BY MELISSA BURNS
Times, when the interaction between a teacher and his students was limited to the classroom, are long past – the Internet, social media and a variety of specialized tools have multiplied both methods and places for communication, efficiently erasing the boundaries of the school. Today teachers can reach out to their students wherever they are and whenever it is necessary, which brings about both new challenges and new opportunities.
1. Timely Updates and Information
Messengers like Remind or ClassDojo make the exchange of information between the teacher and the class easier, faster and more efficient. No longer can students say that they forgot to jot down the number of home exercise or didn’t know they have to write an essay by tomorrow’s morning – even if a student misses a class, the teacher can quickly send tomorrow’s homework to the entire class with a press of a button. In addition to that, it opens up an avenue for parent-teacher interaction – if the teacher notices that a student has specific problems, he has an easy way to discuss it with parents without having to find some time when they can talk personally.
2. Online Student Portfolios
A student portfolio is a woefully underused but extremely powerful assessment tool that seemingly acquired a second life through the massive emergence of online tools created specifically for that purpose. They allow students to build a narrative of their growth and development and, what’s most important, provide an audience capable of authentic and friendly feedback. Unlike standard blogging services, these tools are created for student use, which means no advertising, moderation capabilities to ensure students’ safety, and options for automatic collection of materials – this way portfolios will automatically build up across classes and throughout the learning process, documenting the student’s development in the course of time.
3. Video Conferencing
Video conferencing technology not just provides a basis for distance learning, but opens up a host of other opportunities. Such as personalized instruction for individual students, natural communication with classes from other schools and even nations, having students listen to real-time speeches given by well-known people and specialists in specific fields, remote field trips to places that otherwise cannot be realistically visited, and so on. Of course, even today many locations cannot boast of having sufficient bandwidth to maintain connection necessary for available video quality, but NBN efforts in this area let us hope that the situation is going to change pretty soon.
4. Engaging Teachers, Students, and Parents
Setting up a class blog using a tool like EduBlogs is an excellent way to establish closer connections both with students and their parents, engage them in meaningful conversations about learning and what each party has to pay more attention to. You can post with any frequency you feel comfortable with and have a universal tool anybody can use to voice their concerns.
5. Sharing Information across Community
Using tech in school doesn’t have to be limited to interactions with a single class or even an individual school. Consider using Edmodo – a service uniting millions of teachers, students and parents from all over the world, giving them an opportunity to share their experiences, learn new techniques, discuss topics of interest, ask questions and receive answers from those who encountered similar problems and managed to deal with them.
In the long run, the Internet quickly and successfully changes the nature of education – which is amazing, given the conservative nature of this industry. Earlier concerns speaking about possible depersonalization of education, as a result, seem to be unfounded – on the contrary, what we’ve seen so far shows massive possibilities for closer and more personalized connections between students, teachers, and parents.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Follow her @melissaaburns or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org