Building an Edtech Ecosystem in your Classroom
It has long been known that education technology is a key tool in improving student’s productivity and overall learning experience. In today’s modern society, technology is a crucial element within our educational landscape, and yet this resource has remained relatively untouched in the classroom.
Finally, in recent years, it seems that the US education system is tapping into the potential of edtech by implementing 1:1 ratios for students and technology. But is this enough to create a thriving environment for students to grow?
Students having access to technology is, of course, the first step in creating a thriving edtech ecosystem. However, once technology becomes readily available, teachers must create their own landscape in which students are free to explore, create and grow.
Ecosystems, as a rule, are unique and yet susceptible to change. A teacher looking to build an edtech ecosystem in their classroom has the distinct role of creating a landscape that will nurture each individual students with maximum success. In this day and age, the raw materials available to edtech focused teachers are extensive and can be cherry-picked to suit the needs of their classrooms.
Start From The Ground Up
A classroom is essentially a place where the sharing of information can take place. Typically, it is the teacher who provides the information which is then distributed to the students. This exchange is still the foundation on which an edtech ecosystem is built. A teacher looking to build an edtech ecosystem from the ground up needs a reliable source of sharing information. Google Drive, iCloud and Dropbox are all sharing services available for teachers to use as the groundwork for their edtech ecosystem.
By choosing and sticking to a sharing service that the whole class is connected to, both teachers and students can easily share and transfer information and resources. They provide organizational tools that allow the class to categorize, archive and share their work as individuals or as a team. This allows all students easy access to their work at all times.
Sow The Seeds of Creation
Now that students have a foundation upon which to build, they need tools that will allow them to create within their edtech ecosystem.
Content creation tools fall into two categories: single-use tools and open-ended tools. While single-use creation tools often only require students to learn one skill which is time efficient, they are also restrictive in the sense that the creative outcome is already determined by the specificity of the tool. This can be a good thing. When you plant seed potatoes, you expect to yield potatoes. And having a field full of potatoes makes sure that no one goes hungry. Yet variety is the spice of life and to create variety and innovation in your edtech ecosystem, you need a handful of different seeds that your students can pick and choose to suit their own preferences.
Open-ended creation tools are the key to producing a variety of work within your edtech classroom. Allowing students the freedom to curate, create and present ideas in their own way results in a more vibrant classroom. There are many content creation apps that support a range of multimedia. From writing, editing, creating visual content such as infographics or data presentation, video and audio, the right tool can open up a student’s imagination. Evernote, Canva, Explain Everything and ThingLink are all great tools that will let students run wild with their content creation.
Connection Creates Community
Interconnectivity is the backbone to many thriving ecosystems. Communication in an edtech ecosystem is also of utmost importance. Edtech tools are a fantastic way for students to connect with each other, as well as their broader community, both in and out of the classroom. Through services such as Google Apps for Education, both teacher and students can stay connected through Classroom. This creates a space where all members of the ecosystem can stay up-to-date with news and announcements, important information or interesting content. Students can create a virtual working space for team projects with Hangout, and the result of that work can then be published.
Keeping your edtech ecosystem connected will mean that all members of the ecosystem are supported and encouraged, no matter where they are. Connecting your edtech ecosystem with others is also a fantastic way to encourage growth. Your students can create and publish content to a personal or group blog that is then available to a wider audience, they can work in conjunction with other classes or for other classes: students can create content such as podcasts or infographics that can aid students in lower grades. This creates a larger sense of community and purpose for your students while actively engaging in their studies.
Maintaining your Ecosystem
It’s true that creating an edtech ecosystem in your classroom shifts the power from teacher to students. Students can now take control of their own learning, their own growth, and their own goals. However, the teacher’s new role is one of the gardener, if you will. Careful observance of the edtech tools used in the classroom is needed to make sure that they work for you and your students. As your students develop their ideas, their needs may change. Light weeding may be needed to uproot edtech tools that have lost their value and introduce new tools that will help your students to take their learning to the next level. While the students are the busy workers in this community, the teacher maintains harmony within the edtech ecosystem.