By: Stacey Roshan
As teachers, we are constantly looking for creative solutions to get insight into what students are thinking and feeling. We have so many types of learners in our classrooms, it’s critical for us to differentiate how we ask questions and how we allow students to respond to these questions. I truly believe that, by embracing the right tech tools, we can empower all students — whether they are quiet or more vocal, whether they are quick to respond or more methodical — an equal chance to contribute to class discussion.
When we talk about tech tools, my biggest goal is to focus on how technology will help me best understand and support all students in my classroom. Will the technology help me target both individual and full class needs? How can these tools help me better connect with every one of my students on a personal level and provide students a safe space to respond? How can edtech alleviate stress in the classroom and ensure learning remains enjoyable? Finally, can I leverage technology to give students more creative freedom to express their ideas and individuality?
Taking one step back, before even looking at new technology, I try to begin by assessing my current classroom environment. I ask myself:
By asking myself these essential questions, I am better able to select tools to address the needs of my class and my goals as a teacher.
Powerful learning takes place when students have the opportunity to synthesize the information they have been taught and are given the creative freedom to demonstrate their understanding through video projects.
One of my favorite examples of this was a project created by my colleague, Laura Nutter, for her Food Science class:
Through this project, students were tasked with applying what they had learned about the science of cooking a soft pretzel. They had the joy of actually baking pretzels in class to see the science in action and then were able to creatively package their final project as a “cooking show” video. Because students did this project in WeVideo, all students in the group were able to work on the project collaboratively and from any device.
Technology can be a powerful tool in helping us hear from all learners. As we know, some kids naturally have a voice that shines bright in classroom discussion. Others find their creativity in assignments where they have a chance to sit and think. Some kids thrive off the energy of a loud group brainstorm. Others need a moment of quiet to process independently. By embracing the right edtech tools, we can provide platforms that allow all these unique voices and personalities to shine and be heard.
Time and time again, I have seen the quiet student in the classroom find a whole new voice when given the opportunity to create a video. Sometimes, this is as simple as opening up a Flipgrid prompt where students have a chance to talk out their thoughts. I like to mix and match moderated Flipgrid prompts that stay private between the student and myself (for one-on-one check-ins) with Flipgrid prompts that are viewable by all students in the classroom (for more interactive, asynchronous discussions). Though I originally thought that students who were quiet in the classroom would have shorter responses to the public video posts, I found that was not the case at all. For some students, it’s all about having the chance to record and preview a response before submitting. For others, I can see that they’ve scripted what they want to say before they begin talking to the camera. And for others, I think there is something about simply being able to record in their own comfortable environment at their own pace that allows them to really open up and talk.
When we give our learners the right platform to express their ideas and allow them to respond in a platform that is most comfortable to them, we allow each student’s most powerful voice to shine.
Additionally, by asking students to respond through video, we can emphasize to our students the idea of “process over product.” We have a chance to hear each learner reason their way through a solution or a concept and can reward students for their explanation over just a final answer.
Incorporating the right tech tools in my teaching has provided so many opportunities for all students to “talk” to me; whether that is verbally, a written response, or a video message. It is my hope that more and more teachers will look to tech with whole-child well-being in mind. I truly believe that it is with that attitude that we can discover ways to humanize the classroom and leverage technology to help us listen better, identify needs that we couldn’t before, and bring a whole new level of compassion to our teaching.
Stacey Roshan is Director of Innovation & Educational Technology at Bullis School and author of Tech with Heart: Leveraging Technology to Empower Student Voice, Ease Anxiety, & Create Compassionate Classrooms. She is passionate about bringing innovative tools into the classroom to create a safe learning environment for all students to find their voice and build confidence. Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN and PBS Newshour. She has also been named Teacher of the Future by NAIS. In addition to teaching high school students to love and understand math, Stacey works closely with faculty to design tech-infused lessons aimed at providing the optimal learning environment for all students.