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Top five digital learning tools for students and teachers

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In this era of digital learning, technology plays a crucial role in the process of knowledge dissemination. Though there are thousands of applications/technology tools available in the market, only a handful of them is popular among the students and educators. We bring you five digital learning tools that can be used by teachers and students to expand their knowledge and make learning easy and fun.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a free web service designed for schools to help them with drafting, mass distribution and grading assignments in a paperless form. With Google Classroom, the learning process becomes extremely easy and is streamlined by way of sharing files between teachers and students. Here the students can post their queries on the lessons taught in the classrooms and receive answers from teachers and other students. Teachers can also post study materials for students to review at home. Google Classroom combines Google Drive for assignment creation and distribution, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for writing, Gmail for communication, and Google Calendar for scheduling.

Seesaw

Seesaw is a user-friendly learning portfolio tool that empowers students to independently document what they are learning and perceiving at school. Students can use photos, videos, drawings, text notes, links and also Seesaw's built-in audio recording and drawing tools to showcase their knowledge imbibed, and also explain how they got their answers. Student’s projects are stored securely in the cloud. Seesaw is made available on several different devices, such as Chromebooks, computers, iOS devices, Android devices as well as Kindle devices
through which parents can access their wards work.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that was conceptualised with the aim of building a range of online tools that can help students understand various lessons and concepts in an easier way. The Khan Academy produces short lessons in the form of videos both on the Khan Academy’s YouTube™ channel and on its hugely popular website www.khanacademy.org. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. With Khan Academy, you can learn everything for free. Lessons are presented by way of videos, interactive activities, and challenges. Hence teachers can make use of Khan Academy to supplement your teaching and also provide extra work to your students and help them with all or difficult content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EPathshala

EPathshala a portal initiated by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and National Council of Educational Research and Training was launched in November 2015 as one of the initiatives of digital India campaign. Epathshala is a gigantic educational reserve that hosts resources for teachers, students, parents, researchers and educators which is available on multiple platforms such as Web, Android, IOS and Windows platforms. The students can get access of all the required material, including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials through ePathshala and can be downloaded by the user for offline use with absolutely no limits on downloads. ePathshala also allows users to carry many books as their device supports. These books allow users to pinch, select, zoom, highlight, navigate, share and make notes digitally.

Kahoot

It is a game-based learning platform where students can learn via games or, ‘Kahoots,’ which are multiple-choice quizzes. With this digital tool, which can be accessed via a web browser, teachers can draft extra questionnaires, discussions online with academic lessons. The material can be then projected in the classrooms and questions are answered by students while playing and learning at the same time. This not only enhances student engagement but also creates a dynamic, social, and fun educational environment.

 

 

posted Mar 13 in General by Richard

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+2 votes

Santa Barbara Unified School District is rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school. Los Angeles Unified School District plans to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students. The goal is to improve learning through interactivity. First, school districts need to mitigate costs and get teachers on board.

High school teachers have a new disruption to deal with in the classroom: the coming of the iPocalypse. At schools across the country, teachers are being told they must use iPads, which will upend everything they've learned over the years about how to teach students. For some, it must feel like the latest, an ignominious blow to a profession often under siege.

Todd Ryckman and student at Santa Barbara Unified School District.

But Todd Ryckman, a former high school teacher and current director of technology at Santa Barbara Unified School District, sees the iPad in a more positive light.

Ryckman says he believes his small iPad pilot project will invigorate teachers, not dishearten them, and make their jobs easier. He says the iPad's simple touch interface and easy-to-use apps belie a device capable of revolutionizing the American classroom. Then there's this extra credit: iPads in high schools might help bridge the digital divide for low-income families.

"This is a fabulous new tool," Ryckman says.

An iPad in Every Backpack

After three years of planning, Santa Barbara Unified School District is finally rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school this month. Eighty-five miles to the south, Los Angeles Unified School District is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar plan to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students by the end of this year.

The iPads-at-schools goal, of course, is to reshape the classroom and bring it into the digital age. The iPad promises to change the teacher from lecturer and instructor to facilitator of interactivity, whereby students take on a greater role in their learning.

Ryckman says teachers can finally get out of the game of getting students to memorize facts -- after all, Google and Siri make searching for facts easy -- and instead help students to think critically about those facts.

"The [board of directors] realizes where we are in history," says Ryckman, who taught high school history for 15 years. Everyone will have an iPad or a similar device in five years, he says, and Santa Barbara Unified School District students need to be ready for this future.

The future of iPads in high schools looks bright, yet iPad pilot projects should start now.

Textbook Publishers and MDM Vendors Buy-In

After initially dragging their heels, educational text book publishers are finally getting onboard with ebook versions. Introduced a couple of years ago, Apple's iBooks Author that lets teachers create multimedia textbooks has been gaining traction at Santa Barbara Unified School District, Ryckman says. Apple has made strides to combat theft with a service called Apple Care Plus that essentially bricks lost or stolen iPads. And mobile device management (MDM) vendors are coming out with tools aimed at high schools.

