5 Simple EdTech Wins for Beginners!

It appears that confidence is still a major barrier that prevents some teachers from using EdTech to its full potential to really enhance both teaching and learning in their classrooms. I’m a fan of quotes and I feel this one is appropriate as it sums up the impact action can have on confidence:

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.Dale Carnegie

It goes without saying that the he more often you do something, the quicker you will become more confident in doing it. Trialling something new can be daunting at first for many. However, the more often you do this, the less fearful you will be. In fact, you may even find trying new things more exciting, particularly when you see spectacular results!

You may be able to place yourself in one of the following categories based on your confidence in using technology in the classroom:

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(Image Credit: Mark Anderson. For more information, check out Mark’s full post, “Teacher confidence in using technology”)

This post is aimed at those who feel they are at the Survival end of the scale. It is worth remembering that using technology should have impact. Models like SAMR (more about that here) help educators plan activities that aim to have a significant impact on outcomes. For example, there is little, if any benefit in terms of learning if students type an essay on their device instead of hand writing it. We should aspire to do better than that!

Here, I will look to provide 5 simple things that you can use in your classrooms and hopefully, in turn, enhance your confidence in using EdTech.

My 5 Simple Wins

1.) Gamify classroom management
You can quickly and easily turn behaviour management into a game with the help of ClassDojo (Available for Free on the App Store). This app is a behaviour management tool which focuses on encouraging positive behaviour in the classroom by giving students instant feedback and works superbly well with children at Key Stage 3 and below. Students either receive or lose points (see image below) depending on their behaviour during a lesson. To setup ClassDojo, simply sign up for a free account and enter the names of the students in your class and you’re ready to go. You can even add your own behaviours and achievements, meaning this can be tailored to best fit you, your classroom and your students. Assigning points is a breeze, simply select the student(s) you wish to assign a point to and select the achievement that applies to them: it’s that easy!

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Find out more about how I’ve been using ClassDojo.

2.) Share digital content with ease
One of the greatest advantages of being in a 1:1 classroom is the sheer amount of quality content that students have at their fingertips and can access on demand. Sometimes, you may want share specific content with pupils, for example a website, article, video, photo, diagram and much more. However, sharing a web link in its traditional format is impractical: imagine wanting to share a photo with students and asking them to type in https://pixabay.com/en/durdle-door-cliffs-dorset-durdle-807294/. Not ideal. Fortunately, there are tools available which make sharing content a breeze!

– QR StuffQR Stuff is a fantastic website that enables you to create QR codes for free. QR codes are very similar to bar codes in the way they act: once they are scanned with a device, the content linked to the code will appear. Best of all, doing this is incredibly easy:

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1.) Choose the type of data you wish to link to (see red rectangle). More often than not, you can leave this as the default setting, “Website URL”.
2.) Copy the URL (or link) for the online content you want to share and paste it in the box (see yellow rectangle).
3.) Once you have pasted the link, the website will generate the QR code. Simply press “Download QR Code” (see green rectangle). This can then be displayed on a Keynote slide or printed for students to scan and access.

To access the content linked to a QR code students will need to have an app capable of reading these installed on their device. There are many available, but my personal favourite is i-nigma QR Code, Data Matrix and 1D barcode reader (Available for Free on the App Store). This is the best I found at doing its job: it can detect QR codes displayed on my projector from the back of my room and the speed in which it does this is incredible!

3.) Get students creating content
Technology provides us with the opportunity to do things now that were previously inconceivable. In particular, we as teachers are now able to develop students that are creators of content as opposed to merely consumers. Thankfully, there are a range of easy to use tools which can help students to create fantastic content for themselves:

– Create a book with Book CreatorBook Creator (Available for Free on the App Store) allows users to create digital iBooks. This enables students to take a written task to another level as they are able to embed a variety of media including text, images, sound and video to their creation. The app has a very simple to use interface (see below) meaning students can start creating with very little instruction from yourself.

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Find out more about how I’ve been using Book Creator.

– Create a video with iMovieiMovie (Available for £3.99 or Free on devices purchased after 1st Sept. 2013 on the App Store) is an incredible app which allows students to create high quality, video content. It is an extremely engaging tool and students love using it. I believe this is because it enables them to create content that they would otherwise be unable to and because the end product looks very professional. As an alternative to a written task, why not get students to create a movie? Creating a trailer is incredibly easy whereby students simply have to choose a theme and change the images/video and text that will be played: the app does the rest for you.

– Create a podcast with Spreaker StudioSpreaker Studio (Available for Free on the App Store) enables students to record, mix and broadcast their very own podcasts. A podcast takes the form of an audio file, similar to a radio show, and provides a great platform for students to verbalise their learning. This can be an engaging alternative to written tasks, particularly with reluctant writers. It has an incredibly easy to use interface: hit the record button and you’re good to go!

4.) AfL that reaches all learners
With the right tools, you can make AfL a breeze! One of my favourite apps for this is Socrative (Available for Free on the App Store). This is a free formative assessment tool which enables you to quickly and easily assess the progress of all within your classroom. In addition, Socrative gives both you and your students instant feedback, meaning any gaps in their knowledge can be identified at the earliest opportunity.

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Above is a screenshot of the Socrative homepage. For an easy EdTech win, why not use the app to ask a Quick Question. You will have the option to either ask a Multiple Choice question, a True/False question or ask for a Short Answer. If you have the question displayed on a Keynote presentation or have said it verbally, you do not even have to type the question into the app! Socrative will then collate student responses and present the data to you, meaning all students have a voice and you can quickly and easily view their responses.

Find out more about how I’ve been using Socrative.

5.) Provide high quality feedback with ease
If you are in a 1:1 classroom, collecting work created on devices is essential. Showbie (Available for Free on the App Store) makes this workflow very simple. However for me, the biggest win when using Showbie is providing high quality feedback to students (see below).

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For me, there are many advantages to using Showbie. Firstly, students can submit work for teacher review with ease. Secondly, everything is securely stored meaning no work ends up getting lost. Finally, it shows a clear conversation between students and teachers. Once they have submitted a piece of work, feedback can be provided with ease, either written or verbally through the Voice Note function (see above). Students can then act up on the feedback received and resubmit the work with the necessary amendments made, inline with the Closing the Gap feedback strategy as advocated by educators like Tom Sherrington:

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 11.29.11 (Based on the work of Tom Sherrington)

Find out more about how I’ve been using Showbie.

Conclusion
Once you see success from using technology within your own classroom, it is likely that your confidence will improve. It is not necessary to employ all of these 5 wins straight away. Maybe opt to focus on one that appeals to you or one that you think will add value to your classroom. Look to own that first! As your confidence grows, be brave, take more risks and you’ll see that the impact technology can have on both teaching and learning can be profound.

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