Ten effective ICT tools to help your lessons

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While technology has the potential to transform the way we teach, it can often feel daunting introducing it into the classroom. Phil Timmins outlines 10 ‘butterfly ideas’ – simple tools that can have a big impact in the classroom.

 

Collaborate with Padlet

Padlet is a virtual wall where teachers and students can express their thoughts on a common topic – through discussions, posting notices, or sharing other interesting content, such as information, pictures or video.

It works like an online whiteboard where students can put this content anywhere on the page, together with anyone, from any device or location.

This flexibility means that Padlet can be used in many different group learning and brainstorming activities – allowing all students to participate in learning about a subject actively rather than passively.

Before introducing a topic, teachers can create a wall, make it public, and ask students to share what they know and what they want to know. It is worth considering anonymous posting, particularly if you have some students who are reluctant to contribute ideas in group discussions – though this may mean responses need to be moderated.

Walls can contain backgrounds for sorting ideas afterwards into groups, and can be shared with other classes or schools to collaborate on.

Tell a story with digital cameras

Digital cameras are becoming more and more popular in the classroom, particularly with the widespread availability of SmartPhones, and the growth of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to share photos on.

Students enjoy taking photos, so there is great potential to make learning more engaging and help students get more involved in a particular subject by introducing cameras.

Digital pictures benefit from being immediately available, easy to save and edit in a graphic format. It is simple to transfer from camera to computer and easy to print out pictures onto paper. You can use laser printers, which most schools have (in most circumstances higher quality photographic paper is not needed).

In small groups take 10 pictures that will tell a story. Print the pictures and write the story together – giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and collaboration skills.

Record with AudioBoo

When introducing technology to the classroom we often forget about audio, which remains an excellent way to encourage students to express themselves. 

Tools like AudioBoo, a website and SmartPhone application, make it easier than ever to allow students to upload sound recordings they have made, and share them with their teachers, colleagues or even friends and family outside of the classroom.

You can record students self-assessing, giving explanations, performing and any other audible evidence and embed in a website or blog. Recordings can also be shared on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

We know that not all students learn the same way, so audio recordings and presentations have the added benefit of allowing teachers to tailor teaching and learning for those who may be struggling with written work.

Share resources and get homework with OneDrive and DropItToMe

Cloud computing allows teachers to store and share all of their classroom documents in one place for easy, secure access by students. It is straightforward to give students the level of access that they need, easily differentiating their learning.

One of the benefits of Microsoft’s OneDrive is that you can upload Office files and PDFs to OneDrive to allow users to view your files using the Office web apps, without requiring them to have the software installed on their computers. For example, PowerPoint files shared will keep all animations and timings set in the original file and documents are viewable in the original formatting.

In addition, you can allow students to submit digital homework directly to your Dropbox folder through online services like DropItToMe, by simply providing them with a link and password. Importantly, this offers a way for them to send you work through Dropbox even if they have not installed the software. 

Brainstorm with Popplet

Popplet is a tool that allows students to create brainstorms – giving them the opportunity to explore and develop ideas visually.

By developing brainstorms on Popplet students can include images, text and links from multiple sources in order to expand on the ideas. Teachers can create them for students to use for research or allow students to create their own from research they have completed or to present a topic.

The flexibility of the tool means that it can be created by one student or simultaneously by a group of students on different computers.

Communicate with Google Docs 

Online word processers like Google Docs are particularly powerful for real-time collaboration in the classroom. If students are drafting a document with Google Docs, they are able to discuss progress or changes, as well as edit the text simultaneously.

By hosting a Google document and sharing it either publicly or with specific users, teachers can create a “message board” so students can see in real time what others are asking and how the teacher is answering.

Splitting the document into sections (for example into groups) will allow the different groups of students to comment in different areas – meaning the teacher can differentiate respondents at a glance and offer more tailored support.

Create a review with Powtoon or Animoto 

Powtoon and Animoto are easy-to-use tools that allow students to create engaging animated videos and presentations – which can be used to create a review of an area of learning or a text covered in class. 

With little difficulty students can enliven their presentations with animated videos – which can be created simply through a drag and drop tool – dynamic characters, graphics and images, and active text sequences

Students can either view each other’s files from the Powtoon or Animoto website or embed them into their learning platform or blog for peer review – or even upload them directly to YouTube.

Self-assessment with PollDaddy

Polling software like PollDaddy can be used in the classroom to receive immediate feedback from students on anything from self-assessment to feedback on future lesson ideas.

A single poll can be placed on several different websites, with the responses collected centrally on your account.

By using the software to survey the students as a form of self-assessment, teachers can gather data that can be used to inform the next lesson, for example to regroup the students to offer support or more challenge.

Over the longer term, regular surveys can provide valuable insights into student preferences, allowing teachers to get feedback directly from students on how lessons could be improved.

Digital Markbook with IFTTT

“If This Then That” is an innovative service that enables users to connect different web applications like Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox, together through simple conditional statements known as “recipes”.

One way to use If This Then That is to set up a recipe to automatically generate a Google spreadsheet with all work handed in to you by students via Dropbox – turning your spreadsheet into a digital mark book which can be shared with heads of department or senior leadership teams.

Recreate history with Fakebook

“Fakebook” is a simple and powerful tool that allows teachers and students to create imaginary profile pages for study purposes, which include options to add friends, posts, comments and profile information. It is a fantastic way to bring historical events to life in a way that students can relate to.

Having created profiles, it is simple to create a conversation between two historical characters in the form of a Facebook-like wall. 

Students can produce their own to show their understanding of a subject or a series of historical events – for example, Henry VIII posting messages back and forth to his six wives.

 

  • Phil Timmins is a product specialist at Frog.


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