As Thanksgiving break approaches, educators have been getting to know their new year’s classes, whether in person or through remote learning, and are gearing up for the pre-holidays rush. Now that the adrenaline of the beginning of the year is winding its way down, teachers are working to keep their classes engaged and avoid falling into a rut. The good news is you’re not on your own! Teacher tools can enhance the learning experience and keep you and your students organized as midterm season approaches. So what should you be packing in your educational toolkit? How does it vary if you’re teaching remotely versus in an in-person classroom? Let’s have a look…
If you’re in person…
In a traditional in-person classroom, it might not seem like technological teacher tools would be as important as the brick-and-mortar accoutrements of education like books and bulletin boards. However, that’s not true — while the physical classroom is important, there are plenty of technological teacher tools that can be a major bonus for in-person learning.
For example, note-taking is important for students and teachers alike. However, physically writing out notes can get messy and be incredibly time consuming, especially if penmanship isn’t your specialty. Enter Google Keep, a note-taking app from the Google Office family. Using Keep, you can collaborate with other educators on lesson plans, make notes on assignments your students have handed in, and more, without having to worry about carrying over between different devices thanks to automatic syncing. Think of it like a version of Microsoft Word’s “Track Changes” feature, or a Google Doc, but more collaborative. And since the app shifted to online in February 2021, you don’t have to worry about whether you have room for another app on your device — phew!
Similarly, in the classroom itself, it’s important to have your tech toolkit packed. Slide presentations and PowerPoints can bring a lesson to life, but graphic design and editing can take it to the next level. Canva is a great example: it’s a graphic design tool that has hundreds of features and templates to make class materials and presentations visually engaging and fun. With all the distractions an in-person experience offers (seeing friends, ambient noise of the school, etc.), keeping your students focused on something visually interesting is a great way to lead them into a lesson!
Even better than an engaging visual in a presentation is one that moves, so give YouTube a look! The first name in online videos has educational content, music, funny and easy-to-follow tutorials, and more and more. Adding bite-sized video content to a lesson is captivating, but keeps it short and sweet to prevent zoning out!
If you’re in an online classroom…
Just because you’re teaching remotely doesn’t mean that traditional teacher tools are no longer useful! Note-taking features like Google Keep are just as important for remote teaching as they are for an in-person classroom. And when you don’t have control of the visuals in a physical classroom, Canva and other design editing software become more important than ever for keeping your students engaged with slides and other visual aspects of your presentations. And it goes without saying that integrating YouTube videos into an already online lecture is a surefire way to enliven a lesson.
However, for a teacher in an online learning environment, there’s a different type of teacher tool to keep in mind: those made specifically for video conferencing software. With the pandemic-induced explosion in video chat usage, Zoom and similar platforms have added a wide array of features to make video chatting more engaging and interactive, and make video-based teaching and learning more effective.
Some of these tools and features are well known, like breakout rooms, which teachers can use to enable small-group collaboration even when students can’t physically meet. Others are less widely discussed, like the Zoom feature that creates a transcript of calls, which can be great for reviewing your lessons or providing a summary to students who were out sick. If your school has a subscription to a service like mmhmm, you can also use add-ons to enhance your presentations and keep them engaging for your students, even from afar.
Remember, talking to other educators, including your coworkers at school or private tutors like our team at A-List, can give you even more ideas for teacher tools, both in-person and remote — and make sure your toolbox is always full to bursting!