Back to school for teachers – My tips for a digital classroom

With the start of the 2017 school year just around the corner, it’s time for teachers to get ready for a new year full of innovative and future-focused learning opportunities for their students. With technology continually changing, teachers will always have the chance to try something new and I would challenge all teachers to take a risk and implement something that they haven’t tried before – not only should our students be learning but we should be as well!

Below are my ideas for creating a digital classroom where the learning of all students will be enhanced. I am a huge fan of the Google Suite for Education and this is reflected in my choice of tools. This list of tools generally also reflect the idea that learning in this day and age should be accessible anywhere, anytime and at any pace.

Use Google Sitesgoogle-sites-logo

Whilst the old version of Google Sites was a bit intimidating to use, the new Google Sites is very user-friendly. I would recommend that all teachers use Google Sites for each of their classes or courses as a way of storing digital resources that will be used throughout the year. Pre-tech, teachers have used boxes to organise and store their resources. Now that the majority of our resources are digital, Google Sites allows teachers to do the same in a much more efficient and organised manner. Build your site by adding to it throughout the year and you will have an amazing resource to tinker with and use in future years. If you are working as a department or a small team of teachers, take the opportunity to collaborate on your new Google Site together to save everyone time. Take the opportunity to let your students create their own Google Sites as a way of presenting projects that can have a global audience.

Use Google Classroom

Google Classroom is amazing. Classes can go paperless and teachers can share resources, communicate with students and create assignments with ease. The new updates to Google Classroom also make it easier to differentiate instruction by pushing out work to groups or individuals. Guardians can also be invited to receive weekly summaries in regards to their child’s work. Share all of your work through Google Classroom as well as posting up instructions as we once did on the Whiteboard. Link to activities that are stored on your class Google Site. If you are team-teaching, take the opportunity to collaborate on Google Classroom with the other teachers – this will be a real time saver!

Use Blogger

Blogs are a great way to share updates of all of the great things you are doing with your class or department. Post up videos and photos (with the student’s permission) and use it as a way of showcasing student work.  Parents and extended family members of your students will appreciate being able to see what has been happening in your class and you might be able to inspire other educators around the world. Have students create their own blog to publish their work. What’s more motivating than having a global audience looking and commenting on your creations! This blog should act as their e-portfolio throughout the year.


Use Screen Recordings

There are many screen recording apps and extensions out there and the one I use the most is Screencastify. You can access the Chrome Web Store and add Screencastify extension. From there, you can easily create screen recordings that are saved on your device or in your Google Drive. They can easily be uploaded to your YouTube channel as well. So why create screen recordings? I always say, if you have something important to say, why would you only give your audience the opportunity to hear it once? If you have to give instructions in regards to a document for example, create a screen recording that students can go back over until they understand. This will also stop teachers having to answer the same questions over and over – rather direct students back to the screen-recording. Teachers can store their screen recordings on their Google Site so they can be easily accessed by students. All of this also helps teachers to promote learning agency and self-directed learning. Students can also create screen recordings to demonstrate their learning, which can then be shared on their blog.

Expand your Professional Learning Network (PLN)

I believe that all teachers should have a PLN that they can share ideas with. It is such a valuable way to learn about new tools and ideas to enhance student learning. I am a huge fan of Twitter, and there is an endless number of educators from around the world that are sharing resources and ideas so everyone can benefit. There are also some great Twitter Chats where teachers discuss various topics in education. Whether it is Twitter, Google Plus, or another platform, make sure that your network extends beyond just your colleagues at school. Remember that you too will be doing amazing things in your classroom that should be shared so others can benefit as well! If you are feeling adventurous, experiment with using Twitter in your classroom. In my classes, this has been a great way for students to expand their own audiences for their creations. Students get a huge buzz when their work gets retweeted. For a great list of ideas about using Twitter in the classroom, check out this list from @DailyGenius. You can also follow me on Twitter at @samgibson1983.



Use the SAMR model to guide your technology integration

The SAMR model is a great guide for teachers to use when they are integrating technology. If we are investing in technology, it is vitally important that the technology enhances learning for our students. I believe that if you aren’t enhancing learning through technology, then you aren’t using it correctly. Are you simply just uploading your original worksheets to the web? Or are you implementing online learning activities that are engaging, give instant feedback and allow for greater differentiation and personalised learning opportunities. We should all be aiming to transform learning through technology by heading towards the ‘Redefinition’ end of the SAMR model.