Three Top Tools for Better Classroom Management
One of the toughest parts of any teacher’s job is dealing with difficult students. University Buffalo researchers Richard Lamb and Elisabeth Etopio are making this challenge easier with a new virtual reality tool they’re calling a “flight simulator for teachers.” Using footage of actual students to create a 3-D immersive environment, the platform lets teaching students practice dealing with classroom situations as preparation for real-life classroom experience.
Lamb and Etopio’s VR classroom is still in development, but other innovative tools for classroom management are already widely available. The global market for smart education and learning tools, valued at $193.24 billion in 2016, will grow to $586.04 billion by 2021, Markets and Markets projects. Here’s a look at three digital educational strategies and tools teachers are already using to make effective classroom management easier.
Online Collaboration Suites: Google Classroom
One of today’s most popular classroom management tools is Google Classroom, which uses Google’s G Suite for Education to provide a virtual classroom environment. Teachers and students can log in to see a class stream, where announcements can be posted, assignments can be distributed and questions can be asked. Teachers can also communicate with students through Gmail, deliver presentations with Google Slides or Google Hangouts and share websites. Files can be created through Google Docs and Google Sheets and shared through Google Drive. Assignments can be scheduled through Google Calendar. An API supports third-party software integrations.
Schools subscribed to G Suite for Education can use Google Classroom for no extra fee, and teachers with a personal G Suite account can use it to configure Google Classroom. Google Classroom works on both Android devices and iOS devices such as the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.
Learning Management Systems: Blackboard Learn
Where Google Classroom is essentially a business office suite repurposed for education, other digital tools are specifically designed for learning management system (LMS) applications. Today’s leading LMS tool is Blackboard Learn.
The Blackboard Learn platform provides an interface where teachers and students can log in to see an activity stream, list of courses, assignment schedule, messages and grades. Teachers can post announcements to groups of students and send emails to individuals and groups, while students can participate in live chat discussions with other students, and teachers and students can both start discussion threads. Teachers can also use the platform to create and distribute course content, including multimedia content such as videos. The platform supports both blended learning as well as strictly online courses, with the ability to create online learning modules and to assign homework, quizzes and exams online. Blackboard Learn includes analytics tools for tracking individual student progress and customizing the learning experience.
Blackboard Learn is customizable and can be integrated with third-party software such as Dropbox. The platform is supported by content from major educational publishers such as Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson and Wiley. It also integrates with educational institutions’ Student Information System (SIS) for simplified records management. Educational institutions can access Blackboard Learn through their own self-hosted IT network, through managed hosting on the Blackboard Inc. server, or through a cloud-based SaaS configuration using Amazon Web Services.
Other leading LMS solutions include Moodle and Canvas.
Smart Presentation Hardware: Interactive Whiteboards
Software solutions such as LMS are joined by hardware that helps teachers improve classroom management. For instance, interactive whiteboards (IWBs) replace the traditional blackboard with a dry erase board that doubles as a digital screen, allowing a projector to display computer images on the same surface as handwritten notes made with a marker. Instructors and students can interact with the board using a finger, stylus pen, mouse or keyboard, allowing any operation that can be performed on a computer screen to be performed on the whiteboard. For instance, a teacher can drag and drop an equation onto a screen, display a slideshow or show a video. Digital notes can be added, and handwritten notes can be transformed into text. Screens can be saved for printing or digital sharing.
Leading IWB brands include SMART, Promethean, Mimo, Numonics, eInstruction and Polyvision. SMART is popular for its built-in pedagogical tools, such as the ability to shade parts of a screen in order to reveal information gradually, highlight and magnify areas of interest and digitally point at highlighted areas.