Digital learning web tools I have tried :a successful example of scaling up teaching and learning in response to COVID-19

When this pandemic began, teachers all over the World were given little notice to shift very quickly to distance learning or e-learning, sometimes with no training. In many cases, we had 48 hours or a weekend to reinvent lessons for an already planned curriculum, learn new technologies, find non-technology solutions to student learning, and figure out how to keep students engaged. But all us teachers ,also had to balance home and work and how to do our life’s work from afar while simultaneously caring for students, grieving losses, and so many more challenges and obstacles!

It has not been easy, for any teacher I know. This new approach or today’s certainty is a significant journey!

During the lock-down, countless hours behind a computer screen, reorganizing lessons had me and many of my fellow English teachers repeatedly saying, “I’d rather be in my school.” But reality dictated differently.

What is more, during the pandemic, many educators-including me- have looked to their professional learning networks on social media for encouragement through virtual book clubs, Twitter chats, Facebook groups, or wellness challenges.

To me, this crisis may have a silver lining for the implementation of digital transformation. It has forced the use of digital media tools to even teachers who had never done so before. 

 I have realised that, as English  teachers learn to implement these tools, students can also learn to use them to increase learning effectiveness and enhance their engagement. The fast learning curve is a struggle but the hard work will pay dividends developing and gaining new skills. The positive benefit out of all this is that we are going to add excellent value to our pedagogical practices. Or, I should say for English teachers,in particular, add to our repertoire of teaching tools now and for the future!

It is true that the education sector responded to quarantine with a sudden shift to online learning.

But, I have to admit that inequalities are exacerbated when it comes to access to technology and to digital devices. Many of our llearners suffer a form of digital inequality whereby they lack the connections and devices to learn remotely. In fact, this outbreak widens the gap between those able to access digital learning opportunities and those who are shut out. Access is not equal, and we see inequality growing.

And yet, even though the immediate focus is now on technology and tools, the most compelling quality is still human compassion!

Below, I am sharing a list of some of the online tools I have personally tried during the lock-down with success, for different teaching and learning purposes.

 I firmly believe that we should always take advantage of the opportunities for creative solutions.We should not let a lack of familiarity with the tools or approaches be a barrier to trying something new – I had  the confidence to try them out, with the precious help of my PLN!

 The target has been to keep my classes talking, sharing and collaborating, even during the pandemic!

Digital learning management systems

https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/

https://watch.vooks.com/ Βooks( free for only a month)

https://en.islcollective.com/ for Grammar Videos and worksheets

https://youtube.com/kids/

https://wordwall.net/play/ for Grammar Videos and worksheets

https://bubbl.us/ Mind maps online

https://en.linoit.com/ sticky and canvas tool

https://info.flipgrid.com/ video sharing for educators and students

http://roadtogrammar.com/ teacher resources/games about everything

http://koalatext.com/public/ online games etc

https://create.kahoot.it/ Learning games and more

https://quizlet.com/ Grammar/vocabulary games and more. Create a study set for any subject you’re teaching

https://www.gonoodle.com/ GoNoodle gets kids moving so they can be their best

https://www.mentimeter.com/app online polls

https://www.grammarly.com/ writing assistant 

https://www.liveworksheets.com/  transforms your traditional printable worksheets into self-correcting interactive exercises that the students can do online and send to the teacher.

https://vimeo.com/ All the Tools You Need to Upload, Host, and Share Video

https://edpuzzle.com/ interactive video lessons for your students you can integrate right into your LMS. Track students’ progress with hassle-free analytics 

https://classroomscreen.com/ Create multiple screens and navigate from one screen to another. placeholder image.

https://www.canva.com/ Create beautiful designs with your team. Use Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and layouts to design, share and print business cards, logos, presentations ETC

https://www.pixton.com/ comic and storyboard creator

https://www.quizalize.com/  fun quizzes in the classroom or remotely

https://eslvideo.com/Free quizzes, lessons and online conversation classes for English language learners.

https://draw.chat/  a free, anonymous, online drawing board

https://storybird.com/ artful storytelling and a unique language arts tool. 

http://online.anyflip.com/ book creator

https://www.educandy.com/ With Educandy, you can create interactive learning games in minutes. All you need is to enter the vocabulary or questions and answers and Educandy turns your content into cool interactive activities.

https://answergarden.ch/ AnswerGarden is a new minimalistic feedback tool. Use it for real time audience participation, online brainstorming and classroom feedback.

https://www.google.com/intl/el_gr/forms/about/ Google Forms is a tool that allows collecting information from users via a personalized survey or quiz. The information is then collected and automatically connected to a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is populated with the survey and quiz responses.

https://socrative.com/ fun, on-the-fly assessments .An efficient way to monitor and evaluate learning that saves time for educators while delivering fun and engaging interactions for learners.

https://sites.google.com/new Google Sites is an amazingly simple tool to allow Teachers AND Students to create in class.  Projects, Portfolios, Lab Reports, anything can be turned into a Website and with the ease of New Google Sites it’s too easy and powerful to keep ignoring. 

