During more than a full school year of remote learning, millions of educators and students participated in the largest distance learning experiment ever seen. New educational technology tools that embraced video connection and collaborative workspaces showed us all the potential of the classroom of the future.
Now, school is more tech-heavy than ever before. Welcome to hybrid learning.
The emerging wave of hybrid learning prioritizes flexibility and technology. 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.
In 2020, many students were participating in virtual classes for the first time and were concerned about feeling included. And many educators were using technology in the classroom for the first time, which can run the risk of tech overload for the less tech-savvy of the bunch.
So, what tech tools do you 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.
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 distance 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 tech tools for teachers to choose from, popular education technology services are Google Classroom and Apex Learning.
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.
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 Pro, are 360° webcams that pivot to follow whoever is speaking. To compare the Meeting Owl Pro camera 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.
Now that you have a collection of virtual classroom equipment, how do you make it all work together? The best tech gadgets for teachers connect for a seamless learning experience for everyone involved.
Take the Whiteboard Owl, for example. Paired with the Meeting Owl Pro, the Whiteboard Owl captures your classroom whiteboard and broadcasts it through your video conferencing software. Remote students can get access to content on the whiteboard, and still see the teacher while they’re writing on the board with the Whiteboard Enhance feature. This gives your hybrid students the opportunity to get the best seat in the classroom, no matter where they’re dialing in from.
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.
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 online learning tools include video conferencing platforms, live virtual webinars, virtual classrooms, instant messaging, and audio collaboration.
When leading remote or hybrid classes, the number 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 students' strengths and degree of tech-savviness. 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.
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.