The start of a new year is a great time to think about the progress we have made so far this year and consider trying some different methods and tools in our classrooms. Taking time to reflect on what has worked, what we have not tried, and areas where we may be having some challenges is important. We want to continue to reflect and implement new strategies and tools that will benefit our students and transform learning.
Just like at the beginning of a new school year, focusing on the continued building of relationships is essential year-round. To do so, we have to be intentional about evaluating our teaching practice and the opportunities that we provide for our students. For our personal and professional growth, we need to make time for reflecting on our daily work as educators. What are some areas that we notice where we have grown in our practice? Are there some methods or tools that we have on our list but have lacked the time to try? Have we asked students for feedback about their experiences in our classroom and what helps them to learn best? I think that this is important for our practice. Using surveys and having conversations with students makes a difference. There are even great tools available for educators to use such as LessonLoop, which helps teachers to better understand student engagement and their specific needs in our classrooms. Another tool that helps educators to really focus on their methods and classroom interactions is Edthena, a virtual coaching platform. Teachers can record themselves teaching a lesson and then the AI Coach uses prompts to guide you about your lesson and what your perception of their effectiveness was. With videos, we can go back and focus on specific parts of our lesson, our delivery and then use this to guide our reflection.
Taking time to reflect is important so that we can start the new year fresh. Now is the perfect opportunity to dive in and start the new year off with some fresh ideas! By choosing some methods or focus areas and then leveraging different tools, we can transform student learning and provide opportunities for building essential skills such as SEL. The power of choice not only helps students to build content area skills but also will lead them forward into their future careers with a variety of skill sets. With different tools and methods, we can spark curiosity for learning and foster creativity in learning!
For educators, this means we have to be willing to try new ideas, make mistakes and try again. Doing this sets a good model for our students. We want them to become more comfortable with learning and making mistakes and the process of learning itself.
Choosing methods in our classrooms that help to foster joy in learning and also foster the development of social-emotional learning (SEL) skills, will benefit students now and in the future. Being able to master the content while also developing skills that enable students to collaborate and develop strong and supportive relationships are important for future workplace success.
One thing to keep in mind is to find ways to streamline the workflow and the types of methods and tools that we are using. We want to provide choices but not overwhelm students in the process. Finding methods and tools that are versatile and applicable to different content areas and grade levels is key. Here are four ideas to start with:
Elementari is a tool we started to use this year and it has been fun seeing what the students create. There are many options available with Elementari, including the option for students to create an interactive story and build their skills in coding. There are more than 10,000 illustrations and sounds available to choose from.
Genially can be used for genius hour, project-based learning (PBL), interactive lessons, and more. We have used it in my Spanish and STEAM classes for projects and I have used it personally for creating resumes, digital portfolios, and even presentations. Students can work individually or together on a collaborative presentation which also promotes digital citizenship skills too! Genially has thousands of templates to choose from with options for STEM and more.
Spaces EDU is a great tool that teachers can use individually and create different types of “spaces.” There are individual, class, and group spaces through which teachers and students can collaborate and communicate using multimedia options. With an individual space, students can share their learning with teachers in a space where they are able to build confidence in learning. Individual spaces work well for methods like genius hour and PBL or for checking in with students. A group space has been fun for doing activities in stations or a collaborative PBL or even something fun like a scavenger hunt. Spaces EDU also has curriculum tags and more that help teachers to connect the curriculum to the activities created in Spaces.
STEM-related: There are some new resources we have explored this year including iBlocksPBL which helps educators to dive into PBL and students can learn about relevant topics related to the SDGs and that help them to develop essential SEL skills, especially in the competencies of self-awareness and self-management. A few years ago I used Hummingbird Robots with my STEAM class and more recently, we used the Finch robots from Birdbrain Technologies. Teachers can use these tools in any content area and have students create something to reflect what they are learning in class while building coding skills and even learning about AI.
These are just a few to explore in your classroom. If you are interested in PBL, SEL, and STEM, any of these options would help to focus on those areas with the use of one tool. Involve students in the conversation and see what the impact is of using the different methods like genius hour or PBL or trying one of these tools. And for our own growth, using a survey created with Google or Microsoft Forms, or trying the LessonLoop student engagement survey, can help us to plan with our students’ interests in mind and continue to reflect on our practice. Taking risks and facing challenges along the way is a great model to set for students!
About the Author:
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.