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Leveraging educational software for enhanced learning

Find out how educational software can be used to create an enriched learning environment for your students. Learn strategies to get started!
10 ways educators can implement Google Docs for learners in their classrooms

Educating the nation’s 50 million+ K-12 students is no simple task. Educators invest time and effort daily as they inspire learners to develop their knowledge, skills, aptitudes and abilities in meaningful ways. Educational software has been powerful in supporting and streamlining such enhanced learning. 

We know there is still plenty of room for improvement in schools around the country and world. Fortunately, educators who have learned the ropes of enhancing the learning process with instructional software are more than generous in sharing their best practices. 

The good news is teachers can use technology systems their school already has in place. Here are steps to make the best use of educational software to deepen learning and benefit more children.

Purposefully use educational technology tools

Gaps still exist in educational technology being used to deliver profound learning. Examining where technology use has fallen short provides valuable clues in how to make improvements. Education Week reported on ways that K-12 schools can prevent misguided edtech use and cited top technology misuses teachers have witnessed. These include being used to babysit students, and replace teachers and traditional instruction. 

Schools failing to align edtech use with their top priorities is core to the problem, notes Education Week. While educational software can be an asset to schools by improving efficiency for many critical functions, clarifying what it is there for should be the first step. Clear educational goals allow leaders to determine if, how and where tech can serve educators in achieving those goals.  

Follow recommended criteria for choosing educational software

Well-designed instructional software does make a difference. Take into consideration the criteria K-12 education leaders commonly use for selecting software. These include cost, features, security, accessibility, navigability, brand reputation and third-party recommendations. 

Accessibility and features    

Accessibility incompasses ability, traditionally marginalized groups of people as well as English language learners. Most notably, software and other digital tools can facilitate equitable opportunities for students to access content.  

In terms of ability, features can make a world of difference for students served under special education or a 504 plan, emphasizes Hāpara’s Lisa Monthie. She instructs educators on ways to prepare the digital learning environment so each and every student, including any student with special needs, has the elements they need to meet their learning objectives. 

Auditing technology tools through an inclusion lens is a process she recommends. This is because ease of use for people with diverse needs promotes design that better supports all users. 

Pay attention to the learning curve, not only for students but also for teachers. An overly-challenging integration process can spell disaster, especially when teachers are already stretched to their limits.

Introducing students to new learning tools should be a simple task that does not take time out of their lessons or sidetrack them from their objectives, according to Lisa Shappee, Library Director and Instructional Designer for Kansas State University Polytechnic. She writes that tools should enhance the learning environment and warns against increasing workload just for bells and whistles. 

Shappee points to intuitive products similar to others educators and learners have used in the past. This allows them to build on their technology skill set and adapt more easily to a new system. 

Third-party recommendations 

Ask other teachers what works and what doesn’t with the software for educators and learners.

“Clunky” was the word used to describe other learning management systems Rebecca Recco encountered while teaching and conducting research for her digital learning and leading degree.  The veteran art teacher said she’d fallen in love with Hāpara Workspace at her former school. She appreciated the intuitive design and how it allowed her classes to flex between digital work and non-digital work. 

Brand reputation and cost

Google Classroom is very widely used throughout K-12 schools. The familiarity of Google-based systems and tools facilitate a quick and inexpensive transition to online learning, notes Luke Edwards in a 2021 review. While it has certain limitations, overall it provides the necessary tools to facilitate teaching and learning.  

To fill in gaps in Google Classroom, school leaders around the world have complemented it with Hāpara. Examples throughout this blog detail how educators have been able to enhance learning and achieve a more student-centered experience by teaming Hāpara and Google. 

Support learners with diverse needs

Digital learning allows for a flexible structure that can be easily adapted to learners’ needs.  Encouraging students to take ownership of their education and personalizing learning helps support a highly diverse group of students. 