Last month, AirWatch unveiled Teacher Tools that gives teachers some control over student iPads, such as the capability to give exams in single app mode, send documents out to the class, and turn off the camera and disable screen shots so students can't pass tests to their friends.

However, many obstacles still remain on the road to iPads in high schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, has run into security problems with students taking MDM profiles off of iPads. There are also rumours of iPads being broken and stolen, and closets full of iPads collecting dust while waiting to be distributed.

But the biggest barriers continue to be cost -- who's going to pay for all these iPads? -- and especially teachers refusing to embrace iPads. The iPad represents a paradigm shift in the classroom, Ryckman says, and that's uncomfortable for teachers who like to have complete control of their environment.

iPad Payment Plans

In order to overcome cost, or at least mitigate it, Santa Barbara Unified School District came out with two plans to put iPads in students' hands. In the first plan, students and their parents can opt to have an iPad handed to them, which they'll have to return at the end of the school year. They'll be on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads (although this might change as the plan evolves).

The second is a pay-to-own plan, in which the parents must pay the school a little bit every month en route to owning the iPad after three years. They're also on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads and don't own the iPad outright until the final payment. The school district, of course, also doesn't profit from this plan.

Both plans allow students to take iPads home, and parents are responsible for watching over them. If a student takes off the AirWatch profile, as students at Los Angeles Unified School District did, or violates any of the acceptable use policies, then the student will be penalized by not being allowed on the network.

Interestingly, the second plan is helping to close the digital divide. Ryckman says lower socio-economic schools began seeing high rates, in the 80 percent range, of parents wanting to participate in the pay-to-own plan, while the more affluent schools tended toward the first plan that puts the cost burden squarely on the school district.

"Parents who don't have $600 to plunk down at an Apple Store saw the pay-to-own plan as a way to provide this technology to their kids," Ryckman says. "Apple said that this would happen, but our board was still really surprised."

Getting Teachers to Own the iPad Program

Getting teacher buy-in is another big problem, one that Ryckman began solving well before the first student got even a whiff of an iPad. Ryckman was just starting to make the transition from high school teacher to director of technology when he set out to get iPads for teachers.

Ryckman convinced the Parent Teacher Association, and, later, a wealthy donor, to subsidize half the price of a teacher iPad. The teacher can purchase an iPad at half price, which would be their personal iPad, not the school district's, in return for a couple of concessions: Teachers must agree to take Ryckman's iPad classes and use the iPad to enhance teaching in their classrooms.

Ryckman's big bet paid off, and many teachers opted in. Since the iPads were their personal devices, teachers didn't feel threatened by them. Like most iPad owners, they used their iPads daily and quickly became familiar with the touch interface and enamoured with the exciting world of apps. They could see the iPad's potential to enhance their profession.

Some three years later, iPads are now being rolled out to students.

"We've had iPads in the hands of our teachers for a long time, well before students get them," Ryckman says. "I think other school districts have made a mistake by trying to do it at the same time."

This isn't to say, however, that the iPad is a teaching panacea. The platform still has limitations that need to be overcome. For instance, AirWatch's Teaching Tools lets teachers force student iPads to open a single, pre-determined app but not multiple ones, such as Calculator and Pages. It would also be nice if a teacher could blast out an app to students at the beginning of class and then take the app off the iPad when class ends.

Despite limitations, the iPad should be a boon for schools. You'd think Ryckman would want to roll out iPads to all 15,000 students at Santa Barbara Unified School District. But that's hardly the case. Many schools want iPads, he says, but they're not ready for them.

Ryckman interviews teachers at schools to gauge their interest, and he still sees some hesitancy. There needs to be nearly 100 percent commitment from teachers before an iPad rollout could be approved.

"This will only work if it's organic, not forced if there's teacher buy-in," he says.

As a teacher himself, Ryckman knows that the best way to get teachers on board is by appealing to their educational values, which is why he offers iPad classes. It'll take time, he says, but eventually, as educators, they know they need to change with the times.

"Teachers themselves tend to be lifetime learners," Ryckman says, adding, "One 25-year veteran teacher told me after one of my classes, 'This is the most excited I've been about teaching in a long time.'"

+1 vote

My two girls, Aarah (7 years) and Saraah (5 years), hate drinking milk but I know a way to get them to do it, as I know it’s good for them.

