Useful Technology in an IRW Classroom

By Michelle Kaschak

As we ventured into the unknown these many months of the pandemic, we have been inundated with new online teaching tools and aids to help make things easier.  Some are great; some are not.  I am sharing some tools that I have found helpful in my online IRW class.

Google Jamboard is essentially an online white board or bulletin board where students can easily manipulate images and text.  The nice part is that Jamboard is part of the Google suite of apps, and it is very user-friendly.  In my classes this fall, I used Jamboard as a place for students to create Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting two different readings.  In another instance, we read poems, and the students needed to add a word or an image to a shared class Jamboard that shows how they saw the poem or what was most important to them from the poem.  For a short story assignment, students had to add images that told the story of how they viewed one of the main characters. 

Jamboard would be great to add an image or text where students can add virtual sticky notes, highlight important points, add images, change the font, add shapes, use a laser pointer, and more. 

Example of JamBoard Venn Diagram:

Another winner for online classes is Flipgrid.  Flipgrid is a free app (can access on a computer or a phone/ tablet) where students can verbally respond to a discussion question or give feedback to a peer.  In the online environment, I used it as a way for students to introduce themselves to me and their peers, a place where students could comment on a reading, and a place where they could present a project.  The pros of Flipgrid are that you can see your students’ faces and hear their voices without learning new video or editing skills, which makes it less stressful on all. Another pro is that students do not have to buy any software for this, and they can access it on their phones.  It is very easy to set up from the instructor side, and you can share a link or a QR code with students. The con is that it is much more cumbersome to grade than a traditional discussion board.  I would not use a FlipGrid every week because of this.  Flipgrid changes up the traditional online discussion enough to make it interesting.

Whenever this pandemic ends, I am sure that we will all keep using the technology tips and tricks that we learned during this time to enhance our classroom practices.  Both the Jamboard and Flipgrid software will continue to be helpful in my classroom whether we be face-to-face, hybrid, or completely online because of their ease of use.

Michelle Kaschak is an Assistant Teaching Professor of English at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Center Valley, PA. You can contact Michelle at mlk21@psu.edu

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