Whether bringing your students online full-time or just using a learning platform to supplement and support your classroom, helping your students become a little more tech savvy never hurts. Better yet, helping students become more savvy on their own time is one way to save your precious lesson time for content instead of walking people through the steps. Of course, there are some things that might need to be reviewed in the lesson, but in this article, we will explore how to support students independent tech learning.
When we started the 2020 academic year, I realized early on that I walked into that never-ending, somewhat chaotic year more equipped than some others in my teaching community. There were some real struggles going on in our department, but knowing what tech to use didn’t really seem to be one of them. We had been teaching in a paperless environment for about four years and had already gone through the initial tough times of working out our online learning platform, worksheet formats, possible online situations for group collaboration and document sharing. A lot of these tech-skills were incorporated into the intro of each lesson. Just a few slides demonstrating how a certain google feature worked, how a particular webpage too could make their life easier or how grammarly.com could support them in a lot of their google endeavours. But while these little lectures seemed appropriate and useful, I felt it necessary to put the learning tools in the students’ hands and give them more responsibility for their tech choices. And that is what I wish to cover here.
I am a fan of developing and helping my students become more and more independent of me as a teacher. Teaching in society where teachers are generally expected to spoon feed their students, this is not a necessarily popular ideas. That said, once it is done, I feel these once-spoon fed students seem to enjoy some new freedom and responsibility. So, I decided to make it official. Strategy 1: Make a Tech Toolbox on our learning platform
I decided to devote an entire section at the bottom of my learning platform to tech tools that were available all the time to my students. The purpose was to include any resources which would help students gain skills and know-how on their own and on-demand. So, whenever a student raised their hand and said they didn’t know how to do something Google or wherever, I could easily answer by telling them to check The Toolbox and followup with me if they still needed help. Second, I also encouraged students who had found something ‘useful’ related to our studies/tech to put links in our “Stream’ on Google Classroom (since I had my settings open for students’ ability to post as well). Here again, the students were empowered to share their independent learning endeavours with others, demonstrating the value of autonomous learning. There is a certain pride you can see when a student is able to share a great resource with their classmates. The Toolbox is an ever-evolving space that changes with the needs of the students and course development. It is the one-stop self-learning shop for students in classrooms, hybrid or online situations. See Figure 1 below for an example of a Toolbox from one of my classrooms. Figure 1.
Strategy 2: Self-Study Tech Homework
This is a strategy I began to use when I knew that in my next lesson, I would need the students to ‘do’ something techy and I didn’t want to use my precious class time to teach them. In this case, I would make a ‘assignment’ type of post on my learning platform (on Google Classroom, the Question post is nice for this) and ask the students to research about how they could perform a certain task on our learning platform. They could either find the explanation online in text format and submit it to the ANSWER section of my QUESTION or upload a video they found online that explained how to do the particular tech ‘thing’ they were supposed to learn. With the Question type of post on Google Classroom, the students are able to see each other’s uploads and also comment on them. So, as a sneaky teacher, I suspect some students double check and look at others’ uploads to see if what they uploaded is similar and/or maybe correct. This in itself is another way of getting more input! I also told them that they themselves would need to be able to actually ‘do’ the techy thing in the next lesson, so they better actually familiarize themselves with what they uploaded in preparation. In the lessons following this type of homework, I find there are two patterns that occur. 1. The students who did the homework and also actually ‘studied’ the method, are happy to scurry round to another desk and help someone else out. And 2., the ‘wasted’ lesson time is highly reduced and reduces pressure on the content portion of the lesson. Win-win! See Figure 2 for an example of the self-study tech homework. Figure 2.
So there are two simple strategies to up your game on handling tech issues in and out of the classroom while upping the autonomy of your student’s learning experience.
Author Biography After graduating from university in 2000 with an arts degree, Jennifer taught English as a second language to new Canadians who enrol in the Canadian government sponsored LINC program. She then taught in primary eduction for about 10 years in Tokyo. She then obtained his MA in Linguistics at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan in 2011 and has taught for over 20 years, including in Canada and Japan. She has been teaching English in Japanese universities for over 10 years including; Waseda, International Christian University, Musashi and Toyo University in Tokyo. Her main research interests include young learner motivation,
testing and assessment as well as teacher professional
development. She is also the founder of Bricolage Teacher.