Debora Masker Blog post 020921 1

Lessons from LifeChangers: Using Technology in the Classroom

This is part of a series of posts from nominees for our LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We meet scores of fascinating LifeChangers every year who have interesting perspectives to share about children, education and life.

The LifeChanger of the Year program recently invited some of us who are nominees for the annual reward to write an essay about how we use technology in the classroom. I initially thought that was beyond my skill set. But I challenged myself to offer my thoughts with the hope that other educators will gain an idea or two about how and when to use technology. Or maybe these thoughts will cause you to step back and think about how you approach technology in your classroom in these very difficult times.

If you have not read the book, “Learning First, Technology Second,” by Liz Kolb, I would encourage you to find a copy and take time  to read it.  This book has  helped me to put strategies  in place about  the use of technology in my  classroom.  She has developed a model called the Triple E Framework –Engagement, Enhancement, and Extension, which works to define what it means to effectively integrate the use of technology while supporting the learning standard.  This is the model that I use to plan my lessons and to decide if the technology platform that I want to use best fits my learning targets and will support the student learning. In this essay, I am addressing only  the engagement piece.

To say that this has been a challenging year is an understatement. I led an online class on technology tools for our “Summer Academy” in August of 2020.   Thinking that I would have maybe 20 people log on I was overwhelmed with 250 participants.  People were looking for anything to help them in their classrooms. Just as with any presentation things happened and I had to think on my feet and meet the challenges of distance learning with adults.  What a humbling experience.

Fall 2020 arrived and we are in school  with little technology training in a hybrid model and students are struggling to turn work in and keep up with “normal” school.  Fortunately I knew how to use Google Meet for my classroom and began looking  for ways to hear and see student voice to  keep  my students engaged. This is the first “E” in the Triple E framework: engagement–how to effectively integrate technology tools and engage students  while supporting learning goals. 

One tool that I had used last year on a limited basis was Flip Grid and this has become one of my go-to tools for student voice in my middle school classroom.  Using this as an exit tool has really helped me to evaluate the learning when students are virtual or in class.  I admit this was a challenge and some students are self conscious about recording themselves. But I absolutely love to hear them talk and share their perspective of the learning for the day.  Once they learned that they could use things like stickers  to cover their faces they were more willing to use this tool.  Flip Grid is expanding all the time and adding more and more options for student engagement.

Another tool that I use for student voice is Whiteboard.fiThis tool allows me to have a whiteboard for each student and they can respond in real time to classroom questions. I can see their responses and they cannot see their classmates’ responses. This is a great tool to check for understanding.  Give it a try. I love the engagement of my students when we are using this tool.

I have also started using KNOWT as a formative assessment tool this year.  The KNOWT platform allows the teacher to upload notes from class and KNOWT will create formative quizzes for you based on those notes.  KNOWT began as a way for students to quiz themselves from their notes to prepare for tests and they have now expanded and have a teacher platform that is free to use this school year.  It is another tool in my bag of “tricks”.

Lastly is a program that also allows me to see student work in real time and that is Formative.  I  have used this program for about five years and I love the ability to watch students work from my dashboard–see how they are engaged in the learning  and respond to their work in real time.

My mantra has  been to find the tools that work for  my students.  My goal is to keep it simple and use  tools on a consistent basis so that students can  become comfortable  to use them from school or home.  The other thing that I have learned that it is okay for the students to see you fail at something with technology.  My students have had to watch me think on my feet, problem solve, and revamp a lesson when the Internet has chosen to go down or we have a glitch in the system or “gremlins” have appeared.  It helps them to see that you are human and can learn from your mistakes. Please feel free to contact me at .

Learn more about Debora Masker on her LifeChanger of the Year profile.