One of the few positives to come out of the last year has been the wealth of incredible new tools to support teaching and learning, but it’s hard to know where to start and which tools to try out. Some are better suited to Secondary Education or even Further Education, but there are a few extensions and websites out there that can really level up the primary classroom.
In this post, I’m going to talk about four tools that every primary school should be using, whether they’re teaching in-person or remotely. By making these tools available, schools can make life easier for teachers so that they can focus on what really matters - the children.
TextHelp has some incredible tools to support learning and I’m a big fan of EquatIO, which you can read more about in this post about delivering primary maths remotely. But it’s WriQ that’s a real game-changer for the primary classroom.
One of the big expectations in KS2 is that we will monitor and report on the spelling, punctuation and grammar of our pupils; we perform regular assessments and compare work to national standards. WriQ has been designed to take the pain out of grading by using an automated process to score vocabulary, SPaG and pace of work to get a snapshot of progress compared to national standards. The system constantly monitors any pupil work that’s been written in a Google Doc and can be assessed on an individual basis or to gain an overall idea of progress.
WriQ is split into three parts - the teacher interface, the pupil interface and the teacher dashboard. The first two run through an extension; however, pupils don’t need to use the extension if schools are worried about information overwhelm.
What I like about it is that the data presented to students is customisable, so you can decide whether or not to show students their current vocabulary age (vocabulary ages range from 6-20) or WriQ score etc.
If you choose to use the pupil extension then there are some lovely gamification elements, including ‘Writing Bursts’ to improve writing fluency and character badges awarded for progress. The idea is to gamify writing more fluently, which certainly benefits some of the more reluctant writers.
The downside to using it is that there is an expectation of a certain level of typing ability amongst your students, but digital literacy is still a core part of the computer science national curriculum and I’d encourage all schools to teach typing fluency early on in KS2 as it has huge cross-curriculum benefits.
Overall, I think it’s certainly worth getting a 30-day trial and seeing whether it makes a difference to your teacher workload.
Asynchronous learning is proving to be an effective way to deliver content, and teachers are becoming more and more skilled at recording and editing video content. The next logical checkpoint is that teachers want to know if pupils are actually watching and engaging with the video content. On top of that, in an attempt to mimic the school room, teachers are recording videos with ‘pause here’ messages to encourage pupils to stop and reflect on the learning so far.
Edpuzzle has been designed to make video content more interactive so that instead of asking pupils to pause, the teacher can ensure the video stops and asks a question or shows a note (either text, image or voice note). Questions can either be open-ended or multiple-choice and pupils must answer them to move forward in the video.
Even better, you can import videos from a range of sources including the BBC and YouTube, meaning that you can cut, edit and add voiceovers to existing content and personalise it to better suit your class. By installing the Edpuzzle extension, you can even edit your videos straight from YouTube, without first opening up the Edpuzzle site.
There is a huge range of exclusive Edpuzzle content and you can easily search (by age and subject) libraries of videos, some of which have been created by teachers and uploaded for public use. You can even look through existing content from a range of platforms and see where other teachers have included questions, voiceovers or other edits. Content is organised by American grades, so if you're in the UK, for example, you have to be aware that Grade 1 is equivalent to Year 2.
From the teacher interface, you can easily see whether pupils have watched your videos, how much of the video they have watched and whether they’ve repeated any sections, along with any responses to questions asked. It also integrates simply with your Google Classroom so videos can easily be assigned directly.
Edpuzzle has a free version which limits the number of edited videos you can save on your account; however, they are offering free pro access for UK & LATAM teachers until the end of the academic year, so it’s certainly worth giving it a go for the next few months.
Mote has taken the edu world by storm in the last few months by providing the ability to add voice notes to documents, meaning that teachers can record quick feedback for pupils instead of typing out formal responses. For many in the primary sector, this has made a huge difference to both staff and student mental health. It has provided a much-needed personal connection that is harder to achieve through typed feedback, especially for younger pupils.
To use Mote, teachers need to install the Mote extension, which then allows you to easily add recordings to Docs, Slides, Sheets and Classroom. Within Docs, voice notes are recorded as comments that are then available to anyone who has access to the document. Depending on whether or not your students also have the extension installed, they will either see a link to listen to the voice note back or a play icon embedded into the comment.
Of course, if students have the Mote extension installed, they can also record their own voice comments. Thus schools need to make a decision about whether to install the extension just for staff, or for pupils too.
From the teacher dashboard, you can also see interactions with your recordings, to see whether or not students have engaged with your feedback.
Mote’s free version includes unlimited voice recordings of up to 30 seconds, however, once you start moving into paid versions, not only can you record longer notes but you can also include transcription and translation as well as STEM notation integration.
Digital literacy is essential both for working remotely during lockdown and for the future workplace, so it’s essential that both staff and students are comfortable and confident in navigating a digital landscape. Often we use digital tools at a basic level but fail to maximise their potential because we don’t have time to sit and learn everything that tool can do. This is particularly true when it comes to using Google Workspace; we know the basics and either switch to a different tool or leave it out if we don’t know how to do something. Canopy has developed a set of simple interactive tutorials aimed at supporting both staff and students to improve their use of Google Workspace apps.
By installing the Workspace Skills extension, teachers can assign Howdous directly through Google Classroom. Each Google tool has three skill levels: Bronze, Silver & Gold, with matching badges. You can choose whether to assign all of the skills in one go or automate them to assign weekly or on a specific day(s).
Pupils can work through the courses at their own pace and are awarded points based on competency and efficiency. After a certain level of competency has been achieved, users are awarded a digital badge, which sits in their personal digital passport and is easily accessible. Through Classroom, teachers can import competency scores straight into their gradebook to look at progress.
I would also recommend getting staff to work through all of the skills too as it can really improve their use of Workspace. It can also be a great way to identify whether staff are ready to take their Google Certified Educator exams to demonstrate their understanding of the tools. As an added bonus, they might discover some hidden features or simpler ways of doing regular tasks (I know I did).