By: Lynn Benavides
The digital age is fast and furious and constantly evolving. I find that is similar to a sprint around corners. Traditional learning, on the other hand, is slow and predictable. I find that it is similar to a marathon across flat, barren land.
Being an “older” teacher, I found comfort in the marathon. I could keep up and was always aware of what is happening. However, being a conscientious teacher, I knew that the marathon was not what my students needed. So I became a sprinter with everyone else. I survived and found ways to integrate technology into my instruction, assessment and planning. I wove technology into the learning of my students. However, I always felt like I was out of breath and afraid of what was around the corner. I found then, that my use of technology looked haphazard and inconsistent (a result of being a marathon runner trying to do the sprint)!
Recently, though, I was invigorated when introduced to some learning tools that have enabled me to sprint ahead. With one of these tools– Symbaloo, I was able to create a variety of academic menus that my students can access at home or at school. Each of these menus are organized per subject area and are easy to use. The tiles in Symbaloo have a visual that students can readily identify and understand. The tiles connect to learning tasks and games. Earlier, when I was laboring to stay in the race, I would continually put links on a page of our weebly. There was no order and the web page looked disorganized. Because of Symbaloo, our classroom web pages are neat and organized!
Another tool that helped keep me in the race was Blendspace. Blendspace allows me to organize independent learning tasks in a sequential order. Blendspace also allows students to assess the tasks independently. Previously–when trying to keep up, I would find videos and learning tasks about a specific goal and I would not know how to share these with the students unless I did so whole class. This seemed to be a “waste” of time as my goal was to enhance prior learning, not reteach it. Luckily, I was saved by Blendspace. Blendspace gave me a board to share a variety of academic songs, learning videos and curricular websites about a specific standard or topic. Once I selected the links I wanted that would enhance student learning, I created quizzes to gather data about student learning. I was able to embed the Blendspace learning task in our web page so students can easily access it. Like Symbaloo, Blendspace helped make our webpage neat, organized, and curricularly focused!
A final took that was as asset to my digital learning was Thinglink. Thinglink allowed me to integrate visual learning with digital learning. I like to bombard the senses of my students with our topics; I want them to learn using all of their senses. Thinglink allows students to do this! I was able to find an image that students could connect to their topic. This visual enabled them to “see” their knowledge. Within this image, I was able to embed links that appealed to the students sense of hearing (songs or videos). Once again, the Thinglink task was embedded in our web page. Rather than use of valuable class time sharing a catchy tune or an interesting video about a topic, I can share these resources with students using Thinglink. Like the other tools, Thinglink helped organize a variety of resources about a specific topic so that students spend their time learning,
Now, back to the Digital Learning Race. I know that I was not born a sprinter. However, with the training I was given and the tools I was exposed to, I can keep up. I may not be in front of the pack, but I sure am not in the back!