The new tools of our trade?

I want to start by saying hats off to my peers, Amy, Krista, Luke, Elizabeth and Rochelle who presented on the topic of educational software and media. I have to admit that although I am familiar with a lot of different great software and media tools I don’t often integrate them into my classes (insert red embarrassed face here). I can’t say for sure why I haven’t integrated the tools in my classes yet, but a big part of it is the fact that I was out the classroom on mat leave all of last year, so having just been back to work for a month and a half I still feel as thought I’m adjusting to the new routine. When I’m talking about not using the tools, I guess I’m talking about tools like Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet or Explain Everything. I do use other media in the classroom so I will talk about the tools I do use as well as touch on some of the tools I have spent some time exploring in hopes to integrate the into my classes in the future.

One of the tools I use is Edmodo. I enjoy using Edmodo for a variety of reasons. The first is because the interface is similar to Facebook and students so it’s easy to navigate and students feel the same way. One of the biggest benefits is the increased level of communication between students, parents and the teacher. I’ve made a screen cast of my Edmodo page that takes you through some of the features as well as discusses some of the pros and cons of using Edmodo.

I have some EAL students in my class and they spend time working with a language app called Duolingo. I was introduced to this last year when I used it to try and learn some Italian. It has a gaming feel to it and makes learning fun, but the quality of the learning isn’t the best. I used it a lot, but I wasn’t able to actually remember or recall much of the language when I wasn’t using the app or website. To get a feel for how the program works check out my screencast from when I did my post-assessment. During the video you will hear the chime when I respond correctly and a green banner appears. Duolingo is very stimulus-response based lending itself nicely to the behaviourism theory. When I played it was really motivating and the game like features kept making you come back. You can earn badges, points and your progress is tracked making it rewarding to play and learn. The downside to the app is that although there is a lot of repetition it doesn’t allow for deeper connections and learning. To truly learn a language I believe you must converse with people using the language and Duolingo doesn’t provide these types of interactions. Users may chat with others on a forum, but there is no opportunity to speak with others and practice.

Duolingo is a great tool for EAL learners to get additional practice as it is engaging and fun. In order for students to practice outside of the classroom, students need to have access to the website or app. This makes it difficult for students who don’t have access to technology to practice when they are not at school. As a mentioned above, the app itself is not enough for students to master a language, but it is helpful. Language Surfer provides a great list of ways to get the most out of Duolingo and most of them go beyond just playing “the game”. Students who use this need to go beyond the app by writing down new word they learn on paper, writing sentences that they struggle with, reading the hints given by the program and working with others to practice speaking the language they are learning.

Other tools that I have explored for past classes with Alec are Socrative and Explain Everything. Socrative allows you to create quizzes and use exit slips to assess student understanding. I don’t think I would use this tool for summative assessment purposes but I see it as a great tool to get some feedback of learning throughout the unit. Students need to have access to computers, tablets or phones in order to participate so it is difficult to use in a classroom like mine where some students don’t have a phone. I feel like getting computers for everyone would be a lot of hassle to complete a short exit slip or a quiz that will give me some feedback. It is much easier to do a paper exit slip and have students complete it…however not as fun. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app and I have thought about using it in my math classes. I see students using it to walk me through a question while they explain the steps they are using to solve the problem. I see it as an excellent tool to evaluate deeper understanding however it takes time for students to learn how to use the tool so that is something that would need to be considered before it is used in the classroom. You can check out my youtube channel to find the video tutorials I have created for both Socrative and Explain Everything. The videos will give you a better idea of how they work if you are wanting to learn more about them. A few classmates have included great reviews of Plickers and Seesaw; both tools seem beneficial in their own ways. Be sure to check out Plickers as reviewed by Liz and Seesaw as reviewed by Erin (great job guys!).

As I stated earlier, I tend to stay away from many of these question-response type tools because I don’t see a whole lot of value in them for the amount of time it takes to implement them. I do see it as a fun way to review and see the value in using these tools to differentiate the teaching methods. How often do you use these tools? Can you sell me on the value of these tools? I’m not saying I will never use them, but I don’t see myself using them on a regular basis…but maybe I should? Are these the new tools of our educational trade?

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6 thoughts on “The new tools of our trade?

  1. Great post Ashley! If not all my students had phones, I probably wouldn’t use some of the apps for quick reviews and exit slips. You are right; it seems like a lot of hassle to get the computers simply to do one ten minute activity that doesn’t hold a lot of educational value. That being said, like you, I use these things occasionally just to switch up the pace of my regular classroom. I will look into some of the things you brought up in this blog to see if they will work in my classroom like in yours! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Ashley, I agree with you on the technology catch up but I don’t have a mat leave to blame, just my easily overwhelmed self. First of all, thanks for the new tools, Duolingo seems like a really cool program and my group is exploring assistive technologies and this seems like a really neat idea that could help us. In reply to your post, I agree the amount of time to grab devices and set them up can be a huge roadblock in 21st century classrooms. Especially at the beginning of the year I usually give myself an extra 30 minutes to review how to sign on. I agree with Liz, it’s really a good motivator, switch up the pace, as we talked about last week, sometimes its about the entertainment to engage. I find that by switching it up I am able to reach more learning styles. It takes way more work and with slow internet and computer problems all the time, sometimes I question why but it’s getting that one kid who hates writing pen and paper, who can’t sit still to focus on your lecture that I try and think about. During our opening day we were asked “would you want to be a child inside your own classroom” and that message has stuck with me and encouraged me to step beyond my comfort and the methods that I am a traditionalist in. Great post and resources!

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  3. Thank you for sharing this week. I love that you use Edmodo. In one of my most recent classes this is one of the programs that I made note of using in my teaching and learning. With mee being a non tech savy person it seems like a pretty great program to use. I have heard nothing but great things about it and am now once again inspired to step out of my comfort zone and try something new!

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  4. Pingback: Discovering Educational Tool – Allison's Blog

  5. Thanks for posting about Edmodo Ashley. I am completely unfamiliar with this tool and your screencast was really helpful! I also haven’t explored Duolingo before but was wondering if you think it is appropriate for young language learners. I have a couple of students (7 years old) who speak very little English and was wondering if you think this app would be appropriate for them to use at home? If not, are you aware of any other similar apps for children?

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    • Hi Erin, sorry for the late response…things have been a little crazy as of late. Duolingo would be a great tool for young learners. It uses a lot of small sentences and smaller words with pictures to help along the way. It starts of very basic and then gets a little bit tougher but it won’t get more difficult unless the students have mastered the basics so in that way it would be great as well.

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