Edtech for Beginners workshop recap
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
The first part of the Technology in Education teacher training workshop looked at online student management, using Quizlet to enliven classroom time, and ways to prepare for not having internet access at school.
On November 22, Short and Simple English held its first professional development workshop at a coffeeshop in Budapest with some very nice and enthusiastic teachers, who were eager to learn more about how they could keep up with their Gen Z students.
Learning Management Systems
The most burning question was managing their and the teacher's work in a somewhat more convenient manner. There are luckily many tools for that, called learning management systems (LMSs), such as Google Classroom, Edmodo or Chalk. We looked at the first two during the workshop.
I used my 100% online IELTS prep course as an example to introduce Google Classroom. First of all, you go to classroom.google.com and create a class. Then you can invite students by sending an invitation with the class code by email, or by showing them the class code, which they then enter on their devices once they click "Join class." Within a classroom, you can post announcements to them (they can also post on the class wall if you let them), upload materials, and assign tasks.
The tasks can be of various kinds, basically whatever you decide to upload (pdfs, videos, slides, etc.). The main feature is that you can set and see who you assign the task to, whether they have submitted it in time or late, and you can also grade their tasks. If they uploaded their solutions via Google Drive, then you can start editing it within Classroom so that they will see not only their grade but all your edits and comments (which can be put into a comment bank for later use) as well. When you return the graded task you can attach further private comments for the student, and later you will see if they have checked the returned assignment. All the assigned tasks (graded, ungraded) can be checked under the Grades tab, which you can also send out periodically to parents if you wish.
Edmodo (www.edmodo.com) is another such LMS, which is more similar to Facebook in its looks, and it also has the most important assignment and gradebook functions, and additionally you can also add parents to each individual student, so that they can see what their child (and only their child) is up to. Apparently, this function also exists in Classroom, but it might be a local feature, or. you have to sign up as a school/institution and not as an individual. The only downside of Edmodo is its notification system, because there are siginificant lags in getting notifications and messages, which makes the whole experience a bit troublesome.
Chalk (which incorpora) is another such LMS, which is more similar to Facebook in its looks, and it also has the most important assignment and gradebook functions, and additionally, you can also add parents to each individual student so that they can see what their child (and only their child) is up to. Apparently, this function also exists in Classroom, but it might be a local feature, or. you have to sign up as a school/institution and not as an individual. The only downside of Edmodo is its notification system because there are significant lags in getting notifications and messages, which makes the whole experience a bit troublesome.
Zoom and Calendly
Connected to my online course, we also discussed the software for delivering online lessons, and how students can book their appointments.
For video chatting, there's obviously Skype, which has been the sole ruler of the video chatting universe for a long time; however, there's another one coming up quite fiercely, which is Zoom (www.zoom.com). Zoom is also a video chatting software and app, but it offers the option of scheduling meetings, you can create breakout rooms for smaller discussions, and you can not only share your screen (or just one application window, without students seeing your other open windows), you can also share a collaborative whiteboard, which everybody has the chance to write on. You can also organise webinars that can be up to 40 minutes long in the free plan.
And for appointment booking, I started using Calendly (www.calendly.com) recently. It has a neat calendar integration system, so if students book a slot, it immediately appears in all your connected calendars, and it also checks your already existing appointments to avoid clashes. The free plan includes one event type only (which means you can only create 1 length, for example), but the basic paid version is only $8 per month, which is not such a bad deal. It also lets you create events that guests need to register for.
Facebook Pages also offers this booking service for free but there's no calendar integration, which is a bit of a problem because you either enter all your other private appointments into their calendar (students can't see those) or you hope for no clashes, which is a frail hope. Also, you need to have created a page for yourself at first and then have added services to be able to start the bookings.
We familiarised ourselves with the website, learned how to create sets (which can be monolingual or bilingual) and classes. We also tested all the different games students can play at home for self-study purposes (Spell, Listen, Learn) or in class to collaborate and to have fun (Live with at least 6 students, Match and Gravity).
Teachers were amazed by the "scan document" function which works 100% well with print documents and relatively well with handwritten notes. This function lets you scan any page in your book and transform it almost immediately into a set! We also discussed the option of making your students upload sets and collaborate on sets remotely.
An awesome feature is again checking your students' work and progress. You can see which games they tried, how many tries it took them to get something right, which words they are struggling with and which ones they find easy. This is invaluable insight for a teacher who'd like to prepare tests, plan lessons, or check on students.
Lastly, we also talked about how we should prepare for having bad internet in the classroom, and the best solutions are:
saving your videos and audio files in advance (https://keepvid.com for example),
making Google Drive documents offline,
saving whatever's saveable (even in the form of screenshots).