 This tutorial will walk you through the basics of creating a Google Site and at the end I show you an example of a student e-Portfolio (link below to the same sample).

https://www.edmodo.com/  is a tool for educators to send messages, share class materials, and make learning accessible for students anywhere

Teaching online ideas and tools: An educational response to Covid-19 pandemic-a guest blog post, by Maria Polychrou

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My blog has always been open to English teachers who wish to share their inspiring work with the educational community! This time, I have decided to ask our colleague Maria Polychrou to share her creative ideas, in a guest blog post and she has kindly agreed to write about her covid19 teaching experience.

During the pandemic, many educators-including Maria Polychrou and me- have looked to their professional learning networks on social media for encouragement through virtual book clubsTwitter chats, Facebook groups, or wellness challenges.

I firmly believe that, in the weeks and months ahead, we must all consider: What can we do for others?  How can we fully embrace the ethics of care?  At the core of this principle is educational altruism, or selfless concern for other educators, students, and their families.

Mainly because digital practices are so portable, teachers can easily share resources with colleagues within the same school and across schools, countries, and even continents. We seem to have entered a new reality in which collaboration is no longer a luxury; instead, it is a lifeline that allows for teachers to learn about new digital tools, to integrate new teaching activities (both high-tech and low-tech), and to share responsibility for creating online or take-home resources.

I’ve always spoken about the importance of collaboration among teachers. To me, there’s no better time like the present, to come together and help each other navigate these challenging times. Now is the time to focus on the human impact technology has on teachers’ and students’ lives, and collectively recognize the critical role technology plays in human connections, creative educational pursuits, and education, in general.

The best part about the benefits of teacher collaboration is that they can be a reality—as they are in so many learning communities around the world.

I am consistently amazed at the tireless and heroic work of fellow teachers at every level of education, especially under the circumstances! Frankly, I see many teachers who deserve a standing ovation every day for their high-quality work.

Maria Polychrou, is definitely, one of them!

Teaching is by far one of the more noble and influential professions on the planet. English teachers, in particular, can and do make a difference every day in the lives of children and families.

We all agree that no teacher gets up in the morning and says, ‘I think I will just be mediocre today.’ Teachers want to do a good job, and given the proper environment and encouragement, they will. The strongest motivators are not monetary rewards or benefits. Teachers want to be appreciated for what they do. And when their colleagues give recognition and appreciation on their behalf, teachers do their best.

Enjoy reading Maria’s article! I bet, you will find it inspiring and useful!

These are just a few tools and ideas that can help ensure continuous learning during this Coronavirus pandemic.
But, as we all already know, no technology will be able to replace our expertise, our enthusiasm, and our human approach to education!

Feel free to comment and share your experiences!

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Hello!! I’m Maria Polychrou and I am an English teacher and an oral examiner in Tesol Examinations in Thessaloniki! My educational background (M.A. in Theatre Studies and Ph.D. in Theatre, Intercultural Education and Teaching English as a Second language) and my involvement in many Erasmus programs, both in Greece and abroad, dealing with diversity and intercultural awareness through the use of theatre and drama,  can reveal my passion for theatre. That’s why I have been trying to use, promote, and explore educational programs based on theatre and drama techniques in English Teaching. Puppetry, Forum Theatre, Image Theatre are some of the resources of my inspiration in class.

 These resources of inspiration are what I have been trying to share with my colleagues in my presentations in different seminars and conferences over the past few years.

It was during such a conference that I met Ms. Aphrodite Gkiouris. It was the 27th Tesol Macedonia Thrace Annual International Conference in Thessaloniki last February when we first talked face to face in the backyard of the American College.

And this is something I will never forget! Her bright smile and her positive attitude made me feel at ease right away and very soon I admired her blooming character and I realized that she is an active and creative teacher who celebrates interaction among her students and her colleagues! “Sharing is caring” is her motto and I can guarantee you she is the first to share and embrace every new tip, method, and idea in English Teaching!

Thank you Ms. Gkiouris for hosting my article! It was such an honor for me really!!!!

