Monday, Dec. 11, 2017

Instructional tools for the new century

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September 14, 2017

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Effective communication, content, creativity and collaboration is the need of the hour and tools that are easy to learn, use and implement are plenty. Effective communication in this diverse technological environment is one of the most important aspects of learning. One should know how to effectively integrate these technologies to our classroom practices and create engaging student activities. One has to ask a question that what is the communication issue in my instruction and can I do something to resolve it. Once you look for the answers around … voila! Technology will come smiling at you to your rescue. Take it … you will not regret!


Now if you have identified your instructional task your next step is to understand the nature of communication problem. Do you want a one way or two way communication? When more than two people want to establish communication where the communication can be in real time or asynchronous is called multiple way communication. A teacher can make a Google site page easily for any subject topic and ask students to go through it or could ask students to make one and collaborate. They can share information mostly by adding text, pictures, videos, embed URL’s and even Google forms for feedback. Teacher can give feedback online and a two way communication channel can be established and maintained. Kahoot, a game based assessment tool can be used by teachers to make any topic interesting and interactive. Students can use BoardHost or Skype for discussing projects. Flipped classroom a very popular and interesting instructional strategy which is much talked about nowadays can create a genuine curiosity among students about a topic. Google Hangout and Google docs are also useful instructional tools where the students and teachers are always connected and can work on single platform.

Therefore importance has to be given in selecting these instructional tools as per the nature of issues faced in class. If you have noticed that most of your students are shy in answering in public by raising their hands you can use embedded poll or surveys in the classroom presentations for an instant feedback. But if you want all your students to see and discuss each other’s response and view but you feel the classroom time is not enough you can use a tool called VoiceThread an online platform that allows commenting on pictures, videos and power point presentations. Students can post text, video and audio comments which can be viewed by others. As you will explore more such instructional tools, you have to choose the one which suits your set of skills and tools and add those valuable ones in your ‘Instructional Tool-Box’.

Collaboration is another aspect where technology can be a boon to the teacher’s instructional tools. Communication can remain confined to few if there is no collaboration. Tools like Assign a day, Doodle, Todoist or Google calendar can be used by the teachers to notify students about date for the instruction or assignment and the due dates. Some other tools are Creately – an online tool for drawing flowcharts and diagrams; MeetingWords – a tool for real-time collaborative text editing; Stormboard – an online tool for brainstorming and planning. Many of these collaborative tools are also communication and instructional tools, and can be used to deal with more than one instructional issue.

Encouraging and indicating creative techniques is another important aspect of instructional tools. Instructional tools should be selected carefully so that they can develop, analyze and evaluate worthwhile ideas. Creativity issues in teaching environments can be addressed using some instructional tools which are worth mentioning here. Tools like Visuwords and wordle create word clouds from text. Tagxedo can be used to build word images. Sketchpad and Graffiti creator promote creativity through visual learning. StoryJumper makes your story look like a comic strip. These instructional tools can be used to foster creativity using sounds, words and visuals.

Educators can leverage these 21st century skills to support the learning outcomes. Here the idea is not only to prepare a workforce but to prepare students for unforeseen circumstances and life opportunities. Correct instructional tools can foster a sense of actual interpretation of a problem and develop critical thinking.

(Readers can refer to my YouTube channel for a typical flipped classroom feel by pasting the following link to their browser- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0QuHTUvP3o&t=65s.

However these are only a few tools out of hundreds which I have personally explored and found interesting. Educators who are enthusiastic in exploring can go through some free MOOC programmes by Coursera, Alison, EdX etc. to explore more.)

Purbasha Roy is a Post Graduate in Physics with B.Ed. from Ranchi University. She has also done a Post Graduate Diploma in Instructional Design and Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Admnistration from Symbiosys Centre for Distance learning. She is teaching grades 6-10 at Bombay Scottish School, Powai, Mumbai since 2009. Her other certifications include Verified Certification in Emerging Trends & Technologies in the Virtual K-12 Classroom, by University of California, Certification in Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling from UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON SYSTEM’S ONLINE OFFERING through Coursera. She is very intrigued with the way technology is making its way in the field of education and tries to keep herself updated so that she can keep her students interested in the subject.

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