Friday, November 12, 2021

Technologies to improve the classroom experience (even if you’re teaching online!)

Author

Our current generation of young people are ‘digital natives’ - they’ve been brought up in an era where the internet and the everyday use of technology are a norm. At YLAA, as both educators and youth ourselves, we’ve been working with young people over digital platforms since our founding, and we’ve been able to find a few that have sparked great conversation, contributed to deep learning, gathered insights from our students, and increased student engagement. Particularly, ‘gamified’ learning, active recall, and critical thinking are all essential methods which, facilitated by tech, are proven to be some of the most effective methods of learning and recalling information for students. From these digital natives, on behalf of all digital natives - here’s a few pieces of technology we think that educators can use in the classroom to foster a more innovative, engaged, meaningful learning environment. 

  1. Mentimeter


Menti is an interactive slide-sharing platform that enables you to create slides which students can participate in through polls, word clouds, submissions, quizzes, and ranking systems. In the classroom, we’ve seen it used to do many of the following:


  • Gather and assess students’ ideas (eg. ‘what are the most significant climate issues the world is facing today?’)
  • Enable student reflection on learning and understanding (eg. ‘on a scale of 1-10, how well do you understand this week’s learning?’)
  • Analyse the relative importance or significance of different learning elements (eg. ‘rank, in order of significance, the factors which caused World War One to begin’) 
  • Receive anonymous submissions to facilitate question-asking and curiosity within students (eg. ‘is there anything you don’t understand about this topic?’)


Students participate in interactive slides by scanning a QR code on their phones, entering a numerical code at the Menti site, or copying a link. Interactive slides can be interspersed with informative, content-only slides - making Menti a great resource for learning and testing students, and engaging them in active learning strategies in the classroom. 


Check it out, and make use of the free edition of the software, at www.mentimeter.com



  1. Icebreakr

Ever need a fun start to a lesson? Icebreakr is a great (and age-appropriate) tool to - well, break the ice - with students, pick up some energy in the classroom, and even gauge students’ mood and progress. 


Pick from games like ‘InAGiphy’, asking students to describe their year in a single gif, or ‘Storymoji’, getting them to tell a story or recount an event using only five emojis. 


You can also test their innovation and problem-solving mindsets by asking them to create a startup solution to a specific persona’s unique problems in ‘Silly Startups’, or to imagine a future for a particular persona in a particular future scenario. 


Either way, Icebreakr is a fun, innovative way to break boundaries and promote conversation in a classroom environment, particularly with a focus on budding innovation and entrepreneurship. 


Check it out at www.icebreakr.fun



  1. MURAL


Use MURAL for all your collaborative design needs in a classroom. 


Whether it’s brainstorming using sticky notes on a shared digital whiteboard (check out the YLAA Youth Advisory Board brainstorming their biggest issues for young people in education today), co-developing a learning schedule, or participating in design thinking processes, MURAL allows live collaboration in shared workspaces. 


Some awesome features include the use of sticky notes and various shapes where students can add ideas, voting sessions where students can decide collectively on topics of focus, and a countdown timer to encourage active brainstorming within set time limits. 


MURAL is a great free option for working on collaborative projects. We particularly love the templates it has set our for educators - and our favourite is its capacity for virtual design thinking and co-design sprint sessions. 


Check it out for free at www.mural.co





  1. Notion 


Notion is the much-cooler older sibling of Google Drive and OneDrive, who works in a tech startup and drives a Tesla. And it’s offered for free to students and educators. 


Notion is a great collaborative workspace where teachers can build class wikis, centralise class information, lesson outlines, resources, and curriculum information, and even build quick webpages. 


We love the idea of students building online, personalised learning portfolios on their own Notion ‘landing pages’, to show off not only their understanding of a topic, but their holistic development, reflection, and takeaways from every learning experience. For a great example, check out Hannah Ahn’s digital portfolio of all her jobs and key learnings from them. 


Notion can take a second to learn how to use if you’re new to it, and used to working from more traditional softwares like Google Drive and Docs. But it offers the ability to create interactive tables, timelines, integrations of videos, photos, and documents, calendars, kanban boards, and so much more to create a one-stop shop for innovative classrooms and learners. 


Available online, or as a desktop or mobile app, check out what Notion is about at www.notion.so/about - and for more details on how educators can use Notion to improve their classroom experience, check out this article


Additional Note: This article was written by,

. This author is a member of YLAA's Youth Advisory Board. As our organisation continues to evolve, we want to make sure that we continue to represent and empower the voices of youth in their own affairs, that’s why we have created our first Youth Advisory Board - not only to ensure that our students’ interests are at the core of every aspect of our organisation, but also to give the young people we serve the opportunity to develop themselves personally, whilst contributing to our mission of ensuring a sustainable future for all youth.