Versatile tools to facilitate methods and build essential skills
Students need opportunities to build a variety of skills in our classrooms. They need to develop essential SEL skills and engage in learning experiences that promote student agency and spark curiosity. There are a variety of methods and digital tools that help to promote collaboration, communication, creativity, and many of these essential skills. We must always start by focusing on the why the choices we make. Consider the content that you are teaching and then choose a method such as learning stations, choice boards, hyperdocs, or project-based learning (PBL) for example, to amplify and transform the learning experiences. Once you decide on a method, then explore tools that will help to facilitate the method. There is so much power when we purposefully leverage digital tools and methods that help students not only build content knowledge but to collaborate with and learn from each other.
As students participate more in learning which is self-directed through a method like PBL or the use of choice boards for how to show their learning, they will become more confident and engage in meaningful learning experiences. Authentic, meaningful, and relevant learning will increase student motivation and boost engagement. To best prepare for their future whether in education or careers, students need to be connected with real-world learning experiences. According to the Job Skills Outlook from the World Economic Forum, the skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, problem solving and resilience are in demand. When faced with challenges, it is important that students can deal with stress, understand and manage emotions, and be able to set goals to work through these challenges.
Choosing methods and tools can take some time, however, when it comes to starting with new digital tools, many offer ready-to-run lessons and templates. There are also many options available that take little time to get started with and offer versatile uses for the classroom. Here are 8 options (in alphabetical order) that can help with fostering the development of SEL and future-focused skills for students.
- Book Creator fosters collaboration and enables educators to connect students with peers, even globally, which is a great way to develop social awareness and in particular, empathy as they learn. With PBL, students can create a book for use as a journal or an artifact of learning whether working independently or in small groups. Students can collaborate on a book and include audio, video, text, and images and even comment on each other’s books
- Canva: For creating presentations or infographics and many other types of designs, students have so many choices with Canva. As preparation for the future, students can design a resume and business cards, which would be great for doing entrepreneurial-focused activities in the classroom. Canva has a drag-and-drop interface and thousands of templates to choose from.
- Elementari is a coding and digital storytelling tool we started to use this year in my STEAM course. Since students need to develop STEM skills and there is an increasing need for coding in the world of work, Elementari helps students to build these skills in authentic ways. Elementari has more than 10,000 illustrations and sounds for students to choose from when writing their story.
- Google Jamboard. Whether using it as a discussion space or for brainstorming ideas in or out of class, Jamboard is a versatile tool. It creates a quick way to have students work together in a collaborative space and helps to foster digital citizenship skills too.
- Prezi: Students can use Prezi to create and collaborate on a project or to use it for independent design. With Prezi, students can create an engaging presentation that includes images, videos, and other multimedia. Using presentation tools other than PowerPoint helps students to learn new technology skills and also fosters creativity in learning.
- StoryJumper is a digital storytelling platform that promotes student choice and voice in learning. There are different background scenes, characters, font types, and props to choose from. My students really enjoy designing their own characters. Students can narrate their stories and collaborate with classmates on writing a book. StoryJumper can be used in all grade levels and students can even have their books printed. I recommend creating an account and seeing what students come up with!
- Wakelet offers many possibilities for classroom use. Students can have their own Wakelet to add artifacts of work, collaborate with peers, or even record Flip videos to share their learning. Some of my students used Wakelet for PBL and created a Wakelet collection to share their resources with classmates. Having these shared collections enables students to explore new ideas and perspectives. Wakelet also has Immersive Reader which promotes accessibility.
- Video tools: Students can also use some of the video creation tools to collaborate and create a representation of learning. Using Flip to record videos or even teach a lesson, or WeVideo to use all of the editing tools and features, gives students another way to express themselves and collaborate with classmates.
When we create learning experiences that will more meaningfully engage students with the content, while also aiming to move them from consumers to creators, it increases student engagement and amplifies student achievement. With these tools, we also promote collaboration which is a crucial skill that is valued by employers and can greatly benefit students in their academic and professional careers.
Technology has created new and exciting ways for students to build collaboration skills and work together on projects, no matter where they are. By using versatile digital tools and methods that promote the development of SEL skills, students will gain valuable experience working with others and build the skills that are essential for success in their careers.
Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.
She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU”, “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” and her newest book “Things I Wish […] Knew” is now available at bit.ly/thingsiwishedu.
Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at https://anchor.fm/rdene915
Author: Jacie Maslyk is an educator, leader, and speaker. She is also the author of Unlock Creativity: Opening a World of Imagination With Your Students, a book that shares simple ways to develop creativity in yourself and in your students.