THUNDER BAY – LIVING – Raise your hand if you’ve ever spent the summer cleaning out various papers from your classroom. There was a time in teaching when it seemed that almost every activity required paper—from taking attendance to developing creative lessons and projects for your students. And there were several advantages to this at the time: paper was reasonably priced, plentiful and recyclable.
But now, classrooms are benefiting from the rapid technological advancements of our time. While it can seem daunting to make the leap from paper to digital tools, it’s a huge help in creating flexible lesson plans and cutting down on waste. The key is to bring your classroom into the digital age in a way that doesn’t break the budget.
Here are three affordable tools to explore this summer so you can kick off the next school year with some “tech in your step.”
Entering grades is tedious enough once; it’s doubtful that you want to do it twice. The old-school method of writing down everything by hand then copying it all into an electronic system just creates twice as much work for you, and usually during “crunch time” at the end of each quarter or semester! That’s where online gradebook software like Engrade comes in.
Common Sense Educator describes it as “an online grading tool that helps teachers manage classes, communicate with families and track student performance.” Not only can teachers enter and standardize grades online for greater organization, but they can also communicate clearly with parents via the internet.
The key is efficiency and transparency: grades will no longer be a mystery to students and their families, trapped inside a physical notebook on your desk until report card time. It can also save your time overall if you ordinarily have to copy your grades from paper to screen anyway.
The best digital tools help boost student engagement. Instead of passing around paper quizzes and pencils or conducting verbal-only Q&A sessions, using a student response system like Poll Everywhere allows students to share and learn with one another during interactive, real time sessions.
On any given day, you can help students create a live Word Cloud, take attendance (the quick and fun way), collect feedback about what your students want to learn or review next or break up a long lesson with a much-needed digital check-in. All that students need is access to any internet-enabled advice—from a classroom tablet, laptop or smartphone to a computer lab web browser.
All you need is an affordable K-12 plan from Poll Everywhere, a group of students willing to participate and PowerPoint or a web presentation tool for easy embedding. It takes just 30 seconds to make an interactive poll that your kids will love.
Think about how excited your students get when you announce that you’re screening a movie or doing a hands-on experiment. They’ll feel the same way about using digital tools to learn! PBS LearningMedia has a little bit of everything: science, social studies, math, and language arts.
From checking in on “This Day in History” to showing your class content from Nature, NOVA, Wild Kratts and more, PBS LearningMedia knows exactly how elementary and middle-school students love to learn. It’s no wonder that 74 percent of teachers believe that educational technology “motivates students to learn” and allows them to “reinforce and expand on content.”
You don’t have to turn your classroom from a paper-first space to a tricked-out tech hub in a day; start slowly with these affordable tools and you’re well on your way to engaging and delighting your students as they learn new information and review previous lessons.