My favourite online tools for virtual lessons

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It’s almost been a year since we very suddenly had to make the transition from brick-and-mortar to online schools. I personally think that the teaching community worldwide has done incredibly well in adapting to the ‘new normal’. A year on and coincidentally at the start of the third lockdown in Malaysia, I have been reflecting. I’ve taken stock of the things that I’ve learnt and worked well and also of the things that didn’t stick. As a result, here’s a list of my favourite tools for virtual learning (so far!). Enjoy!

Tools I use every day

  1. Google Classroom: I had no choice in which student management system I prefer as my school had been using GC for years. I was relatively new to it at the start of the first lockdown, but it was super simple to get used to. I like the simplicity of the layout and the functionality as well. I like that I can group assignments by topic and that many other apps and tools that I use integrate with it quite well. See more on that below.
  2. Jamboard: there’s been a lot written about this wonderful tool. For instance, visit the ELT Planning blog for some useful insights on using it with EAL learners. For amazing lesson ideas check out the Fluency First ELT blog, where the two Neils provide great lesson plans for task-based learning, many of them involving Jamboard. For me, Jamboard was a game-changer. I was struggling to use slides because it took me ages to plan them, especially to make them interactive. Jamboard is a simple collaborative whiteboard tool, which doesn’t let you do much in one sense, but it allows you to do loads with the simple functions it does have. I use Jamboard in every single virtual lesson to display my teaching materials, to engage my students, to get them to work collaboratively, or to check answers. Jamboard is a Google product so sharing it works the same way as you’d share a Doc and posting it on Google Classroom is easy too. For ideas on how to use Jamboard for DO NOW activities, click here.
  3. Quizlet: I’ve been using Quizlet for a long time and for many years I’ve had a paid teacher account because I love the combination of its simplicity and functionality. I can make vocab sets for my students or get them to make them together. I can use it as quick extension tasks when I need something on the fly and have I mentioned the test function yet?! The students love it because they get to learn while playing games and the Quizlet Live sessions are often the highlights of the revision lessons. Quizlet integrates with Google Classroom seamlessly so sharing the sets is a piece of cake.
  4. Mote: this Google app allows you to leave voice notes and vocal feedback on students’ work. It integrates well with Google Classroom and the students don’t have to have it installed on their devices to be able to listen. Mote has cut the time I spend marking online assignments easily by half. Straightforward to use and easy to get your students on board.
  5. Kami: this is a new app for me. I’ve only been using it for a short while, but I find it useful. My younger students often do their work on paper and upload pictures as part of their assignments. While that is great, it means more work for me when I’m marking as they all appear as PDFs. Kami allows me to scribble over their pictures and leave comments as well. I just love it!

Tools I frequently use

  1. Quizizz: I don’t necessarily use this every day, but often enough to warrant an appearance on this list. Quizizz is my go-to tool for formative and summative online assessment. While it does have it’s limitations, I find it much easier to use than Kahoot!, for instance. I find that students handle it better than Kahoot! as well. The ‘teleport’ function that lets you import questions from existing quizzes is genius and a total time-saver. Quizzes on this site can be easily turned into assignments on Google Classroom and you can see your students’ results and progress under the Reports tab.
  2. Epic!: another recent addition to my repertoire. Epic! is an online library where you can assign reading materials to your students. You can easily import students from your existing Google Classrooms and set assignments as well. Epic! is a great way to get students reading while the libraries are off-limits, however, older learners might struggle to find books that interest them.

Oh hi there 👋 It’s nice to meet you.

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