Here are 5 ways that I have found can truly help give you that boost in connection to not only your students and teachers but to your community too.
Here they are:
- Communication Reminders (Remind)
- Using the Power of Google (Google Drive)
- Making Connections (Zoom)
- Showcasing Work (Student Portfolio’s)
- Community Engagement Projects (iBooks)
There are obviously several apps that can be adjusted and substituted, but these are my favorite. Starting off old school I believe Remind to be one of the great tools out there. The fact that it is app and web-based allows every teacher in the world to truly utilize this product. A tool that was designed with the teacher in mind to allow effective communication without using personal cell numbers is fantastic. As a teacher, I loved the fact that I could schedule reminders way in advance and I encouraged both my parents and students to sign up for the reminders. Our students are so trained to pick up their phones when they hear a ding, they have no idea and no way to differentiate a text from a friend or a reminder from a teacher and thus it is effective. It might seem a simple solution but the fast feedback and connections that come through apps like Remind can make your parents feel connected to the learning and you reap the rewards.
On of my colleagues has a presentation that she titles OMG Google! How true is that wording? Use the power of Google to make everything more efficient but also to make sure that what is being used live, and more effective to use. The power of Google lies in the fact that there is so much that you can do within this tool. While docs and sheets allow for instant collaboration and remove the need to be in the same room to get things taken care of, forms can be used for instant data collection. My favorite part of drive lies in the fact that I no longer need to remember where my USB drives are located anymore, nor remember to take things home with me or back to school. Being able to access all my work anywhere has allowed me, better usage of my time while making me more effective. From a student perspective no longer is it necessary to send every project via e-mail and hope and pray it makes it through to the teacher. They can simply share one folder, in the beginning of the year and then everything that they place in there will be automatically shared with the teacher. This cuts down so much on projects being missing, or incorrect formatting of a project or presentation when you are trying to grade or view. Google has the tools available to make the connections more meaningful and also allow the connections to be made anywhere that there is internet access no matter the device!
If we had to teach using on the textbook that we have and no other tool, we will be a disadvantage to our students. Especially today when we have so much information or so many ideas that are available that we can pull from to reinforce learning and make it more meaningful. One of the ways that this can be done is by extending the classroom beyond the physical space of the four walls into the world. One of my favorite quotes is “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela. It is so true- not only to change the world but also to chance the perspectives we have of the world around us. One of the fastest ways to learn about others it to connect with them and Zoom is a favorite tool we use in our district. I like Zoom because it is not device specific and I can connect to anyone with an internet connection. It is very easy to use and really does not require much of set-up. A perfect and easy solution to communicate across the globe or just across town.
One of the best ways that connections can be made not only with your students but also with your parents are in showcasing of student work. Instead of just putting up a few of the posters that you have received in the hallways, make more of an impact by allowing students to create student portfolios. Thus when parents ask what they did this last few weeks, their work is displayed for them. The tool that I feel does the best in showcasing this is Google Sites. A free tool that has unlimited space for the students and allowing them to easily customize their own portfolios. This connection tool also allows the students to see all their work and have a portfolio of all their work in one convenient location.
Last but certainly not least is using iBooks Author as a tool to showcase community engagement projects. Too many times the only news in the community regarding education is negative. So this year we set our sights on changing that perspective one project at a time. We decided to work with one of our Intermediate Schools and the fifth-grade students were going to author an iBook over one of the newest parks in Mansfield, called Oliver Nature Park. So the students were doing all the research, they decided what was going to be included in the book and designed the layout of each page. A completely student driven project for the community to showcase and educate citizens of Mansfield and beyond about this gorgeous park. Work is still in progress with an estimated publishing date of January currently. But what a difference just one project is already making. The students are taking pride that they will be published authors, the have reached out to several prominent members of the community to do interviews and are going full steam ahead. All those that they have made contact with have truly enjoyed becoming a part of the project. So why, stop here, allowing community engagement projects is the perfect way to start changing opinions with the added bonus of students becoming much more engaged in their own communities and working on skills such as interviews, writing, research, and collaboration. Thus a win, win.