Top 7 Classroom Technology Tools

Katherine Boyarsky

Katherine Boyarsky | November 6, 2020

The school year has started in many states, and it is more tech-heavy than ever before. Welcome to hybrid learning.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of educators and students are currently participating in the largest distance learning experiment ever seen. Thanks to modern technology tools, previously on-site K-12 classes as well as college and adult learning programs can transition to remote and hybrid formats without students missing a beat.

Many of these students and educators are participating in virtual classes for the first time, which runs the risk of technology overload for the less tech savvy of the bunch. So, what tech tools do you really need to successfully pull off remote and hybrid classes? We have narrowed it down to the top classroom education technology tools that you need to best support distance learning, and an entire website dedicated to helping schools and universities approach and succeed with hybrid learning

Top 7 Education and Classroom Technology Tools

  1. Education Technology

  2. Video Conferencing Platform

  3. Smart Video Camera

  4. Asynchronous Learning Tools

  5. Synchronous Learning Tools

  6. Online Textbooks

  7. Learning Management System

1. Choosing your Education Technology

Education technology, or EdTech, has changed a lot in the past few years and is a field that includes any technology that is used to promote and access education. This includes any hardware, software, or other tools that assist students in attending classes virtually. Before COVID-19 made distanced learning a necessity, many educational institutions were already relying on EdTech to help connect with their students for online classes or as part of a hybrid schedule. 

Education technology is the backbone of any successful remote or hybrid classroom, and while there are many EdTech tools to choose from, popular education technology services are Google Classroom and Apex Learning.

The top benefits of education technology:

  • EdTech is often compatible with audio or visual platforms to assist with synchronous remote classes
  • EdTech software allows students to access self-paced online courses and modules, digital resources, and online textbooks
  • Online courses provide opportunities for students to work at their own pace and learn at the speed that best suites their learning style
  • EdTech helps educators stay in control of their online classes, by being a digital repository for any and all virtual teaching materials
  • Allows caregivers to be part of the online learning environment

2. Which video conferencing platform is right for your classroom?

Many remote classes are designed to replicate the in-class experience as much as possible. Therefore, teachers are turning to video conferencing platforms to teach their students face-to-face. Additionally, video conferencing platforms are the key to a truly synchronous learning environment. Without it, distance learning would consist solely of self-paced modules and activities. 

Due to COVID-19 and the desire to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues while remaining at a safe distance, there has been an influx of video conferencing platforms to choose from. Popular platforms for remote and hybrid classrooms are Zoom, Webex, and Skype.

How to choose the best video conferencing platform for your classroom:

  • Keep in mind the number of students you will be hosting on video calls and choose a video conferencing platform that supports the intended size of your virtual classroom.
  • Choose a platform that is user-friendly, for many students this is their first time participating in distance learning. To ease the transition to remote classes, pick a platform that boasts being widely accessible for users of all tech skill levels.
  • To keep students engaged in virtual classes, you will need to add some variety to your remote sessions. Choose a platform that provides a variety of additional tools such as breakout rooms, screen sharing, meeting recording, or annotating to keep your virtual classes interactive and accessible for all students.
  • For additional tech support, pick a video conferencing platform that provides their own IT support and 24/7 service so you are never left glitching.

3. Use a Smart Video Camera to Make your Remote Classes Face-to-Face

These days, many laptops and desktops come equipped with internal web cameras that are perfectly appropriate for remote learning. However, to take your virtual classes to the next level and really make them replicate the experience of in-person classes, it is wise for educators to invest in a smart video camera.

Smart video cameras, like The Meeting Owl and Meeting Owl Pro, are 360° webcams that pivot to follow whoever is speaking. To compare The Meeting Owl to other similar smart webcams, here is a comparison guide to help you choose the best smart video camera for your next remote or hybrid class.

