As the end of 2017 draws near, I am taking this time to reflect on and to look back at the wonderful things that have helped me make learning and teaching more fun and engaging, which hopefully led to improved student engagement and learning.
Personal Mantra: Student-Centered Pedagogy Over Technology Tools
This has been my battle cry for years and it doesn’t hurt to remind one’s self every often to keep ourselves from diving into so many apps and gadgets that we want to use in the classroom without thinking thoroughly about the decision and its consequences. This mantra, however, also ensures that we do not just consider any kind of pedagogy, but one that focuses on the learners and their contexts. At the heart of every successful innovative work in the classroom is student-empowerment as students thrive in an environment where they make thoughtful and independent choices and their voices heard and acknowledged. In the end, this mantra hopefully becomes the philosophy of every innovative teacher who wishes to integrate technology tools in learning and teaching.
Personal Criteria in Making “Ed Tech Choices”
So, what’s the good, the bad, and the best in ed tech integration? The answer really depends on every teacher’s or student’s contexts and needs. I, for one, would like to use share some criteria that I use to say that an ed tech tool is great for learning. Here are a few:
- supports active, creative, and collaborative learning, as well as critical-thinking,
- promotes independent and self-directed learning,
- intuitive and user-friendly interface,
- provides accessibility to all learners,
- developmentally appropriate, and
- evaluated and recommended by other educators.
The criteria banks on the non-negotiables in a 21st century learning environment. Hence, for every decision made, these non-negotiables should always be supported or developed by the tools being used.
Amazing Ed Tech Tools
In terms of hardware, I personally would still recommend the iPad. The usual challenge, though, is still on its steep price when compared to other tablets. However, given the great apps in its ecosystem, the range of educational activities and works that students can do, the support that Apple Education gives, and the studies done with it, I believe that this would be a great investment. I have used other tablets, but at some point, they really cannot match the durability and security that I have experienced with the iPad. However, depending on the goal of using a computer or tablet in learning, other options are Chromebooks, hybrid tablet-laptop devices, or simply laptops.
A few gadgets that I simply love and can be integrated for teaching or working on STEAM projects are iQube (for circuitry), Littlebits, Sphero, Parrot Drones, and Makey Makey among others.
In terms of apps, I have always used the following classic, tried and tested apps:
- Book Creator – for creating digital books and portfolios, supports differentiated approach to learning
- Explain Everything – for anotating digital materials such as videos, images, and putting everything together into one file
- Google Suite for Education – free apps for collaborative activitites, Internet-dependent
- Seesaw – for digital journal and student interaction, suitable for young learners
- Adobe Spark Video – for creating digital presentations, with templates that promote better creation of presentations
- Core iPad apps (Keynote, Pages, Notes, iMovie, Garagebend) – these are built apps in the iPad and are great tools for productivity in class
- Tickle, Tynker, Scratch Jr – for basic coding for young learners
- Padlet or Flipgrid – for more collaborative learning and sharing of ideas
There are still other apps that I use in class but it may help to always have a set of core apps that would be used regularly. These core apps should have been evaluated well by a set of teachers in your school or maybe by others. With a set of core apps, students will not also have the hard time to learn and learn new apps every year or very term, or worst, for every teacher that they have. Organize a working committee to set the core apps. This would save time in the classroom as there would be no need to always introduce the apps to students.
Avoid causing app-chaos, which simply points to introducing so many apps that students are overwhelmed and are confused to which apps should be used. Never assume that students are always immediately good at getting how apps work. Sometimes, introducing a new app in class might even break the momentum of learning. So, focus on the core apps that would lead to efficient and effective learning.
The following have been trending for a while and will continue to be discussed and worked on by developers and education stakeholders. Some have been applied in education contexts. For example, I have been using augmented reality apps in teaching Science, virtual reality apps for Geography, and coding apps for young learners among others. So, this holiday maybe, it would be a good time to leisurely explore these ideas, apps, or approaches. That’s just an invitation. Make sure, though, that you spend taking care of yourselves during the break. Teachers need to relax, rest, and rejuvenate.
- Makerspace/ Maker movement
- Augmented and Virtual Realilty apps
- Coding and robotics
- Cloud computing
- Gamification and game-based learning
- Learning spaces
- Online and personalized learning
- Digital Intelligence Quotient
- Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine learning
- Personalized Professional Learning
Happy holidays, teachers! You did an awesome job this year!