Address challenges related to accessibility and equity

Well-designed educational software for learners and other digital tools can facilitate equitable opportunities for learners to access content. But for any software to help reduce barriers, it needs to be leveraged smartly.   

The folks at Digital Promise encourage educators to find ways to disrupt inequities found in education. Instead of trying to adapt a traditional assignment to fit a digital environment, help create a more just system of education that supports students through digital learning. 

They also recommend paying attention to changes in student pacing during online learning and when necessary, finding ways to adjust workloads based on the time learners take to complete assignments. Additionally, learners who work better with others can work on assignments and projects together.

Creating multiple lessons that allow learners and groups of learners to move through assignments at their own pace is easy with Hāpara Workspace. Learners can return to material they may not have fully assimilated. 

Make learning personalized and visible 

Other effective ways of supporting the unique learners found in today’s K-12 classroom is by  personalization and making learning visible. The latter is designed to help learners see their academic goals, see how to achieve them and explore ways of assessing their success. 

Educational software can help educators with differentiating and scaffolding lessons based on learners’ identity, strengths and interests. Educators can tailor learning activities, add resources as well as manage workloads with Hāpara Teacher Dashboard, Hāpara Highlights and Workspace. 

Encourage collaboration, creativity and student participation

Hāpara and Google Workspace for Education, when paired, lend themselves seamlessly to learner collaboration. Team members have the opportunity to contribute and edit a shared Google Doc, Slide or Drawing. Educators are then able to access the document in real time to share commentary and feedback. 

Hāpara Workspace is also excellent for learner digital creation as well as flipping the classroom, notes English teacher Lindsee Tauck. Educators can post an initial orientation video for learners as they embark on a new theme or project. Later learners can share progress in the Workspace for peer feedback and discussion or to demonstrate their understanding. Finally, individuals or groups can display their completed projects for others to enjoy and reflect on.   

Implement effective strategies for student engagement and participation 

Engage students by supporting higher-level skill building and learner-centeredness. Incorporate learning software for students into classroom activities that involve analyzing, applying prior knowledge, synthesizing information, designing and creating solutions. 

Learners often feel more compelled to participate when activities encourage them to investigate concepts and formulate solutions to issues that are relevant to their lives. Give learners the best of both worlds by balancing device use with creative hands-on projects and face-to-face discussion with tech use.  

Here are ideas from Tauck to promote learner creativity and collaboration that combine technology and device-free communication. 

  • Create a digital project like developing a new app and explain how it would benefit the users.
  • Showcase finalized project in a gallery walk for other students to observe and share their ideas live or with a recorded video presentation. 
  • Create a visual art piece, a timeline or a map by using Google Drawings or Google Slides.
  • Compose an essay or a narrative by using Google Docs. 
  • Record newscast by using iMovie and Google Slides as a background. 
  • Create a podcast about any assigned topic by using the Voice Recorder Chrome extension, Vocaroo, or other voice recording tools. 

Achieve a balanced approach

Using educational software is more effective when teachers find a way to balance it with traditional methods to create an effective learning experience. The term traditional can refer to teacher-led or textbook-type exercises as well as ways of interacting without technology. 

Varying activities, as in the above list, to include ones that use technology along with low-tech options is one way to achieve a healthy balance. According to Common Sense, this variety promotes learners staying more engaged and focused when they are using technology. Additionally, if assignments on devices are not structured or lack concrete deliverables, learners losing focus and becoming distracted is more likely.  

Toggling between so-called basics and more learner-directed inquiry or project-based learning can be an effective strategy in many contexts. For language learners in the process of vocabulary acquisition, for example, memorization, drills and quizzes are invaluable. These traditional teacher-directed approaches to skills building can also be fun. They are easy to gamify. Again, that can be done with or without edtech and solo or with other learners.

Discover why vetting edtech tools for inclusivity matters, learn key questions and criteria, and unlock strategies to leverage edtech for inclusivity.

How to vet edtech tools to promote success at school for all learners ebook 8.5 x 11 hardcover mockup

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