Online teaching sessions                                                                                              Part 1

Wow!! It’s been quarantine time and a whole new era has dawned on teaching. Distance learning was the only way to keep in touch with our students and the whole educational community, both teachers and learners, reserve a Medal of Honor for their relentless efforts. Hats off to those educators who didn’t give up but educated themselves on distance learning and new online teaching tools day and night confronting the obstacles!!

In this article, educators, especially colleagues in kindergarten and primary schools, can find a list of resources and ideas for your online lessons. When you click on the hyperlinks you can access the resources I have used and shared with my students online.

Keeping in mind what my students and I loved doing during our face to face lessons was what has really helped me with online lessons. It has been one of my priorities to make them feel or at least remind them of the connection we have in our classes and the feelings we share. The best way to do it was through storytelling and puppetry. Puppetry online???? Oh yes!! 100% success!!

I resorted to reading books like “A very hungry caterpillar” by Eric Carle and tried to bring these stories alive on their computer screen. Using theatre hats, finger puppets, hand puppets, stick puppets, and shadow theatre, I tried my best to make this brand new online teaching adventure familiar with our live -in-class lessons. And that was when I gained my students’ trust back again. This boosted their attention, their willingness for cooperation, and their pure enthusiasm for English lessons!       

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A great educational tool is Eric Carle’s books through which you can teach vocabulary units such as nutrition, numbers, animals, or talk about bullying, greediness, appearance, acceptance, or nature units such as the circle of life. We read the “Mixed up Chameleon”  and we talked about acceptance and equality!! We talked about how we should appreciate our own capabilities and strengths!! Moreover, you can use “ A very hungry caterpillar” to teach basic food-related vocabulary, numbers, or the days of the week. However, you can expand your teaching and talk about the circle of life of a butterfly and have your students observe their own balcony and their own plants. Moreover, you can talk about healthy eating habits and nutrition and have them look for fruits and vegetables in their own fridge. Such hands-on activities can make your lessons invaluable and the learning experience unforgettable.

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In addition, you can read “ A Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle. Through reading this book you can talk about different kinds of animals or teach time but also you can talk about bullying, empathy, and feelings. It is a great book that can help you bond with your students even more. You can help them talk about their feelings and make them realize that whatever they feel is right. Especially during this quarantine time under the COVID -19 threat, kids can easily sense their parent’s fear or they themselves may feel threatened by this “unseen” enemy. It is good for them and you as well- to share all these feelings the same way you did (hopefully) in your classes! I used my ladybug puppets and students felt even more free to talk about themselves!

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What I also try to do during our online sessions is to have my students active and moving around. It’s so hard for a 4/5-year-old kid to stand still in front of a computer and that is why I try to combine my online reading aloud stories or puppetry shows with kinesthetic songs! Therefore when we read “ From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle, I had my students imitate animals voices and movements. We played “ Simon says” and we listened to songs like “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA48wTGbU7A&t=103s

I dressed up as a native American Indian (Oh yes!!) and we talked about seasons and weather. 

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We even made a magic spell to make the rain go away and of course, we revised family members vocabulary and we listened to the song “Rain, rain go away” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFrKYjrIDs8

When we want to practice the alphabet, I have my students’ parents provide their kids with trays filled with salt and we try to shape our letters with our fingers on the salty surface! I have tried as much as possible to have them make regular activities similar to those in class so as to make them feel that they participate in a “regular” teaching routine!! Then I ask them to look around their houses and try to find things whose name starts with specific letters!! We play the “ I spy “ game as well!. You can use these ideas when teaching colors and shapes as well! Kindergarten kids really loooove looking around and showing parts of their houses to the rest!!

What I also try to do is to combine my teaching with art! That’s why, when I wanted to teach my students the shapes, I introduced Kandisnky!!! What a fun and creative way is to identify shapes through famous paintings!!! You can click on the link to download resources!!)  Afterwards, you can have your students listen to “Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and tell them to create a piece of art in Kandinsky style while being inspired by the music!! You will be surprised !!

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When you click on the links, you can find many pdf files available which include vocabulary activities, board games, printable games. All these files can be a great tool used autonomously or you can combine them with the following online teaching tools!

Enjoy!!! This period was highly beneficial and educational to all of us!! Never give up!! Be the change you want to see!!!!

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Online teaching tools                                                                                             Part 2

I have made a collection of online tools which I found really useful for my online lessons both for young and older students!! Enjoy and set your inspiration free!!

  1. https://padlet.com/

Padlet is great for sharing digital content and improving the engagement of the students. Teachers can create special brainstorm sessions where they invite students to discuss some topics.