Benefits of using a smart video camera to enhance your virtual classes:

  • Students who are new to remote classes may feel isolated as they first adjust, smart video cameras help to ease that transition by better mimicking the atmosphere of in-person classes than standard web cams
  • Smart video cameras are best utilized during remote activities to boost student engagement, such as lectures and presentations
  • For hybrid classes, students joining class from home can easily see and hear their teacher and fellow students, giving remote students the feeling that they’re in the room as well to further support student connections
  • Smart video cameras are a great tool to support camaraderie between in-person and remote students as part of a hybrid learning model, by making interactions between students more natural and accessible

4. How to use Asynchronous Learning Tools for Distance Learning

Asynchronous communication is any communication that does not take place in real time. Similarly, asynchronous learning is learning sessions that are completed on the students own time, at their own pace while being supported by remote asynchronous tools. With asynchronous learning, peer and instructor engagement are still an aspect, just not in real time. 

While fully asynchronous classes do exist, asynchronous learning tools are best utilized as a part of a comprehensive, hybrid distance learning model that includes synchronous learning sessions as well.

Examples of asynchronous learning tools include self-paced modules, pre-recorded lectures, online forums and discussion boards, or any other self-guided materials.

When should you use asynchronous learning tools?

  • When you have a classroom full of students who thrive when being given the freedom to work at their own pace
  • When your students have a flexible schedule that allows them to work on educational materials on their own time, with clear deadlines to guide their work
  • When you have students who need extra reflection time and the option to revisit materials as often as they prefer to fully engage with the class lessons
  • When you are balancing out your hybrid class and are looking for ways to keep your students engaged while balancing out real-time activities

5. How to use Synchronous Learning Tools for Distance Learning

Synchronous learning is any learning session that happens in real-time, with immediate interactions between students and their peers or their teachers. Just like in-person classes that blend lectures with self-paced assignments, distanced learning benefits from a hybrid schedule that equally weighs components of both asynchronous and synchronous learning.

The most popular examples of synchronous learning tools include video conferencing platforms, live virtual webinars, virtual classrooms, instant messaging, audio collaboration.

When should you use synchronous learning tools?

  • When you most want to imitate the in-person classroom experience for your remote or hybrid students 
  • When you want to create opportunities for real-time discussions and collaborations between students, such as brainstorming sessions or workshops
  • When an assignment calls for immediate feedback, such as a presentation with a Q&A portion or a call and response lesson
  • For particularly challenging assignments that require a high level of instructor involvement 

6. Utilizing Online Textbooks for Remote and Hybrid Classes

When leading remote or hybrid classes, the amount of resources that are tangible and the amount that are virtual will be up to the discretion of the educator. There are certainly benefits to both types of resources, and the decision will be highly based on the strengths and degree of tech-savviness of the students. Online textbooks are one of the tools in a student’s virtual backpack. Online textbook marketplaces are a valuable tool that allow students to buy or rent digital copies of educational resources, often saving students money.

Popular online textbook marketplaces include Cengage and Chegg.

Benefits of utilizing online textbook marketplaces are:

  • Digital copies of textbooks are often less expensive than their hardcover counterparts
  • Many online textbook marketplaces also offer a variety of additional relevant course materials such as tutorials, practice problems, and practice quizzes
  • Digital textbooks are most time-efficient, because you don’t need to wait for them to show up at your dorm or house, and more environmentally friendly
  • Many digital textbooks are interactive and include internal text search features, as well as annotating tools and audio translations

7. Why you Should be Using a Learning Management System

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are software applications that include the administration and delivery of educational courses and materials to students. They are user-friendly inclusive portals that often include digital textbooks, related virtual resources and materials, and online texts and quizzes. Students can work through their LMS at their own pace, guided by deadlines set by their teacher. Meanwhile, educators can use the LMS to track student progress.

Popular Learning Management Systems for remote and hybrid courses include Blackboard and Canvas.

How to use your Learning Management System:

  • The interactive features included in your LMS, such as message boards, can promote remote collaboration and discussion between students
  • Many LMSs are compatible with multiple devices, making them widely accessible for remote students
  • LMSs can scale to meet the needs of any sized classroom or organization, to be inclusive of any learning environment
  • Most LMSs are Open Source, meaning they are free and online-based. Therefore, Open Source LMSs have existing online communities that offer support and assistance if problems were to arise

To get the most out of your remote or hybrid classroom experience this fall, embrace educational and virtual tech tools.

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