Roshan's students work together to solve a math problem using Wacom tablets and Pear Deck. (Courtesy Stacey Roshan)
Excerpted from Tech With Heart by Stacey Roshan, copyright 2019. Reprinted with permission by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.
By Stacey Roshan
Pencils down, time's up.
Capture all multiples of five before the timer is up. Game over!
In elementary school, I felt as if I was always being timed in math. And I could never finish in time. Tests made me panic, I had to count on my fingers and toes, and my friend was always faster than me when we practiced flashcards. My teachers told me that I didn't know the material well enough and my friend was smarter. And I believed them.
To top this all off, I was a perfectionist. I wanted to raise my hand and participate, but uncertainty, combined with the time-sensitive pressure to be the first to raise my hand and be called on, was oftentimes too much. And so, even though I was always eager to participate, it may not have always seemed this way to my teachers.
I decided early on in my teaching that I wanted to reduce the stress level in my classroom. It's why I flipped my classroom, after all. As I've looked to technology to help me reimagine how class runs, I have been very deliberate in my approach. I'm careful to dissect the problem and need before jumping to the tech. Thinking back to my own experiences in school and how I felt in the classroom has led me to focus on these driving questions:
How can we create safe learning environments for all students to find their voice and build their confidence?
How can we leverage technology to gain insight into student needs and provide them multiple ways of showcasing their understanding and expressing themselves?
How can we empower students with the resources they need to take ownership for their learning?
Let me take you through the process of choosing some of the key tools in my flipped classroom:
Because I flipped my class, students are able to watch a video for homework at a pace that best fits them. Students can pause and rewind the video based on how they are grasping the lesson. They can look back at old videos as they work to synthesize the material and make connections. In class, instead of standing at the board to deliver what I need to cover for the day, I can sit with individuals and customize class to their needs. Though this was a start, I realized that I could embrace tech tools to make the video watching experience a more active exercise for my students. And this is where I turned to Edpuzzle. Students now have the chance to self-assess as they watch, and I come to class equipped with the analytics from the video so I can pre-identify what needs to be done for the day. In class, students work on problems in groups, collaboratively, at a pace that suits them. They have plenty of time in the classroom to get problems solved and questions answered and to chat about their process, reasoning, and thoughts. When I want to engage the class in a full discussion, I usually do this through Pear Deck so that no student can be a passive participant. Students have time to process and respond to the question on their own computer screen. They can contribute without needing to raise their hand, and we can discuss mistakes without singling any child out.
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. The information that both Edpuzzle and Pear Deck provide through the teacher dashboard gives me the ability to amplify student learning and give each student a voice in the classroom. These tools allow me to hear from each and every student in the room.
Technology provides a powerful way to engage students, inform individual and group instruction, differentiate lessons, document work, and empower students to direct their own learning. But if you want technology to be a transformative force in your classroom, school, or district, you have to start with "why?"
If you are interested in seeing how we have approached this question at my school, take a moment to watch this video I created to explain our philosophy at Bullis: "Empathy in EdTech: How We Are Transforming Learning at Bullis" ( this video can also be found on the resources page of my website).
As both a teacher and technology integrationist, I know the importance of finding simple solutions that keep the focus on the learning. One way to ensure we start the conversation with the pedagogy is to identify a set of go-to tools we help our students feel comfortable with, then to set a routine where using these tools becomes natural. Maintaining a small suite of tools also helps our students become fluent with technology that will boost their learning and productivity and serve them well in the long run.
Here are the primary reasons Pear Deck, Flipgrid, and Edpuzzle are go-to tools in my classroom:
They provide each student in the classroom an equal voice. In a traditional classroom discussion, students are called on or raise their hands to respond. As a result, teachers often repeatedly hear from the same students. In contrast, Pear Deck, Flipgrid, and Edpuzzle provide each student an opportunity to respond individually.
They engage each student in the room. With these tools, each student is required to actively participate and respond to each question, form an opinion, and submit an answer.
They create a safe space for each student to honestly respond and make mistakes. Students have time to draft out and revise responses before posting them. And the teacher can make answers anonymous to the group so students don't have to worry about how their peers might perceive their answers or worry about answering incorrectly (in Flipgrid, the teacher can choose to turn on moderated posts to keep all videos private to just the teacher).
They allow educators to efficiently and effectively target class and individual student needs. The analytics provided show class trends and also provide indicators of who is struggling.
They differentiate how students can respond to questions. While some students are wonderful with oral discussion and on-the-spot responses, other students are best when they have time to process and collect their thoughts before recording or typing an answer.