Perspective from a fourth-grade language arts and social studies teacher.
GUEST COLUMN | by Chelisa Lacy
Online learning tools and education technology solutions have a bit of a checkered past amongst educators. For many years, the technology and value of the products lagged behind what was promised by vendors. Particularly as an elementary school teacher, many of the online tools we sought to implement were simply poorly disguised video games.
There is no substitute for a great teacher, and even the best learning technology will fail without an instructor that is dedicated to helping their students grow.
Over the past several years, some of the tools have improved significantly and there are several ways in which I’ve successfully deployed online learning resources in the classroom. My students have embraced these learning solutions and they’ve allowed my classroom to become a more efficient learning environment, while still allowing me to teach effectively.
There are a few areas to consider when looking at products and how they can be deployed in your classroom.
Why Putting the Teacher First Matters
Most products on the market focus on ways that students will benefit. What gets lost in this is how critical the teacher is in the process of implementing and successfully leveraging any learning resource.
Great online learning tools help teachers do their jobs more effectively by acting as both a valuable resource and as an extension of the teacher. Many so-called “solutions” fail to give the teacher control and the ability to monitor how students are doing and where they can most use assistance.
There is no substitute for a great teacher, and even the best learning technology will fail without an instructor that is dedicated to helping their students grow. The best online learning tools understand this and make it easy for a teacher to connect with students through technology without taking over the teaching process or limiting what a teacher can teach.
What to Know Before Implementation
While having four teachers in one classroom would be ideal, online learning tools can work as an extension of the teacher to better reach students who are absent or at a different level than the rest of the class.
In order to make that happen, research and understanding of the capabilities of any tool is the first major hurdle. It’s impossible to help your students learn without clear comprehension of the capabilities of the product and how you plan to deploy it in your classroom. Take the time to use the product yourself and be sure that it makes sense for your students’ needs.
Top-tier administrative teams and schools will provide detailed recommendations and training for their teachers. For my classroom, this was extremely helpful as it’s hard to find the time to teach, let alone test online learning tools in my free time.
Where These Tools Can Help
The best part of the learning tools we’ve implemented is that our students are eager to work with them. We’ve used online learning tools and resources in several areas of our classroom including reading (Reading A-Z, Raz-Kids), spelling (Spelling City), social studies (Studies Weekly) and for behavior (LiveSchool). Students have had the most success in my classroom through leveled reading programs. These tools are effective for homework exercises and an excellent way to monitor the progress of my students and see where they are struggling. It’s a tool for me to understand where and how I should be focusing my teaching time with each student, and helps me excel as a teacher.
Chelisa Lacy is a 4th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Weber Elementary in Houston, TX.