It’s important that we find ways to promote communication and collaboration between students while in our classroom, between us and our students, and to have options available that are not limited by time and space.
There are a lot of great tools and activities available to get started with that don’t take much time at all and below are seven.
Now that most educators and students are back in the classroom, it is a great opportunity to focus on building relationships and to create more authentic, meaningful and engaging learning experiences for our students. It is also important that we find ways to promote communication and collaboration between students while in our classroom, between us and our students, and to have options available that are not limited by time and space.
There are a lot of great tools and activities available to get started with that don’t take much time at all. Especially at the start of a new school year when trying to get into a daily routine, planning our lessons, determining how to effectively assess students, and building relationships and essential SEL skills, it helps to have access to a few ideas to start with.
Probably more so this year than in prior years, I started by focusing on relationships and promoting communication and collaboration in our classroom. It was great to be back in person, especially since I had some students that I had not seen since March of 2020 and others, who I never met in person during the entire past school year. Because we had not all been together in quite some time and had less opportunities to talk and interact in the same space, I wanted to take extra time to get to know my students and for them to get to know one another. Having quick conversations and doing activities with students in person makes a difference and helps us to quickly assess students’ well-being and learning.
I had some great ideas for the start of the year to get to know my students and to get them talking. I decided to play some different games, ask them random questions, use some would you rather type questions, and also created a Google form to gather input from my students about their learning goals and concerns for the school year and our class. A few students asked if they could write responses on paper or record a video response instead of talking in class. Not everybody is a fan of icebreakers and some may not feel comfortable speaking in front of class, especially when you’re sharing information about yourself, but we have a lot of options that we can choose from that provide support and comfort and of course help us to reach our goals of building our classroom community. Not just at the start of the year but throughout the year.
We just need different tools and methods that we can use that promote communication and collaboration in our classroom. Using some of these options, it can help us to communicate with our students when we provide feedback or when we check in with them for example. By using tools which offer a variety of options ranging from written communication, to audio and video, we put the choices in the hands of the students to decide how to communicate their ideas while also creating a space for collaboration.
Some questions that I often ask myself include:
- How can we better understand student needs?
- What methods or tools promote more interactive and collaborative experiences?
- Which tools promote real-time interactions and feedback?
- Which tools facilitate communication and encourage students to respond?
Here are seven options to explore:
Google Jamboard is a great choice for boosting collaboration and facilitating communication within and outside of class. It is free to use, easy to get started with, and can be used for all grade levels and content areas. Create a Jamboard and ask students to respond with an image or text and use it to promote communication in the classroom. Create separate boards to have small groups work together.
GoSoapBox can be used to create a discussion, poll, or quiz. Students are more comfortable posting responses in this space and engaging in a discussion through writing, as they build confidence in speaking with and in front of peers. It is free to use and does not require logins or any downloads to get started.
Mote is a versatile tool to use for providing authentic and timely feedback to students, and promoting communication and collaboration in and out of the classroom. There are many ways to use Mote for students and teachers. Voice comments can be recorded and added to Google Slides, Google Documents, Gmail, websites and more. It also offers transcription in more than 20 languages.
Padlet has made some updates to its robust features, offering more ways to curate content, communicate and collaborate within one digital bulletin board space. Use Padlet to create a quick scavenger hunt, to have students post introductions, or to collaborate globally with classrooms, for a few examples. Student groups can even use Padlet as a space to collaborate on a project and include audio or video, embed links or add images or documents, for all group members to access and respond to in one place.
Skilled Space is an audio platform that enables live audio-only conversations that can help to create and foster a sense of belonging in the classroom. Skilled space helps to promote active listening skills and conversations between students which leads to relationship building as well as social awareness.
Spaces EDU offers a variety of ways for students and teachers to communicate and collaborate in the digital space. Spaces can be used for a digital portfolio or as a way to communicate throughout the learning journey. You can share information through text, images, audio and video and it is easy for members of a class or a group to work together.
Yoteach! added some newer features that make it another versatile space for collaboration. Teachers can create a room with a password set for students for login. Participants can send a message in text, add in a poll, create or participate in a collaborative spaceboard, or upload a picture to share.
Each of these tools or strategies offer ways to promote communication and collaboration while fostering a sense of community for students and for ourselves. We can stay better connected and be able to understand our students and their are and provide support when it is needed.