Eric Carle’s book review sessions are another great lesson idea. Create a session dedicated to his book and invite the students to share their reviews and comment on the ideas of others.

 

  1. https://socrative.com

Socrative gives an efficient way to monitor and evaluate learning that saves time for educators while delivering  fun and engaging interactions for learners. You can launch a quiz, receive exit tickets (T/F questions, multiple-choice questions) or ask a quick question for instant student feedback.

 

  1. https://www.wolframalpha.com/

Enter a topic or choose from a wide range of knowledge fields! A great tool for teachers and students!!!

 

  1. https://trello.com/

Trello’s boards, lists, and cards enable you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible, and rewarding way. Think of Trello as a virtual “idea board.” In Trello, you can create as many boards as you want with lists and cards. The boards can then be discussed, collaborated upon, and manipulated to create a visual workflow student can check in with each other using discussions on a particular card. They can attach pictures and files, and then assemble all cards into one final project.

 

  1. http://www.scribblar.com/

It is an online collaboration platform that is perfect for students because it provides many incentives for teamwork as well as great technology to engage in creative work.

 

  1. https://www.edmodo.com/

Edmodo is an educational tool that connects teachers and students and is assimilated into a social network. In this one, teachers can create online collaborative groups, administer and provide educational materials, measure student performance, and communicate with parents, among other functions

  1. https://projeqt.com

Projeqt is a tool that allows you to create multimedia presentations, with dynamic slides in which you can embed interactive maps, links, online quizzes, Twitter timelines, and videos,

 

  1. https://www.thinglink.com/

Thinglink allows educators to create interactive images with music, sounds, texts, and photographs.

 

  1. https://edpuzzle.com/

You can introduce students to self-paced learning with interactive video lessons. It’s easy to add your own voice narration and questions!

 

  1. https://storybird.com/

Storybird aims to promote writing and reading skills in students through storytelling. In this tool, teachers can create interactive and artistic books online.

 

  1. https://animoto.com/

Animoto is a digital tool that allows you to create high-quality videos.

 

  1. https://www.ck12.org/student/

You can have your own students explore many fields like chemistry, maths, English. You can even find content for your own lessons through books and educational material which can be modified and contain videos, audios, and interactive exercises.

 

  1. https://kahoot.it/

Kahoot! is an educational platform that is based on games and questions. Through this tool, teachers can create questionnaires, discussions, or surveys that complement academic lessons.

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  1. https://www.liveworksheets.com/

Liveworksheets transforms your traditional printable worksheets into self-correcting interactive exercises that the students can do online and send to the teacher.

 

  1. https://wordwall.net/

You can make custom activities for your classroom such as quizzes, matchups, word games, crosswords, labeled diagrams, random wheels. It’s great really!

 

  1. https://www.storyjumper.com/

It’s a great way to create, narrate, and publish your students’ books. You can have them create their own characters, plot, or add their own voice!!

 

  1. https://web.creaza.com/en/help/create-a-cartoon 

Your class can create your own cartoon!

 

  1. https://www.mindomo.com/

Mindomo lets you create mind maps and presentations with text, links, images, video, and audio. Combine content from the web with Mindomo’s built-in library and your own uploaded files. It is also possible to collaborate in real-time.

 

  1. AudioEditor allows you to create exciting podcasts and audio mixes. The tool contains hundreds of audio clips, music as well as sound effects. These can be combined with audio recordings and your own uploaded audio files.

 

  1. https://www.mysimpleshow.com/

Use mysimpleshow in the classroom with your students or contribute to open educational resources. Introduce, summarize, and explain topics worth sharing. All you need to do is upload a script and your animated video is created.

 

  1. https://quizizz.com/

A very popular tool among teachers who want to create their own quizzes!

 

  1. https://codekingdoms.com/

Learn how to make your own Minecraft mods with the power of code!

 

  1. https://www.kwizzbit.com/ for quizzes 

 

  1. https://synap.ac/ for quizzes

 

  1. https://testmoz.com/#features for tests creating

 

  1. https://www.vocabtest.com/ for tests creating

 

  1. http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/poetry/poetry_engine.htm

Poetry Idea Engine. Wow!!!!!

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  1. https://freerice.com/categories/english-vocabulary

This unique tool is great for building vocabulary. For every correct answer you choose, 10 grains of rice are raised to help end world hunger through the World Food Programme. While your students play this vocabulary game, they learn while donating food to people in need.

 

  1. https://coggle.it/

A mind-mapping tool designed to understand student thinking.

