The start of a new school year can be transformational for students and staff. New beginnings hold the promise of untapped potential: new connections, new experiences, new growth. How are we using technology to harness these opportunities for all students in our classrooms? Below are three key areas to explore this new year.
Empower student choice and voice
August and September are perfect months to create strong class dynamics with student ownership. Use Google Forms to learn more about students (and parents!), providing an easy-to-use platform that can guide preferences, answer questions, and acknowledge concerns that others may be hesitant to share in person. One idea is to create an open-ended “What I Wish My Teacher Knew” form to be used throughout the year. You can adjust the settings on the spreadsheet to receive an email immediately when a form is completed. This will create a safe place all students can communicate with you in a timely, relevant manner.
Look for ways you can provide choice to students throughout the day. When creating assignments, can students select the order of completion or the quantity to complete? Choice boards, both digital and printed, enable students to discover their preferences in workload and provide practical time management skills as deadlines approach. Can students choose who they work with on collaborative projects? Do group projects provide flexibility in content, process, or product? Even small choices such as flexible seating and requesting songs for a class playlist uplift student morale.
What makes our students unique are the same qualities that can propel them to greatness. Celebrate differences by having students respond to questions on Flipgrid, which allows them to share their thoughts while also listening to the diverse perspectives from other classmates. One idea is to create a “Would You Rather” topic where students provide classmates a choice between two options and responses can include a preferred choice with a brief explanation. With the new updates released this summer, students have more options for creativity and can even tap into the power of augmented reality, attaching their videos to items via QR code.
Students can also share stories about their diversity using digital writing platforms, interactive slide decks, and video compilations. Student-initiated passion projects are also powerful to shine a light on topics that matter most to our students.
Every student in your class has the power to make the world a better place with their words and actions. Share conversations with students about the ways they build community, interacting with others both on and off the digital grid. Provide opportunities for students to practice respectful communication, whether through typed comments on a shared document or audio feedback on platforms like Seesaw and Flipgrid. Shine a light on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and encourage students to create innovative solutions for global issues that persist today. Make kindness a daily expectation as students learn more about empathy and compassion for others.
As we look towards a new school year, we are excited to see all the ways technology can be integrated into the curriculum to strengthen relationships and showcase student learning. We hope to see you at our annual VSTE Conference December 8-10, 2019 in Roanoke, VA where we will host more than 325 sessions and learn from inspirational educators including our Sunday Spotlight speaker, Tamara Letter, and Monday Keynote speaker, Michael Bonner. May your new beginnings spark unlimited impact!
Written by Tamara Letter, M.Ed. Tamara has more than twenty years’ experience in education as an elementary teacher, differentiation specialist, instructional coach, and technology integrator. She serves on the VSTE Conference Committee and won the 2018 R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence. Her first book, A Passion for Kindness: Making the World a Better Place to Lead, Love, and Learn was released in February 2019. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram, through her Passion for Kindness Facebook group, or read more of her writing on her website.