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Over the last year, learning methodologies and (virtual) classroom practices have shifted significantly. Yet, despite some initial hiccups and growing pains, these challenging times have also provided exciting opportunities to transform education. With a focus on individualized learning, in-depth engagement with lesson material, and a renewed appreciation for the importance of connection—it is safe to say that growth and change have been accelerated in the classroom.

The rapid development of education technology has also meant that students are able to benefit from inquiry-based lesson planning and are empowered to take ownership of their learning outcomes. The most innovative educators have found ways to use EdTech to facilitate connection and build creative confidence to help students hone their problem-solving skills, develop deep conceptual understanding, and engage in meaningful Service Learning

That being said, the ever-evolving landscape of online tools can be tricky to stay on top of. If, as an educator, you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by the sudden influx of technology, we are here to help. Here are some tips and strategies to help you make the most of education technology while ushering students into the more digitally-based future

Work with, not against, your learning management system

Learning management tools are nothing new, but they are playing a more critical role than ever before. As more and more educational institutions rely on e-learning, the variety of LMSs has expanded dramatically. And while you may not have control over which one your school uses, it is vital to find ways to leverage it to align with your needs, mission, and goals. 

Learning management systems each have different strengths. Some are optimized for student assessment, while others are built to deliver quality audiovisual content or provide immersive learning opportunities. The trick is finding a way to allow your teaching approach to complement the strengths of the LMS. From curriculum development to the methodology and the way you craft your lesson plans, it is essential to work with the function you have available. 

By aligning your lectures and your course flow with the system’s strengths and capabilities, you will naturally provide more impactful instruction and alleviate stress in the classroom. The best way to do this is to spend some time getting to know your learning management software’s features and familiarizing yourself with how it can make remote learning more engaging. This will allow you to make the most of the platform and create an effective e-learning environment where your students feel energized, not frustrated.

Make connecting face-to-face easy 

In addition to learning management systems, there are plenty of complementary tools teachers, facilitators, and coordinators can use to enhance communication and engagement. Whether you want to host a discussion, club meeting, or provide a space for office hours, it is important to understand the software options available. Here are some of the most popular online classroom supports and their main advantages:

Zoom offers the possibility of synchronous sessions, where everyone joins a Zoom meeting at a scheduled time. It is also a platform that most students will have had a chance to familiarize themselves with over the past year. It can be used on laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, and even desk phones, giving students many ways to access the session.

Google Meet is another efficient and straightforward way to communicate online. It is a reliable video conferencing solution that can help connect, build, and foster school communities. Since many people already use Google-based systems and tools, it is an appealing way to quickly transition to online learning efficiently and for free. 

Microsoft Teams is an online collaboration platform that allows for video chat, document sharing, collaborative editing, and more – making it a helpful tool for teachers and students. They offer a free version that accommodates 500,000 members, with up to 2 GB of storage for each. 

Offer personalized learning with the help of virtual formative assessment 

Once you have found a reliable way to stay connected to your students, it is time to look at other ways education technology can help accelerate the classroom experience. Formative assessment, during which teachers check student understanding, get valuable data on student learning, and then use it to modify instruction, is one such strategy. 

It has long been applied in the physical classroom and can be used with great success when moved online. The best formative assessment tools also help students self-reflect and assess, a fundamental component of the IB learner profile

A great place to start is by getting students to create online journals using a virtual platform like Google Docs or Blackboard. After the class, you can drop-in reflection questions or ask them to prepare a summary of what they have learned. Further, the sky is the limit when it comes to creative online assessment. Tapping into students’ strengths and interests, you can provide your class with various ways to approach formative assessment, such as creating a two-minute video, a podcast, an infographic, or a one-page summary. 

Technology makes it much easier to take a multi-modal approach to assessments, allowing students to choose their preferred mode and minimize assessment biases. Encouraging creative expression also ensures you assess conceptual understanding and higher-level thinking skills, not just students’ ability to organize and express their thoughts in an essay.

Think about the long term potential of education technology  

Even though it can be intimidating, it is best to regard EdTech as another valuable means of equipping students with necessary future-oriented knowledge, making them adaptable to change, and ultimately, more open-minded. This holistic approach fulfills plenty of the central tenets of IB Core and makes the learning experience more rewarding

These technologies give you the power to analyze student performance in a highly personalized and in-depth manner, boost collaboration, and use references and learning resources innovatively. As we work together to find meaningful ways of incorporating EdTech, we will be providing additional software reviews and suggestions for use in the months to come.