Using technology to your advantage

Emma Maley, Computing teacher, talks about her experience of using technology in the classroom.

Computing teacher, Gleniffer High School, Renfrewshire

Digital Learning week takes place from the 2nd until the 6th of March. During this week, educational establishments are encouraged to use digital aids to supplement learning in the classroom. As a Computing Science teacher, I know only too well how useful these digital aids can be. Throughout my probationary year, I have aimed to use as many different tools as I can to facilitate learning in my classroom. Like many schools in the country, it can be challenging getting software installed on the school’s network. Because of this issue, I have made it my mission to find as many productive websites as I can that enhance learning. I have discovered that there are many great websites out there that can be used in an educational environment.

Digital homework

One of the websites I use most often with classes is Edmodo, which I describe to the pupils as ‘Facebook for homework’. Edmodo, if you haven’t already came across it, is used as a digital school network, allowing teachers to create groups which pupils can join, provided they have created an Edmodo account. Once pupils have access to the group, they can take part in class discussions; download tasks or homework; upload documents or take part in quizzes. They can also customise their profile by adding an avatar or profile picture (which can then be removed by teacher accounts for being inappropriate!) A danger of using Edmodo is that it encourages pupils to use it as a social media site instead of for its intended purpose. To combat this, you can moderate all posts on a group or set persistent pupils to read-only to prevent them from posting (#FunnyCatVideosAreForFacebookOnly!). It also provides a good opportunity for teaching netiquette (respectful behaviour online) and preventing cyber-bullying.

Formative assessment

Another website I use very frequently is Socrative. Socrative is an excellent website to use as formative assessment or during a revision lesson. Socrative allows teachers to create an account, which then provides them with a room. Socrative’s main function is to create quizzes that are shared with pupils. Pupils can access the website without logging in – all they need to do is enter the room name. Quizzes can range from true/false; multiple choice or short answer responses and can contain as many questions as needed. Pupils can also take part in quizzes in teams, available through the website’s Space Race feature. The Space Race is a huge hit with my junior classes due to the competitive nature. Exit passes also feature on Socrative’s website: pupils answer three questions based on the lesson. The class results can then be used to check for understanding. One of the real advantages of using Socrative is that class results can be downloaded as an Excel file, which can then be used for tracking progress.

Advantages of digital learning

The great thing about using websites is that they can usually be accessed from any device, so pupils can make use of computers, tablets or smartphones during the lesson. It also means pupils can easily access them from home: I regularly give out homework digitally on Edmodo rather than printing out several sheets of paper for each pupil.

There are many other very useful websites I have come across: Prezi (create exciting presentations); Kahoot (create quizzes and discussions); Powtoon (create animations); Moovly (create movies or presentations); Quizlet (create flash cards and quizzes) and Class Dojo (a great classroom management tool) to name a few. Although these may not be used in every lesson, they are an invaluable help in maintaining pupils’ attention in class. In this day and age with advancing technology, I feel it is only right that we make use of technology in any way we can within and out-with the classroom to enhance learning and teaching.