Students First, Ed Tech Second: Digital Lit Circles

In a recent discussion with a co-worker regarding using ed tech in the classroom, I told her I don’t plan my lessons with ed tech first in mind. I plan my lessons with standards and students’ needs first, and then ask myself: Can I make this lesson better with ed tech?

Being a teacher in rural Alaska has given me several opportunities to have to think outside of the box, not really out of desire, but out of sheer necessity. I have taught single grade classes, I have taught multi-grade classes (last year I had 20 third, fourth, and fifth graders in one classroom!), and I am now teaching inclusion content classes with special ed students who have a range of abilities and needs at the middle school level.

Digital Literature Circle Template
Novel studies with literature circles are something I have loved teaching and have taught in various class settings, from third grade up to eighth grade. As I starting diving more into Google Classroom and using Google apps, I asked myself: Is there any way I can take our literature circle and make it better with ed tech?

Twenty-first century learning is based on 4 C’s: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. A traditional lit circle has communication (but only during the lit circle meeting time) and the possibility for critical thinking and creativity, but the access to collaboration while students actually work on their given tasks for the lit circle doesn’t exist. The biggest downfall of a traditional lit circle though has to be the fact that there is no teacher involvement during the process, unless I sit in on the lit circle conversation.

So back to my original question as I was planning our literature circle for our upcoming novel study: Is there anyway I can take our literature circle and make it better with ed tech? The answer was YES! I created a digital literature circle with sections for students to demonstrate their own understanding of the novel and other sections to collaborate with their classmates. By putting all of the tasks of a traditional lit circle into a SHARED slideshow in Google Classroom, I give my students opportunity to communicate AND collaborate simultaneously.
I can give feedback and support WHILE students are working.

Having the lit circle in a digital platform also gives my students access to supports such as speech to text and spell check. The digital platform evens the playing field for students who generally need extra supports. The level of creativity is heightened too because students have access to digital design tools in the slideshow.

Students work in the same slideshow at the same time, giving peer feedback.
The icing on the cake though, is that now I AM ACTIVELY PART OF MY STUDENTS LEARNING! While my students are on this slideshow working on their lit circle task, giving their classmates feedback, collaborating and communicating with one another, I am in the slideshow too offering feedback and support as needed.
Access to digital tools increases student's creativity and engagement.

Throwing in my Bitmoji serves as a way to create a sense of fun! This is also the cue for my students to know I've read their slide.

The key to any successful ed tech does not lie in the technology itself, rather it lies in its ability to take good lessons and make them great.

Teach in the way they are smart


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