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An Edtech Story

Edtech fundamental principles encompass the creation of collaborative learning environments in which peers help to coach, tutor, explain, and inspire one another.” -- Matthew Lynch, The TechEdvocate

Here's the story of an ESOL class who benefitted from edtech fundamental principles, perhaps for the first time. My first endeavour was a failure and there was nothing to “ring the bell about” (or write a blog about), or so I thought...

I was invited into a Level 1 adult #ESOL class to demonstrate - to the teacher - how Google Jamboard can be used to effectively engage students in learning. I began asking questions of the class, challenging them with sticky notes and text boxes, and letting them add images and GIFs onto the Jamboard.

(My own introduction to GIFs came from SJ White. In her session, she explores the benefits of .GIF images to help close the digital divide and increase accessibility).


Gif example

In thinking back on that first visit, I realized that I had won the students but lost the teacher's trust. In the process of trying to support her, I blindsided her (unintentionally) so she had to admit to her students that she was not adept at using technologies in the classroom. I felt ashamed that I made the teacher open up and show her vulnerability. My reflections led me to beat myself up. That is, until one morning when #Chat appeared on my screen with the message, “Are you free to come into class… to do something similar to what you did in class the other day?” Wow, that felt good… YES, YES, YES!!!

A lively classroom buzzed with excitement, peer support, and a keen desire for more. It was absolutely wonderful to watch the students' faces light up when they saw they were working on the same document at the same time.

Such moments are really empowering, and I went on to identify the learning outcome for the session, which was "to be able to draft a plan for an article." I thought, ‘Aha! Now we can allocate a frame per student (or pair) and start embedding text, shapes, and connectors,’ and we did. Through comparing and contrasting their plans with those of their peers, the students not only achieved the learning outcome but were able to analyze and improve their work. As a side note, I'd also reiterate that a flipchart or pen and paper would work well for the tasks. Yet, the advantage of using Jamboard was that students could access their work "at any time, anywhere". This example shows a Jamboard-based activity from an ESOL class where students worked in groups and learned together.

Jamboard example

Learning from others and together is powerful, isn't it? This made Jamboard the perfect tool for supporting the learning objective and allowing for significant task redesign. But please keep in mind that the very similar result, creating an engaging and collaborative classroom, can be achieved with other Google for Workplace or Microsoft Office 365 tools. Further, as Al Kingsley in his new book My Secret #EdTech Diary quotes Steven Hope, “When used appropriately, the right EdTech can enhance and enable learners. It can extend learning beyond the four walls of classrooms and buildings. Learning can happen any place, any time, on any device.”

Our ESOL department uses Google Workspace for Education as a seamless, intuitive, and secure platform for teaching, learning, and collaboration. One of the most staggering statistics is that over 170 million students and educators use Google Workspace tools to facilitate collaboration to improve student learning experiences.

Jamboard met the job's requirements perfectly in that particular case because only by choosing a relevant edtech tool, that supports your pedagogical approach, will enable you to simultaneously enhance learning experiences and instill essential digital skills. Furthermore, my daughter was using this tool for home learning but it looked very complicated to me. Now I know how to use it myself and it’s so easy! Having the ability to help a child (if/when needed) with homework assignments is huge - it’s ESSENTIAL. Teachers now have an important role to play in matching appropriate digital tools to the learning intentions rather than merely embedding technology just because it’s “required.” In my definition of "appropriate," I do not mean tools that support our teaching from the front of the class, but those that enable students to fully engage with the world outside of the classroom.

Technology tools - Teams, Drive, Gmail, Google Chat

Consider the last comment for a moment. In my role as a digital lead in our department, I am often asked for advice about how to use different digital tools rather than, “How can I use technology to enhance my teaching and learning?” In the past, I have been guilty of jumping on the bandwagon of a new shiny tool and eager to try it out with my learners right away.

Now I have a different perspective. By knowing my options and selecting the most effective one I aim to redefine the learning experience and this is more important than using the newest technology tool. It's likely that you already know where I'm going with this - the SAMR model. However, this blog is not intended to share theoretical information about the model, but to provide you with my “fail to achieve and then succeed” reflection and the importance of choosing "the right tool for the right job" to allow classroom activities that have been impossible until recently and specifically in the classroom above, until last week.

There are many amazing educators advocating pedagogy before technology and who are always willing to offer advice and collaborate (far too many to mention here). Others occupy the opposite camp, but Steven Spence outlines how we can bring together all of our different pedagogical views in “How evidence-informed practice and EdTech can intersect to support learning” because it is our shared goal to enable effective learning.

Sun with headphones

There is one trio in particular, I feel I must mention - the Edufuturists and their inspiring guests who have an influence on my thinking and stress the importance of integrating technology with purpose. Now that summer is here, put your headphones on, tune into EduFuturists podcast, and enjoy the sunshine.

Images, GIFs made using Canva. Canva for Education is free for teachers and students - “Create, collaborate and communicate visually in the classroom and beyond.”

Aleksandra House headshot

Beginning with Entry-level 1 English, Aleksandra House earned her level 6 qualification in Teaching & Professional Development. She has been teaching ESOL for over ten years and now works at one of the most successful ESOL departments in the UK. Aleks is a Google Certified Educator and Trainer and is in pursuit of Google Certified Coach status soon.

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