Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series.
In this article, we continue to explore strategies that enable all students to comfortably share their ideas, while recognizing and honoring their individual strengths and preferences.
In part one, we focused on ways to reduce stress and maximize face-to-face interactions by assigning videos for students to watch at their own pace. This frees up in-person class time for collaborative activities and meaningful discussions. Additionally, the integration of embedded learning checks within these videos not only promotes active participation, comprehension, and immediate feedback for students but also provides teachers with valuable insights into the needs of individual students and the class as a whole.
Now, let's continue to delve into additional strategies and tools that can be leveraged to foster an even more engaging and inclusive learning experience, where every student's voice is heard, valued, and celebrated.
Celebrate multiple approaches to a problem and encourage peer-to-peer learning
By asking students to create videos asynchronously, we provide our learners a chance to verbally present and communicate their ideas and understanding of new topics. Apps like Microsoft Flip enable students to record themselves and engage in threaded video discussions with their classmates. This approach not only offers valuable insight into students' thought processes for teachers but also helps students practice articulating their ideas effectively. Representing all ideas and voices on a grid of replies facilitates powerful peer-to-peer learning and gives teachers unmatched insight into how students are thinking. Listening to students explain how they solved a problem while looking at their written work illuminates where they went wrong in their thinking more clearly than grading written work ever could.
A threaded video discussion platform like Flip enables students to easily record and post their problem-solving approaches. Being able to verbalize a solution requires an added layer of mastery, which is valuable in deepening students’ understanding of the material. Additionally, teachers gain valuable insight into how students are thinking and where they may be getting stuck, allowing them to provide more specific instruction and address any gaps in comprehension. Having students post their solutions to a grid of responses also fosters peer-to-peer learning and celebrates a diversity of strategies to solve similar types of problems.
Providing a safe space for every learner to share
Interactive presentation tools like Pear Deck encourage active participation from all learners. With Pear Deck, teachers embed questions directly into presentations and students can engage and respond using their own devices. Teachers can design comprehensive lessons incorporating opening check-ins, warm-up activities, teacher-led and collaborative discussion prompts, and reflective pauses all within a single tool. During discussions, teachers can present student responses on the board anonymously, instilling confidence among students to share their ideas. By utilizing simple web apps, teachers ensure that every student has a chance to formulate an idea, enabling diverse responses to be represented during discussion.
In my math classroom, I use the drawing feature in Pear Deck, paired with a class set of Wacom tablets, which puts a digital pen in the hand of each student. Students plug the Wacoms into their laptops and then are free to handwrite their responses to questions as they would on a piece of paper.
These tools combined give teachers a dashboard view of all students working on problems in real time. Instead of just turning in a page of completed work, teachers can observe students as they work. Teachers can see where a student might hesitate or struggle, get stuck, the moment they go astray, and also witness and anonymously spotlight creative solutions alongside common misconceptions. In doing so, we can celebrate the variety of ways students are thinking about problems and normalize mistakes as part of the learning journey without singling anyone out.
This snapshot view of students working in real-time allows teachers to get an instant sense of the needs of both the class as a whole and of individual students. After students have had a chance to engage with the problem on their own, teachers can take the discussion to the board and discuss actual student work. In this way, we can focus on the solution process rather than solely the final answer, allowing for innovative approaches and a variety of perspectives to be highlighted and rewarded. What’s more, by displaying responses without attaching names to solutions, a feature built into Pear Deck by default, we can discuss and learn from incorrect answers without singling out any student. This anonymity ensures that students can freely express their thoughts without worrying about how their peers might perceive their responses or the fear of giving incorrect answers as students build their confidence and we develop a learning environment rooted in safety and trust. This helps create a classroom culture that celebrates mistakes as an essential part of our collective growth.
While some thrive in oral discussions and on-the-spot responses, others require time to process and organize their thoughts before recording or typing their answers. Technology allows for differentiation in response methods, accommodating the diverse learning styles and preferences of students. What’s more, real-time visibility into students’ problem-solving process, facilitated by tools like Pear Deck and Wacom tablets, provides valuable insight into their thought process.
Effective feedback and personalized learning
Feedback plays a vital role in student growth and success. Technology offers innovative ways to provide detailed and personalized feedback. With tools like Kami, educators can annotate student work using rich multimedia tools such as video and voice notes, embedded screencasts, and digital ink. The collaborative nature of this tool promotes two-way communication and encourages students to engage in an asynchronous feedback loop, as opposed to one-way feedback. Teachers can reuse comments saved to their annotation bank to make feedback delivery more efficient while maintaining a high level of personalization.
