A Year Of Classroom Technology
I began last year with an earnest attempt to add more classroom technology. My first technology initiatives were teacher-centered. I wanted a way to give students access to the class material so I signed up for Schoology, a learning management system. I was still giving a lot of traditional high-stakes chapter tests and wanted to reward students for preparing so I experimented with Study Blue for a couple of months. Study Blue allows me to see the study stats/data for each student who used the service. Great formative data!
By November, I included more of Google Drive into my essay writing. My district uses GAFE (Google Apps for Education) so the use of Drive had a low barrier but a high payoff. By the end of the year, I was using Google for not just essay writing but collaborative projects and primary source analysis. I was using Kahoot for formative feedback and using 1-way text message service Remind101 (now just Remind) to keep students on track.
It is safe to say that I have dived right in with both feet into classroom technology and have not looked back. I am a true believer that technology opens a lot of doors to increasing student understanding. I also now have more tools to know what students know and what they can and cannot do.
As the school year quickly approaches for me I am once again considering what tools I want to start the school year with. I had a great experience last year experimenting with different tools but what about the students? How did they feel about the “experiments”? After all, I always tried to choose tools that I thought would enhance the classroom experience and lead to greater student success. What did the students think of my attempt?
Did students think that using technology helped them reach greater success? YES!
The two major tools I used throughout the year were Google Drive and Schoology. Here is the data breakdown from student responses on those two platforms.
I initially started with implementing Google Drive by having some of my classes share their essays with me for electronic feedback. As any student of mine could tell you, I have horrible handwriting and many times students would have to go to each other or me to decipher my comments. It was a waste of everyone’s time and I felt that electronic feedback better served everyone. By these numbers, a little more than half the students agreed that the electronic submission was better. Whereas last year, I rolled this out in my classes piecemeal. In this upcoming year, all essay submissions will be done through Google Drive/Docs starting on day 1.
A warning: My correction time did not decrease much. It simply made the process of feedback and revision much smoother.
This next chart was simply asking about basic worksheet substitution using google drive. The higher the number the more they desired it. Students analyzed primary sources that I shared with him on Schoology and they submitted it back to me by sharing their final copy for grading. Once again, some students still liked paper for whatever reason but a majority preferred completing their work on Google Drive.
The above question was cut off but it ends with “Google”. Higher the number= they preferred it. This particular question dealt with assignments that were allowed to be completed within a group of 2 or 3. This could have been completing vocabulary, answering basic questions about a subject, or preparing a presentation. My former method would have involved a group “scribe” and a “presenter” and a possible 3rd wheel that may or may not have a meaningful role in the group. Thus was always the trouble with group work. I didn’t include a question that dealt with WHY they preferred the collaboration. Nevertheless, this gives me a pretty good sign that they wanted more of it.
The higher the number the more helpful it was. I used Schoology heavily at the beginning of the year with little success. I was posting assignments on Schoology. This didn’t work out because students were inconsistent in checking the website. The result was that few assignments were being completed. I then used the website heavily again towards the end of the year. I should have stuck with it because here nearly half of students indicated that they found Schoology helpful (ranks 7-10). I think that if I was more consistent throughout the year I would see more students finding it helpful.
1= Very Hard, 10=Very Easy. Most students indicated a 7-10 meaning it was pretty user-friendly but there were enough low ranks that I should take care in making the process easier for students next year.
This one was odd when compared with the other charts. Nearly 2/3 of students said that they had not checked for missing assignments but yet nearly 1/2 said that Schoology was helpful in keeping track of assignments. One reason for this might be that many students actually didn’t think to look on Schoology. This could be because I didn’t make checking an established habit in class from the start. But also it might show that by the end of the year, students didn’t have that many missing assignments.
The higher the number = Preferred Schoology. I started to make this transition throughout the year and it was not until 2/3 of the way through that I was using it in most of my classes. Seen here a majority of students supported it (7-10) and I will therefore continue to use it.
This was very encouraging. I used Schoology a lot for project assignment and submission. No lost rubrics here!
Higher number=easier to use. 59% said that it was easy to navigate (7-10). I will start next year with a little more instruction can help on my part.
This was an optional feature that I started using used 3/4 through the year. I only rolled it out with 3 out of my 4 classes. So only 1/3 of students found it helpful. I had another 1/3 not even sign up. What I did find is that those students who signed up, were very passionately supportive of it and wanted other teachers to follow suit. Remind is a really cool service that some teachers might feel to be another chip away from student responsibility. I felt the same way at first, “Why do I need to send them reminders? Can’t they remember themselves? Didn’t they write it down in their agenda?”
Now my feeling is that, if I can take 30 seconds (yeah, it is that easy) to schedule a reminder text message for students to complete the vocabulary homework, it then saves me 10-20 minutes of class time going over the vocabulary in detail. Also, I found that any chance to connect with the students, even if it is 1-way text messages helps students connect to the course.
I missed getting data on Kahoot but Kahoot allows for data collection every session and the numbers there were VERY high for student engagement and learning. Most sessions students responded that they learned something new (75%) and that they found it enjoyable (80%).
So while some students felt that the “how to” of using technology in the classroom could be made clearer, most found the technology enjoyable and helpful. My aim has always been to do what is best for student achievement. Technology offers teachers more tools to 1) give students greater access 2) give more formative data to clarify student knowledge and abilities. I will soon be starting my 3rd year of a “blended classroom” and the process of including technology has been experimental and inconsistent.
With this data to support me, I am going to use technology more deliberately and consistently. Some of the technology is simple substitutions (electronic vs paper worksheets) or completely new tools for collaborative projects. Either way the students are self-reportedly more engaged and, therefore, more willing to develop their skills and expand their knowledge. It is safe to say that I will be trying out more tools in the fall and am excited to see what this year brings. I will keep everyone updated as to what tools I will be using and how they are working/not working.
-Until next time!
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How have you used technology in the classroom in the past year? Was it successful? Do you have any advice for classroom teachers? Let us know in the comments!