16 September 2020

[Suggestions] Tech tools for distance learning

Written by: Amanda Leavitt, Nova's MYP Coordinator. 

Amanda is a professional educator with over 20 years of experience, teaching middle school students, on four different continents.  She holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. 

Tech tools for distance learning.

2020/2021 will prove to be a transformative year in education. One of the positive aspects of the current pandemic is that it has forced the global community to take a hard look at education. The current model, what can be termed the factory model, emerged in the late 18th century and hasn’t changed much since then. Our current model is focused on age based grouping, a top down management system, a schedule that mimics the adult working day, complete with factory bells signalling when breaks occur, and a focus on content rather than concepts. We have an opportunity to reimagine the current model and focus on how we can make education better. Distance learning provides us with that opportunity.

Distance learning requires a different approach and work pattern for teachers. More time is spent planning and creating learning experiences than delivering content. For distance learning to be successful teachers need tools to create and deliver high quality experiences. These experiences do not have to be synchronous to be meaningful. Here are five great free tools that will support teachers in creating and delivering content.

EdModo (new.edmodo.com)

EdModo is a great, free, learning management system that goes beyond Google Classroom and is accessible even if your school doesn’t issue student emails through Gmail. Edmodo allows teachers to create an organized platform of resources, assignments and more. It has all of the features of Google Classroom and more. Edmodo has partnered with a wide variety of other apps to embed them into the digital classroom. You can easily assign Math and Science, and English content through the CK12 Edmodo app, Desmos, Jump Start Activity Center and 100’s of others. More importantly, EdModo created communities of practice, where teachers from around the world collaborate and share resources and ideas. They have a discovery section full of curated resources, discussion threads and resource banks. For teachers struggling with distance learning, EdModo has an entire collection of resources to support you, including schedules and workflow, professional development videos on tech tools and more.

ThingLink (thinglink.com)

Thinking link is a great tool for creating a rich multimedia experience. In a nutshell teachers can upload any image they want. From there they can embed additional video, audio, and visual explanations. It is a great tool for teaching Math, Science and historical concepts that have multiple steps or layers. For example, a math teacher can upload a picture of a completed problem. They can then embed video tutorials of all of the steps, sound recordings and more directly onto the problem. The platform is linked to Youtube, Google Maps, Soundcloud and other great sources for information. It also includes a resource bank of community thinglinks that can be copied and adjusted.

EdPuzzle (edpuzzle.com)

EdPuzzle is one of the most powerful tools for delivering content in a distance learning environment. EdPuzzle takes any video and makes it interactive. Teachers embed questions into videos. These can be short answers, multiple choice or free response questions. It works asynchronously and synchronously. With the live class option, it creates a synchronous lesson that allows students to pause the video and pose questions in the chat, teachers can pause and take instant polls, check for understanding and more. It provides data reports on student answers and engagement during the live lesson. In terms of asynchronous learning, it tracks the amount of time spent watching the video, records student answers to questions and if the student switches tabs then the video stops playing. The free account includes up to 20 videos.

Flip Grid (flipgrid.com)

Creating community in distance learning scenarios can be challenging. Flip Grid is a great tool, not only for class discussions, but creating community. The concept is simple. Teachers post a discussion topic, which can include a thought provoking image or video. Students then record themselves responding to the discussion prompt and can respond to each other within the thread. The teacher can choose to moderate the videos or allow free posting. It is a closed platform, so students are secure. If students do not have a school email address, teachers can create individual accounts and usernames for them.

Decktoys (deck.toys)

Decktoys is a powerful platform for delivering asynchronous learning that differentiates for all students. Designed to mimic a traditional board game, it includes lots of fantastic features. Teachers basically create a map of their unit, with content, activities, and more. They can then add different paths that include more challenging or remediated content. As students travel through the paths, they have automated checks for understanding. Depending on their performance, they then travel different paths the teacher has created. While time consuming to set up, the platform allows for a completely asynchronous high quality experience. It provides teachers with a wealth of data.