Guest blog post by Rachelle Dene Poth, Learning Ambassador
There are a tremendous amount of classroom resources available to help students learn and teachers teach. Supplemental materials can be found within course textbooks, an online search or by using teacher or student created resources. Through a simple online search, within seconds, teachers can locate websites, images, documents, games, videos, and other media formats. What seems like such a simple process, presents challenges for choosing the most beneficial and relevant materials that will enable students to learn the material and help teachers to assess student learning.
How do we face these challenges? We can start with building relationships to better understand student needs and backgrounds. Starting with relationships will enable teachers to provide learning experiences which foster each student’s opportunity for growth and learning in ways that meet their individual needs at their own pace.
Meet Student Needs
Teachers can use technology to differentiate instruction. The types and uses of digital tools changes everyday and with so many choices readily available, it becomes easier to find something for every student. It just takes that first step, maybe some risk taking, trial and error, and then reflecting on how to move forward and grow.
When I try a new tool, I think it is important to ask the students about their experiences. By including the students, we learn how we use technology to provide differentiation in instruction and provide appropriate opportunities for everyone. Student voice is so important and understanding the impact on them, of the different tools used in the classroom can provide the teacher with valuable information and different perspectives. So it is worthwhile to take some time to engage students in conversations to understand what they think about adding new tech in the classroom.
Questions to Ask
Some of the questions are to ask: What do you see as benefits from having choices in projects? Do you notice any differences in how digital tools impact your learning? What tools help you the most? The least?
I greatly value student feedback and when I decide to try something new in class, I explain the why behind my decision. I asked some students in my classes what they thought, and here are some of their responses:
- “Technology allows students to have the freedom to choose how to do projects, homework assignments or other classroom activities. The freedom technology gives to students allows them to thrive and do the best they can. I can be creative and innovative. Classes with technology provide more opportunities.”
- “If all teachers could dive into the world of technology and understand its importance and benefits and take time to explore ways to integrate tools into class, it could make a huge difference in a student’s learning experience.”
- “Having different choices of tools for our project made it easier to find something that I was interested in and comfortable with.”
Try Something New
Hearing from students, understanding how they view technology and the purpose behind using it, really provides a great perspective to teachers. As teachers, we want to empower our students in the classroom, help them take ownership in learning and feel valued in the classroom. By including them in the conversation, and collaborating, we can create a positive classroom culture in which students excel and have opportunities for learning in their own way, at their own pace.
All it takes is for us, as the teacher, to find somewhere to start. We may need to step out of our comfort zone, but there are resources available to help. Connect with other educators, build your PLN, learn from the modules on Hoonuit and use these to begin providing new, beneficial learning experiences for your students.
Rachelle Dene Poth teaches Spanish and STEAM, and is an attorney with a Master’s Degree in IT. Poth is also the Communications Chair for ISTE MLN, President-Elect and Innovations and Resources Co-Chair for Teacher Education Network, and a PAECT Historian. She was selected as 2017 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by PAECT ( ISTE affiliate), named one of “20 to Watch” leaders by NSBA, and authored Chapter 3 on Blended Learning of Edumatch “Snapshot in Education” and Chapter 6 of ISTE’s “Gamify Literacy”.