 

  1. https://dotstorming.com/

A whiteboard app that allows digital sticky notes to be posted and voted on. This tool is best for generating class discussion and brainstorming on different topics and questions.

 

  1. http://www.triventy.com/

A free quiz game platform that allows teachers to create quizzes students take in real-time. These live quizzes provide teachers with real-time data on student understanding of classroom concepts. Students need individual devices to respond to quiz questions.

 

  1. https://www.polleverywhere.com/

Use Poll Everywhere activities to take attendance, give quizzes, and gauge understanding.

 

  1. https://www.pixton.com/

Free comic storyboard!! Excellent!!

 

  1. https://www.naiku.net/

Teachers can easily and quickly create quizzes that students can answer using their mobile devices. Great for checking for understanding before and after a lesson.

 

  1. https://www.gosoapbox.com/ and Confusion barometer https://www.gosoapbox.com/tour/confusion-barometer

The Confusion Barometer allows students to indicate when they’ve become confused with the material, or need the teacher to slow down with the click of a button. The teacher sees a graphical representation of the number of students who are confused at any point during the class. Teachers can monitor the confusion barometer, and if they see a spike in confusion, will know that their students are having trouble with a concept, or that something wasn’t clearly explained.

 

  1. https://lightsailed.com/

An e-reading program that helps teachers support independent reading in students. You can monitor progress and give assessment and feedback in real-time.

 

  1. https://goformative.com/

You can upload any pdf/document/google doc, click to add places for your students to respond, edit any question details and you’re done.

You can also embed content from other websites and try our interactive question types like Show Your Work (drawing), Drag and Drop, Audio Recording, Graphing, or Essay! Create an assignment and get live results from students. Present them with real-time feedback in an instant, too.

 

  1. https://www.focusboosterapp.com/

For those who feel tedious working remotely or alone, it’s a great tool to help themselves beat distractions, procrastinate less, and stay focused. A great Pomodoro timer!

 

  1. https://www.brainpop.com/

animated curricular content (animated lessons, videos, assessments, games, etc.)

 

  1. https://www.twiddla.com/

This is a great tool for those teachers who want to prepare K-12 students for writing college papers because it involves a lot of writing assignments.

 

  1. https://vocaroo.com/

A free service that allows users to create audio recordings without the need for software. You can easily embed the recording into slide shows, presentations, or websites. Great for collaborative group work and presentations.

 

  1. Piktochart (https://piktochart.com/)

It uses blocks—dividing up the page into sections that you can build your infographics with by cloning, moving, or deleting what sections you wish.

 

  1. Youtube channels like
  1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMRZ0-ci4ifGBF1bJvrcDRQ

A channel with a large number of interactive simulations of experiments in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, used together with the platform https://phet.colorado.edu/. Depending on the subject, it can be used for all school ages.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium

A very interesting channel with a lot of unusual experiments, puzzles, songs that are used as reminders for various scientific concepts (for example, Atomic Bonding). It could be best used for upper primary school grades and secondary school.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/videos

channel with scientific phenomena presented in a very funny way. It covers a variety of topics, from historical facts to astrophysics problems. Intended for secondary school students, but if adapted and more thoroughly analyzed, it can also be used for upper primary school grades.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/TEDEducation/videos

 A large collection of animated stories about various phenomena – scientific, social, and artistic. Animated stories can be used with the platform TEDed, which provides the opportunity for interactive collaboration between teachers and students, with quizzes, reflections, and reference materials that can be further used.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXko8B8Csp8OBtOv0BzCgw

Creativity in Teaching English is a channel with reading aloud stories using puppets!!

  1. Kindergaarden channels!!
  1. https://www.coolkindergarten.com/

has both language arts and math games for kindergarten plus a small selection of read-aloud and math videos.

  1. https://www.starfall.com/h/

is a classic beginning learner website. Use both the alphabet and learn to read page for the maximum benefit and a couple of the kindergarten math activities are good too.

  1. https://www.readbrightly.com/topics/brightly-storytime/
  2. https://www.freckle.com/ is a differentiation platform with built-in activities for ELA, math, social studies, and science.
  3. https://www.education.com/games/kindergarten/ for free online games 
  4. https://www.neok12.com/ is a collection of free online educational videos, lessons, quizzes, puzzles, and games.

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I hope you found this post useful and interesting!!!

Keep creating!!! Teaching is creativity!! Start promoting theatre and puppets in your lessons!!

Polychrou Maria

Mail: mariapoly87@hotmail.com

Youtube channel: Creativity in Teaching English 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwXko8B8Csp8OBtOv0BzCgw

Blog: http://creativityinteaching.blogspot.com/