The pleasure of winning isn’t just a great motivator for kids, but adults too. Last weekend, I discovered from my colleague that to top the ‘Step Tracking Weekly Leader board’ amongst her friends, she paced up and down her living room just before midnight, when the leader board resets. Don't you agree that a small competition and the pleasure of winning, has even motivated a person in her mid-thirties to walk more?When I say, “Let’s see who finishes the glass first?”, the glass is empty within a flash. This is not just me, I am sure all parents do this. These things make it easy to motivate kids to do things they dislike.

So, here’s the big question - what gets my daughters and my colleague to complete these smaller tasks which they generally don’t like? What is it that gets them to accomplish a broader objective, in this case, a ‘Healthier Diet’ and ‘Physical Fitness’ respectively, with smaller milestones?  

The answer is Gamification!

Gamification refers to use of game design and elements in a non-gaming context to drive the desired behavior. In simpler terms, it is about using the system of points, levels, badges, or leaderboards that are common in games, in real-world scenarios. 

Doesn’t it make a perfect case for gamification to be used in learning to make it fun and effective? 

It does! However, learning methods at school or even at home, face a huge engagement crisis today. The learning of today only involves learning by rote and then producing those in the exams, causing boredom among st young learners. According to a Labster study, about 60 percent of students mentioned that they love Science, however, only 24 percent among them, said that they love Science classes. See the difference? When a parent can get a child to drink milk with gaming principles, why shouldn’t parents and teachers use the same method to impart learning to kids?

Ed-tech startups have identified this need, which is why online learning tools such as Khan Academy, Quizizz and our own app, QuizNext have started using game elements to deliver learning objectives to students. At QuizNext, we are focused at gamifying the revision experience for CBSE and ICSE students by providing detailed chapter-wise quizzes for delivering formative assessments, making practice fun and engaging. 

It offers two type of revision quizzes:

  •        Practice Quizzes, which are chapter-wise solo quizzes 
  •        Challenge Quizzes, where students compete against other online users on different chapters and concepts.  

So, which one do you think has more adoption among kids? Challenge Quizzes? Are you sure?  You are right, but not completely! I will come to that shortly!  

Just going by the numbers, ‘Challenge Quizzes’ completely outnumber the ‘Practice Quizzes’, accounting for about 68% of the 300,000 quizzes taken over on QuizNext over the last five months. However, it is interesting to see the pattern in which students take quizzes. Students first take ‘Practice Quizzes’, ensure that they have understood the concepts before they go on to challenge their friends in ‘Challenge Quizzes’. 

Further, it has been interesting to see students expect stronger opponents in Challenge Quizzes. In the initial versions of the app, we would randomly pick opponents (both real users and Bots) in Challenge Quizzes. When the learners got used to winning every time, mostly against Bots, they would ‘leave feedback’ asking if they could choose opponents on own including friends.  

So why does this work? 

To understand this a little bit better, let us understand how Intrinsic Reinforcement works. Whenever you challenge yourself, however big or small, and complete that challenge, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which is a pleasurable chemical that makes the challenge achievement feel good.

Further, the more you do this i.e. the challenge-achievement-pleasure loop occurs more often, the brain secretes more dopamine and testosterone, making you want to do it repeatedly and succeed, which is also called the Winning Effect. So, in a student’s context, winning a Challenge Quiz after a stiff competition creates a good feeling and further motivates them to take more quizzes, to replicate the Winning Effect every time. 

We’re constantly observing our users’ activities on QuizNext to derive insights on what works in Ed-tech and what doesn’t. Here's what we’ve learnt so far about Gamification:  

•    Recognition motivates learners to practice more: Learners who have been among Top 15 positions on the leader board, take nine times the number of quizzes every week, when compared to other users.   

•    Virtual Badges and Points trigger intrinsic motivations: Though badges and points have no financial value, it motivates some learners to earn and accumulate them. We ran an experiment, where 50 percent of a ‘user subset’ were offered additional coins for completing practice quizzes, while the other 50 percent of the user set were offered no additional incentives. At the end of the experiment, the user group which had additional incentives had completed 24 percent more quizzes than the other group.  

•    Extrinsic triggers drive learning: Triggers such as ‘Challenge Invites’ work exceptionally well with some set of users. Grouping users based on learning objectives and placing them against each other for a challenge gets users to complete quizzes and move closer to learning objectives.  

•    Breaking a larger goal into smaller milestones makes learning less overwhelming: Breaking down a chapter or concept into smaller quizzes, keeps students motivated as they can earn rewards for every quiz and work with smaller bites of information.   

•    Time-bound quizzes improve student performances: We have seen that time bound quizzes improve the speed of students by at least 50 percent while maintaining the same accuracy levels for questions of similar difficulty and understanding levels for concepts.  

With these insights, it’s safe to say that Gamification might hold the key to a world of better education that’s been locked behind books for many parents and kids for a long time now. 

 

Authored by Chaiitanyaa Naik, Product Manager at QuizNext. When he is not working, you will find him reading about behavioral interventions and behavioral economics.

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