Rob Dunlop of the District School Board of Niagara looks at how a learning environment can help teachers eliminate ‘tech sweat.’
Schools are investing a lot of resources into putting technology in students’ hands. Laptops, Chromebooks and tablets are now spread throughout schools and it’s the teacher’s responsibility to figure out how to make these varying forms of technology purposeful and manageable.
All teachers know the experience of a “tech sweat,” where classroom technology seems to cause more issues than it’s worth. Bouncing from computer to device and back again to help students navigate the online world can be exhausting and frustrating. By finding creative ways of putting a learning environment at the center of the classroom, teachers can eliminate tech sweat as well as address other challenges they encounter daily.
How to put your learning environment at the center of your classroom
Here are some creative ways you can start using your learning environment:
- Activity Centers: Posting online activities (like websites, reading and research assignments, video tutorials, and online discussions) in the learning environment to create learning centers is an effective way to incorporate technology into learning and take advantage of the devices that are in your room. Because the learning environment helps students easily navigate to activities, the teacher is freed up to guide different stations.
- Teaching a Split-Grade (i.e. Grade 7/8): Using your learning environment, it’s possible to support one grade online while working with the other grade face-to-face. This ensures that while you deliver a lesson to one group, the other group is engaged in self-directed lessons and valuable learning experiences.
- Guided Research: Use the learning environment to ensure online resources are being used appropriately, accurately and are easily accessible by posting links to recommended videos and websites.
- Literature Circles: Using a discussion tool inside the learning environment, you can set up literature circles based on reading levels and/or interest. This makes it possible for you to engage each group of students in meaningful discussions at the same time while tracking their participation and the quality of discussion posts.
- Differentiation: You can support learners at all levels by posting appropriate online resources to suit different learning styles and needs. It’s often difficult for teachers to support students functioning above or below grade level. Your learning environment can give access to those students who require additional support in the classroom or at home.
- Flipped classroom: Pre-teach concepts by posting videos or content before a lesson. This can be used to give students a head start on the material being covered in upcoming lessons, or it can be used to free up more time for student support during instructional time.
- Assessment: Use your learning environment to quickly collect summative and formative assessments from students. This will help you to gain a quick understanding of each student’s progress. Because this information is tracked, you can use it to help with reporting, giving next steps and designing effective lessons.
- Presentation Tool: By posting links, videos and resources in the learning environment, you can enable students to easily access them after the lesson, both at school and at home. This will allow you to maximize your efficiency in front of the class and avoid unnecessary distractions like commercials in YouTube videos or laborious searches in internet browsers. Click here to learn more about how you can use your learning environment as a presentation tool.
Outside of teacher sanity, why is this so important?
- Classroom Management: Reducing the amount of unstructured time when using technology keeps students focused and on task. The quicker they’re able to transition from task to task, the less time they have to make decisions that will negatively impact other students in the class.
- Less Navigating = More Teaching: When the navigation is left to the learning environment, there is more time for small group instruction and one-to-one support (i.e. conferencing, feedback, guided reading, etc.).
- Engagement: Students love using technology. By putting your learning environment at the center of your classroom you can efficiently capitalize on this engagement while improving student learning.
- Resources: Your learning environment can allow you to curate great resources on the internet into one familiar space for students to access whenever and however often they need to.
- Teacher Confidence: Teachers sometimes struggle with how to effectively use technology in the classroom. Your learning environment has built-in tools that can help you resolve many common issues, which makes using technology less intimidating and more realistic.
Here’s how a grade six teacher at the District School Board of Niagara’s Harriet Tubman Public school is teaching creatively with Brightspace: