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As someone who uses technology in her classroom basically every day, I’m amazed whenever I hear someone say that they are unsure of how to integrate digital tools into their teaching. Sure, they use the projector and computer in the classroom, but that’s about as far as they go. If you’re still collecting tons of paper from your students, I definitely recommend trying out some of my suggestions on integrating digital tools and assignments into your courses. [If you’re teaching online and want some activity ideas, check out this blog post.] I have an older video about whether or not students should be able to use their phones and laptops in class, but the new videos in this post dive deeper into EdTech possibilities and benefits.
7 Approaches to Using EdTech When Teaching
The video goes over five different ways I use digital technology when lesson planning and teaching. I recommend watching it first before moving on to the additional two tips that I list below.
Approach 6: Use Digital Tools for Collaborative Writing Activities
Of course, you can have your students work in groups and write out their answers to questions on paper. But, the point here is to minimize the amount of paper you’re collecting, not increase it. So, my first suggestion is to check out the tools offered on your LMS site. For example, I’ve used discussion forums when requiring students to work together on a group activity that requires brainstorming ideas, writing answers to questions, or drafting short analytical essays. I split students up into groups where at least one student has a laptop with them. This setup tends to be very easy to manage, especially if I ask in advance for students to bring their laptops.
Other collaborative tools can be found online for free. For example, Kahoot is great for creating multiple choice questions to ask your students during an in-class discussion. There are also free mind mapping and word cloud tools that can give students a more visual approach to organizing their thoughts and ideas in relation to class topics.
[If you want other ideas for in-class group activities, here’s a blog post with a few different activity designs to get you started.]
Approach 7: Offer Digital Office Hours Via Zoom
If you haven’t used Zoom before, it’s basically a more professional version of Skype or FaceTime. You can do a lot of different things with this website/app, but for this tip, you can simply use it to host office hours while not on campus. Let’s say you’re out sick during a day you usually host office hours. If you’re feeling up to it, you can host the hours digitally on Zoom. Just email your students and let them know that you’ll be on Zoom from [insert time period] and they can use [insert link] to join you in the “meeting room.” Students can click the link, and then you can video chat with them and answer their questions from home.
Now, Zoom offers a lot of more features than just a quick video chat. Definitely do some research and see how else you might want to use it.
7 Benefits of Digital Assignments
I’ve niched down even more in this second video to focus on how creating digital assignments can make your life and your students’ lives much easier. I go over five benefits in the video, but here are two more:
Benefit 6: Digital Assignments Are Much Easier to Share with Colleagues
Sharing ideas with one another is a staple of life as an academic. When new people join your program, they often ask for tips and ideas for teaching classes you’ve taught that they are going to teach for the first time. If your assignments are in digital form, it’s so easy to share not just the assignment sheets, but also the links to resources or tools used in the assignment. If any of your students have okayed you using their assignments as examples in other classes that you teach, you can share those examples with the click of a button, too. My students don’t usually include their names in the assignments (since that information is recorded when they submit it via our LMS), so keeping their work anonymous is incredibly easy to accomplish.
Your colleagues will remember how helpful you are when it comes to assignment ideas and resources. That positive reputation can go a long way.
Benefit 7: Keeping Your Teaching Files Organized Is Much Easier
I have a whole blog post on organizing your digital files into your ideal filing system. In terms of this benefit, though, I’m talking about the “Wow” or “Remember” documents that I keep in my Dropbox folder of past teaching experiences. You never know when you might teach a similar course or assignment later on in your career. So, keep records of each syllabus and assignment sheet you create, and also of a few examples of really strong student work.
If the assignment is already in digital form, it’s easy to save a file or hyperlink into your nicely organized digital folders. If your students turn in assignments in paper form, then you’ll need to scan or take pictures of each page, turn it into one PDF, and then add it to your folder. So much wasted time and you’ll likely stop bothering eventually. Or even worse, you’ll keep physical files that take up room in your house or office and get easily misplaced if you move. Don’t make your clutter worse!!
Next week, I’ll be posting a video on three things to consider when designing your major class assignments, if that’s an element of this topic that you want to dive deeper into. It’s a collaboration with Toyin Alli’s channel, The Academic Society. If you don’t want to miss those two videos going live, subscribe to my YouTube channel, Ever Educating and click the notification bell!
With these fourteen tips tied to using technology in your teaching, I hope you’ll take the time to consider how you can best use tech when lesson planning or in the classroom. If you’d like me to create a video that focuses specifically on LMS tools and how to use them (here’s an old blog post on my favorite tool), let me know in the comments below. [Update: Here’s the LMS tutorial video and another video on free digital teaching tools and activities!] Or, if you have any of your own EdTech suggestions, share those instead! If you want to take your tech use to the next level, consider trying out a digital planner or bullet journal to get yourself even more organized while on-the-go.
Comment Below: What’s your favorite way to use technology in your teaching?
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