Every day teachers step into their classrooms ready to inspire their students and get them engaged in learning. For some, this may be accomplished by a guest speaker, a hands-on activity, or even a field trip, but for others, this can be accomplished by creating meaningful lessons that are enhanced with technology.
“Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational” – George Couros
This quote stuck with me as I began to read Bethany Petty’s book, Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning.
Throughout the book, Bethany Petty provides readers with practical tips and strategies to provide meaningful technology integrations that will increase student engagement and improve student learning. I teach high school French and in my classroom, I want my students to have opportunities to share and create using the target language. Promoting and amplifying student voice is so important in today’s classroom. Creating projects that integrate technology not only allow for more creativity but also allow students the opportunity to work on 21st-century skills. Before my students were 1:1, I would have my students create projects by hand using poster board. Now, those projects can be enhanced by tools like Adobe Spark, Book Creator, or Google Slides. Creating projects using these tools allows my students the chance to share their learning with a wider audience. To take these projects a step further, I have my students share their projects on Flipgrid. No longer is learning confined to my classroom, but now it is shared with others and my students are actively responding to others’ inquiries about their work.
As an example, recently, my students created virtual tours of our town using Google My Maps, Screencastify, and Flipgrid. In this AppSmash, my students created a map of Front Royal identifying various places in town and describing those places in the target language.
After creating the map, the students used Screencastify to create a virtual tour of the town. Finally, the students uploaded their videos on Flipgrid where students at our partner school in France could watch the videos and ask my students questions about our town.
This activity would not have been possible without technology. The students loved the project and really enjoyed having real conversations with their peers in France about their video tours.
Another suggestion that Petty mentioned in the book that resonated with me was using technology for assessment. Like Petty, I regularly use Kahoot, Quizlet Live, and Quizizz in my classroom as formative assessments. These tools are a great way to see where my students are in the learning process and what concepts they have mastered or what concepts they are struggling with. Not only are these formative assessments fun, but they also provide me with the feedback that I need to design upcoming lessons. While reading through Twitter, I was introduced to a new formative assessment tool, Gimkit.
If you have not had a chance to check out Gimkit, it is definitely worth looking into. Since introducing my students to Gimkit, I have noticed increased student engagement and improved scores on assessments. Even students who typically are less engaged in class want to play Gimkit. Adding this game-based assessment has really enhanced learning in my classroom.
Adding technology to your teaching does not have to happen all at once. Throughout Illuminate, Petty offers ideas that teachers can try the next day. You could easily pick one suggestion to focus on and then add another one once you feel comfortable with it. It should always be your content that is driving your lessons and not the technology. If you are just using technology for the sake of using technology, then there is no benefit to your students and their learning. Start small and do not be afraid to try new tools. Remember light bulbs need replacing when they burn out!
Heidi Trude is a French teacher at Skyline High School in Front Royal, Virginia. She has ten years of experience teaching every level of French from French I through French V Honors. She created an international partnership between her school and Lycée-Bazin in Charleville-Mézières, France, to engage her students with the French language and culture. Furthermore, she possesses multiple educational technology certifications and she is a master at integrating technology meaningfully into the foreign language curriculum. She also provides technology training for the faculty at her school and she presents her innovative ideas at professional conferences such as the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) and the Southern Conference on Language Teaching (SCOLT). Heidi serves as the secretary and communications chair of FLAVA and is a member of the executive board of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) Virginia chapter. Heidi is the 2017 Virginia World Language Teacher of the Year, as well as the 2018 SCOLT World Language Teacher of the Year. You can connect with Heidi on Twitter at @htrude07 and on her blog www.techietrude.blogspot.com.
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