It wasn’t too long ago that technology was widely seen as a nuisance in the classroom setting, distracting students and preventing them from focusing on the lessons offered by their instructors. But we’ve been seeing a major shift regarding our perspectives on technology in the classroom.
Today’s educators have been tasked with finding innovative ways to utilize the technologies that are available in ways that foster or enhance learning. Fortunately, there are a number of technology tools and strategies available to teachers who are tech-savvy as well as for those educators who want to become more technically competent.
Learning Management Systems — Schoology, Google Classroom, Renaissance Star 360
Considering that we’re in the heart of the Digital Age, it follows that one of the best ways for teachers to incorporate technology into their teaching is to use software. When you choose the right program, application, or suite of software tools, it can substantially increase classroom productivity, organization, and engagement.
Learning management systems (LMSs) are a form of software that teachers can use to better organize their educational materials or for bringing coursework into a more digital space. There are numerous learning management systems available today, but there are a few with which numerous teachers have had immense success.
Schoology is a popular LMS with a rather impressive TR-Score of 9.1 out of 10. With a comprehensive dashboard from which to track participation and student progress, teachers using Schoology benefit from a variety of robust instructional tools and even native grading capabilities. Of course, it’s also popular because it’s available both for free and as a subscription.
Google Classroom is an acclaimed LMS due, in part, to the immense resources and strong reputation behind it. But besides being part of Google’s cloud-based Google Apps for Education suite, the program has a TR-Score of 8.6 and is also available for free. Among the particular strengths of Google Classroom, it provides a user-friendly, socially-oriented digital classroom environment through which to teach and engage with students.
Renaissance Star 360 might not roll off the tongue as smoothly as the LMSs mentioned above, but its TR-Score of 8.3 is indicative of a top performer. In particular, the program affords plenty of robust growth-tracking and other actionable analytic data that can be invaluable for lesson planning.
Educational Gaming — PlayBrighter, Minecraft, Kahoot
Today’s students spend more time than ever with screens in front of their faces, but rather than seeing this as a barrier, a growing number of educators are using all this screen-time as an opportunity. Educational gaming is one of the best ways to meet adolescents where they exist, which is decidedly immersed in a digital space. And not only does educational gaming take advantage of technology students are already using, it makes learning more engaging and exciting.
PlayBrighter is particularly noteworthy as an educational gaming option for a number of reasons. The platform offers a number of subject- and lesson-based “missions” that teachers can use as a starting point, adding or changing questions as needed to make the game more relevant. Then students are tasked with solving in-game problems to earn points. Best of all, teachers can access a comprehensive breakdown of each student’s performance so as to identify problem areas to address in future missions.
Minecraft was a cultural phenomenon just a few short years ago, but it remains extremely popular today. What gives it potential as an educational tool is that, unlike most games that tend to be destructive, Minecraft is much more about creation; students get to take full control of their own worlds, modifying and individualizing their digital environments without being beholden to the laws of physics.
Kahoot is a unique tool for educational gaming that’s geared more for teachers who are already pretty tech-savvy as it’s essentially a toolbox for developing your own classroom-specific games. Basically, Kahoot gives you a couple of simple templates — multiple choice or matching questions with answers — as well as many ways of making each game (or “kahoot”) unique and challenging.
Dane O’Leary is a writer, tech journalist and regular contributor to TrustRadius where he shares his knowledge on the latest trends in B2B news and technologies. He has written editorials, articles, and blog posts for some of the most popular publications on the web, including Android Authority, Phone Arena, NeilPatel.com, and Millennial Magazine while also publishing regularly on his own website.