additional content with tools such as Adobe Spark, Buncee, Nearpod, Newsela, Wakelet and Wonderopolis. Students can use Flipgrid to post reflections, ask questions and respond to more than 10,000 ready-to-launch topics. A new feature is the Flipgrid inbox, which is a way for students to record individual questions for their teachers.
- Multimedia creation tools. Buncee is one such tool that enables teachers to set up classes, share assignments, provide feedback, and send updates and newsletters. Teachers can create a parent newsletter, including many activities for remote learning that students and families can enjoy. Teachers at my school have used this tool to send newsletters; record weekly greetings; create interactive lessons; share class updates; and create digital activities and send them instantly to students. It is fun to create and choose from more than 31,000 stickers, animations, 3D objects and graphics, with the added benefit of being able to record audio or add video. (For more ideas, educators can view webinars and join the Educator Community on Facebook.)
While there are many tools available, finding one or two that offer many options for remote instruction is helpful. With these tools, we can provide more authentic and meaningful learning experiences that engage students in the online learning space, while also fostering a way for them to connect with their classmates and teachers.
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®.
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