How to Improve Teacher Effectiveness Through Digital Learning
Technology can be found everywhere these days, including at your fingertips as you read this article. It has made its way into the modern classroom as well, but is it effective in this setting?
There are arguments for both sides. Some say that technology is trying to replace the teacher within the classroom. Already, people can access videos and other means of learning on the internet. You can learn almost anything there, but does that mean the classroom teacher is obsolete?
Studies show that teachers are very necessary even when technology is present. Teachers are the guides that direct students where to go and how to properly use educational technology in the classroom. Without teachers as guides, students may be tempted to stray to games and videos not intended for school use.
Technology and digital tools are more beneficial in the classroom when there is a teacher to guide students in the right direction. With 1-to-1 devices being introduced to schools all over the country, learning no longer takes place solely within the classroom during school hours. Now, classes can take virtual field trips to places like the Smithsonian Museum and even to look at our Moon.
Students need a mentor to lead the way where technology is concerned. Teachers and technology should not be separated; they should work together. With the right teacher behind the scenes, students can enhance their learning and expand what they know about the world.
Before we discuss how to improve teacher effectiveness, let’s look at some data from our 2018-2019 State of Digital Learning Report. We surveyed over 9,000 K-12 professionals. In one question we asked respondents to what extent practicing digital learning impacted instructor effectiveness at their school or district. As you can see in the chart 46% said digital learning impacted instructor effectiveness “very much.” Very few respondents seemed to think it negatively impacted instructor effectiveness.
What Digital Tools Can Help Improve Teacher Effectiveness?
Teachers have all given the research projects that required students to cruise the internet for information about an assigned topic. Does the teacher give them a question and set the students loose? Or does the teacher show students how to find a website with appropriate information and how to check their facts? Teachers need to be confident in the use of digital tools to deliver content and instruction effectively. Let’s look at several ways to use digital learning to improve teacher effectiveness.
Differentiate Instruction to Meet the Needs of all Students
Digital learning and tools can help teachers spend more 1-on-1 time with students. Students all learn at different paces, and it is often difficult for teachers to meet all the needs of all the students at once.
There are students who are stronger readers than others, weaker readers who love to read, and strong readers who despise reading aloud. With some digital tools, teachers can help build skills of struggling readers while accelerating stronger readers. Here are some great digital tools to help differentiate learning in the classroom:
- Newsela:This is a great resource for differentiating reading filled with current news topics that are content-oriented. Students can read about the same article, but at different reading levels. They also answer questions about the same skills, but in a format that matches their skill level. For example, students might be reading Charlotte’s Web. Using Newsela, student can read news articles about themes that relate to the book. They might read a news article, at their own reading level, about people and their pets or even the bonds of friendship. This is a great tool that allows all students to be able to read about and talk about the same material, but no one gets frustrated with words they can’t understand or read.
- Powtoon: Using Powtoon students can create videos and presentations using a cartoon and comic format. Students who already know the material could work on making a presentation about the information while the teacher works one-on-one with students who may be struggling with the same material.
Engage Students in the Learning Process
There are also digital tools that are interesting enough to engage students in the learning process and help build rapport with teachers. Utilizing tools that interest students helps students want to learn, or sometimes it helps them learn without actually realizing it’s happening because they’re enjoying it so much. Digital tools can also build rapport with teachers. Students can get more individualized feedback and have fun while working and build a good working relationship with their teachers.
Relationships are a huge part of helping students learn. If teachers can figure out what drives a student, then helping them learn in the classroom becomes so much easier. Teachers and students will also enjoy spending time together learning in the classroom. Try these digital tools to help build student engagement and teacher rapport:
- Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a great educational tool that combines education with social media-type responses. Teachers create topics and students respond with video responses. They can then reply and respond to each other’s videos. This gives students a voice and a place to share ideas. Students enjoy the opportunity to make videos of their own like they see people on YouTube make.Social media and texting are the most common forms of communication for our students. Flipgrid is an awesome way to connect with students. Students can take a short video of themselves, or whatever the question chosen by the teacher is about, like they do with Snapchat. Students can then edit and perfect their videos before turning them in. Collaboration takes place after videos are turned in by students responding to each other’s videos. They get a chance to share their opinions and hear others in return, not just their friends’ ideas.
- Recap: Recap, soon to be Synth, is a way for students to record an individual response to questions. It is a great reading check or exit ticket. Students have a set amount of time to respond to the question in a video they record of themselves. It is a great way to involve all students in a discussion and check for understanding.
Give Better Feedback
Lastly, digital tools can help teachers work more efficiently by giving immediate feedback to students. Collecting and returning papers can feel like an endless task, and it doesn’t provide timely feedback for students. When teachers take a long time to respond to homework assignments, tests, and essays, students don’t get a chance to fix a mistake or improve what they know about the content before a summative assessment.
If we think about the traditional way to give students feedback, it is anything but timely. We collect papers, take them home to grade, bring them back to school to put into the gradebook, and then finally return them to students’ hands. Who knows how much time has passed between the first and last step. It could be rather long if it is a bigger project like an essay. By the time we return worksheets to students, we are past the material being taught in that assignment and possibly past the test where students had to prove their knowledge on the material. There is a more efficient way to respond to students work. Here are two tools to use for more timely feedback:
- An LMS (Learning Management System): An LMS is an awesome tools for immediate feedback. Teachers can create multiple choice or even short answer quizzes that are automatically graded and returned to students. Teachers can also return homework assignments with feedback quicker which can be returned to students as soon as they are graded, even if it is not during school hours.Imagine sitting at home with one device in your lap instead of a stack of papers sprawled out everywhere. You can peruse student work on your device, leave a comment, post a grade, and return it to the student. Your LMS can even post the grade to your gradebook. Essay grading can even be cut down with a digital rubric that automatically calculates the grade based on a teacher-created rubric. An LMS is a great tool for speeding up grading time and feedback!
- Formative: With Formative, teachers create a series of questions and can see live student responses so that they can respond immediately. This is a great way to check for understanding after a new lesson or even as review before a test. Every student is required to respond, so it is a quick way for teachers to see who understands the material and who still needs more support, instead of asking questions to a silent room.
There are plenty of tools for teachers to use within the classroom to increase their effectiveness with digital learning.
Do you have any favorite digital tools you use in your classroom to improve teacher effectiveness? Share with us on Twitter @Schoology!