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Using digital tools to help students develop a variety of skills

During the spring, I notice that sometimes we need to create some different learning opportunities for our students, to keep pushing through strong to the end of the school year. It is a good time to try some new ideas and engage students more in learning through choices in how to show what they know.

Finding time to explore what is out there and getting started can be a challenge sometimes. When we connect with other educators, we can learn so much in far less time, making it easier to take that first step with something new or slightly different.

When we leverage technology, it not only enables us as educators to continue learning and to build our own supportive network, it empowers us to create even more opportunities for our students.

Where to start

There are so many apps and web services available for exchanging information, delivering content, sharing resources, and connecting with other classrooms and our students. Some of these may be tools that you are already using, but might find a new idea to explore.

What I love most is that in addition to our classroom use of these tools, our students and their families can also use them for purposes beyond education. I try to stress this in my classroom and also by sharing our work with parents.

Read more: How edtech boosts parent engagement in schools

It is so beneficial for us as educators to continue to explore and find multiple purposes for these tools and encourage our students to share their ideas too.

Multimedia presentations

When students need to create a multimedia presentation, compile their research and collaborate with peers, it can be time-consuming and feel overwhelming for some. There are some tools that make it easier to do all of this.

One that we started to use more is Wakelet.

Students can curate resources for a project into one collection. Teachers can create a class collection where all students can contribute and access materials easily. It promotes discussion and enables students to add different forms of media including video and links into one presentation, which builds vital technology skills that will benefit them in the future.

Brainstorming ideas

Using a tool like Padlet provides a space where students can create a multimedia presentation and build collaboration skills in the process. It can be used for posting an idea, doing a scavenger hunt, asking questions, uploading audio or video, and also curating content.

It is a quick tool to use for creating a collaborative space for brainstorming, problem solving and creativity!

Padlet also can help to facilitate better collaboration between teachers, whether in the same school or on a global scale. Padlet provides an accessible and versatile space for teachers who want to collaborate and share ideas and not be bound by physical or time constraints that can limit discussions.

Read more: 8 Edtech organizations every teacher should know about [INFOGRAPHIC]

Building confidence and communication skills

Students need to build communication skills and confidence and can do so by having different ways to express themselves, beyond the traditional presentation formats such as PowerPoint or other similar presentation styles.

Using tools for podcasting or blogging are good ways to provide students with more authentic options for expressing themselves and to share what they are learning. These options can also help to build comfort and confidence in the learning process.

Boosting their speaking skills

Podcasting has become one of my favorite activities, both to listen to as well as to record my own. I find it to be so helpful for reflecting on my practice and also a quick way to gather ideas from different educators from around the world.

Read more: Podcasting in the classroom: The digital tool you should be using

Anchor is a popular tool to create your own or have students create their own podcast, or perhaps for launching a school podcast to share what's happening in the school with the school community.

Another option is Synth which can also be used for speaking assessments or as a way to extend the time and space of classroom discussions, after the bell rings. We have used Synth for our project-based learning collaborations and my students were able to quickly ask questions, respond to different discussion threads and communicate with students and teachers from Argentina and Spain. It led to more powerful learning and connecting in a comfortable space. With Synth, you also have the option to record audio or video. It is a great way to encourage students to share their ideas and build some in speaking.

Developing their writing skills

In addition to speaking skills, our students need different ways to build their writing skills that go beyond pen and paper. We can leverage some of the different digital tools available for blogging to give our students their own digital space to track their growth.

Using tools such as Kidblog or Edublogs for providing writing prompts, asking students to write a story and share with peers, is a good way to promote reading and writing opportunities. It also benefits students by providing a space where they can track their growth over time, build digital citizenship skills and also foster skills of collaboration as they work with peers to give and receive feedback on their blogging.

Active learning and team building

Students need opportunities to work as a team and to do more moving in the classroom. Using some of the game-based learning tools available can accomplish these goals.

Quizlet offers many different ways for students to practice content with availability of thousands of flashcard sets and activities including flashcards, learn, write, spell, test, match, gravity. Also, students love to work as a team to play Quizlet Live! It provides a way to get students moving more in the classroom and building those vital peer relationships.

Another favorite for promoting collaboration skills is Gimkit, another game-based learning tool. My students like that it helps them to retain the content better because of the repetitive questions, and different ways it can be played in the classroom

Closing thoughts

These are just a few of the ways that these digital tools can be used in the classroom to build a variety of skills. To decide where to start, think about some of the tasks that might be taking up a lot of your time, or reflect on some issues or challenges you might be having.

For me, I wanted ways to promote more student choice, to build collaboration skills, promote social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and to expand where and when students can learn.

Having choices available enables us to provide something for all students that can meet their interests and specific learning needs.

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