Mote is another powerful tool that educators can use to provide voice feedback on student work. Mote integrates with Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, and Classroom, and various other websites. Voice comments allow teachers to convey tone, ensuring that students receive feedback in the intended manner. As with Kami, leaving suggestions as comments with Mote encourages students to engage in a cyclical feedback loop if further clarification or follow-up is needed.
Digital tools like Kami and Mote also offer important accessibility features like customized playback speed options and transcription, allowing students to engage with feedback in their preferred manner. By incorporating these tools into everyday practices, teachers can help students gain valuable study skills, guide them to take ownership of their learning, and build deeper connections with each student.
Promoting student confidence and overcoming fear of mistakes
Traditional classroom participation favors those who are vocal and quick to raise their hands. However, it is crucial to provide opportunities for every individual to respond and showcase their unique thought processes. By creatively leveraging technology, we now have the power to create more equitable and empowering discussion forums where every person has a platform to express their ideas and be heard.
“My primary goal when I began teaching was to be a supportive, nurturing force in my students’ lives. I was determined to make a year in my math class as pleasant an experience as students had ever had. I wanted them to leave the year without feeling scared of math. My goal was to provide the necessary rigor while maintaining a calm, compassionate classroom environment.
The flipped classroom has allowed me to be this teacher. It’s been my way of providing students with routine and structure, confidence in their expectations, and a classroom environment where we all are taking risks together. I’m there to pick up on how students are approaching problems and dealing with challenges. I have time to sit down with all my students and give them the space to talk to me if and when they’re up for it. My classroom isn’t perfect. Whose is? But the flipped classroom has allowed me to make the connections with students that I was striving for. And to me, there is nothing more important than that.” –Stacey Roshan, Tech with Heart
I’m going to hold my students to high standards, knowing that I’ve put all of the resources in place for my learners to get the individualized instruction and support they need.
Provide an environment where all students are comfortable in sharing to build next-level relationships and trust
I'm always on a mission to find tools that help me get to know my students as individuals and build meaningful relationships with them. Technology provides a powerful way to engage students, inform individual and group instruction, personalize lessons, and empower students to direct their own learning.
In addition to strategies like the flipped classroom model and interactive presentations, tech tools can help us offer multiple channels for students to communicate and express themselves, allowing them some level of choice in their preferred style. Some students will always choose to ask questions in the classroom or raise their hand to respond. But for other students, when you open up ways for them to communicate with you through text and video outside of the classroom, you can gain a personal understanding and connection that may not have been possible otherwise.
What these tools do is differentiate how students can respond to questions. While some students are wonderful with oral discussion and on-the-spot responses, others are best when they have time to process and craft thoughtful responses before recording or typing an answer. Thoughtfully infusing technology into our lesson design facilitates differentiated instruction and empowers students to express themselves authentically, amplifying their voices and promoting a sense of each individual feeling seen and heard.
It has been truly remarkable to witness the profound impact of helping students find forums of expression that are optimal for them. As we gain their trust, we can help students build the confidence they need to be resilient learners.
Empowering environment for every student
Integrating technology into the classroom can transform the learning experience, providing an equitable and empowering environment for all students. By intentionally leveraging web apps and edtech tools, educators can amplify all ideas and voices, showcase a diversity of thought, and nurture a culture of compassion and inclusion. Through collaborative problem-solving, personalized feedback, and opportunities for individual expression, students develop confidence and the skills necessary to take ownership of their learning, helping them excel academically and emotionally. Embracing technology with a focus on whole-child wellness and relationships allows us to understand students' needs holistically and best address them as individuals.
When we give our learners the right forum to express their ideas and integrate tools that allow them to respond in a way that is most comfortable to them, we allow each student's most powerful voice to shine. We show students that there are a variety of ways for them to contribute their thoughts and make an impact. We allow them to feel safe in sharing and are able to coach them based on what they need, as individuals.
About the author
Stacey Roshan is an educator, keynote speaker, TED-Ed talker, consultant, and author of Tech with Heart. She is passionate about discovering and sharing ways to leverage technology to cultivate deeper compassion in the classroom and provide each learner with the optimal platform to express their ideas in a format that best fits their style. She aims to equip teachers with ideas and tech tools to create more inclusive, equitable, and empowering classrooms for every student to find their voice, build their confidence, and take ownership of their learning. Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, CNN, and PBS Newshour.