The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education—probably forever.
Governments around the world closed schools in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus, displacing hundreds of millions of students from their classrooms, according to UNESCO. Schools have had to innovate and improvise to make sure their students stay on track, and they've turned to remote learning to ensure the continuity of education.
Further Reading: How Teachers Can Help Families Deal with Remote Learning Challenges
Many teachers are still adapting to the new normal of the virtual classroom, but it's also provided opportunities to rethink classroom materials. Here are a few online tools you might find helpful.
If you're like most teachers, then you probably use Google Chrome and Google Classroom to send and receive assignments and to communicate with students. Read&Write is a Chrome extension designed to help engage students in a way that fits their unique learning styles.
I came across this tech tool when trying to help my sixth grader research specific facts in a document. Read&Write made fact-finding easy; all she had to do was highlight a word, and Read&Write would guide her toward more information. Read&Write also lets students build vocabulary lists, access a picture dictionary, and read text aloud.
When my children were little, they would spend hours creating, animating, and narrating their own cartoons on an app called Toontastic. This kept them engaged for hours. So, naturally, when I started teaching and needed something to capture my students' attention, I thought: comic strips!
With most of today's classrooms virtual—and because students shouldn't share art supplies right now, anyway—digital storytelling can be an exciting way to teach plot structure or depict parts of a story. Storyboard That is an online platform where students can use their creativity to create storyboards similar to comic strips. With hundreds of scenes and characters to choose from, students will have a blast creating something from their imaginations.
If you're looking for a way to take your lessons to the next level, try Canva, an online design platform where you can make posters, graphics, images, and more. I came across the website a few years ago when I was looking to make an infographic. A colleague told me that she used it as part of her classroom materials for virtual group projects and to create presentations. She also uses Canva's mind map feature, which helps teachers and students visually organize information.
Personally, what I found most exciting was that Canva has partnered with Google; now, all students have to do is download the Canva extension at the Chromebook store and they will have all of the features right there in Google Classroom.
Further Reading: To Make Remote Learning Work, Teachers Need More Training
Teaching has taken on new challenges and risks since the start of the pandemic, and it's important to be flexible during these difficult times. Use these online platforms to help you rethink your classroom materials. You never know—you might like them so much that you use them again next year.