5 Technology Tools Perfect for ELA Online Learning Stations

I’ve written extensively about the benefits of using the Station Rotation Model with students. English teachers frequently ask me which technology tools I use to design my online learning stations. Below are my 5 favorite technology tools and online resources for designing the online learning stations in my English classroom.

#1 StudySync

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StudySync has freed me from the limitations of our school book room. Now, I have access to hundreds of short stories, poems, excerpts from novels, and famous speeches. The texts are paired with Think Questions and writing prompts that I can use or adapt. Many texts have video previews, SyncTV episodes, and audio recordings of the texts available. I can mix and match individual texts or access entire units complete with ELD supports for students at various language proficiencies. It’s also a fantastic resource for pairing groups of students with texts at their Lexile level!

#2 Vocabulary.com

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Vocabulary.com uses adaptive software to personalize vocabulary practice for students. Sophisticated algorithms determine which words students have mastered and which words they need to continue to practice. Teachers can create lists of vocabulary words or use the lists already available on the site. There is even a “spelling bee” option that will provide an audio recording of the word and students must spell it correctly. Teachers can track individual student data.

#3 NoRedInk

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NoRedInk allows students to select from a variety of topics (books, movies, celebrities, sports) and all of their grammar practice is wrapped in those topics. It transforms mundane grammar review into something more interesting because the sentences relate to individual student interests.

#4 In-class Flip with Vocabulary, Writing, and Grammar

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For years I have been using the flipped classroom model to flip my vocabulary, writing, and grammar instruction. Instead of marching lockstep through information as a class, I will assign a video for homework and use class time for practice. In the last year, I began building station rotation lessons that incorporate these flipped videos. Students still have an opportunity to control the pace of their learning and work collaboratively with peers to apply the information. (For more on the in-class flip, check out this blog!)

#5 Newsela

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Newsela has a growing collection of articles about science, art, health, war and peace, and money written at four different Lexile levels. This makes it possible for teachers to group students by reading level in a station rotation and differentiate subtly by assigning students in each group the same article written at a different Lexile level. There is a short quiz paired with each article, so teachers can assess the students’ ability to comprehend, analyze and evaluate what they’ve read.

All 5 of these resources are worth checking out for any school looking to incorporate meaningful technology into its English classrooms.

For more on blended learning, check out my newest book Blended Learning in Action: A Practical Guide Toward Sustainable Change coming out in September. It can be preordered at a discount!

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Blended Learning in Action

It’s been four years since Corwin published my bestselling book Blended Learning in Grades 4-12When I wrote that book, I was working in a low-tech environment trying to figure out how to weave together online and face-to-face learning to create a student-centered classroom. I did not receive any support, technology, or professional development from my school or district and was forced to figure it out on my own. My goal with that first book was to share what I had learned and provide teachers with concrete resources and strategies they could use to shift to a blended learning model.

In that time since that book was published, my understanding of blended learning models, as well as my own teaching practice, has continued to develop and evolve. So, I decided to write a second book on blended learning with a larger scope. My new book is written for both leaders and teachers because the most successful blended learning initiatives are those in which all stakeholders in a school community are involved in the journey.

To find out more about what you can expect from my newest book Blended Learning in Action: A Practical Guide Toward Sustainable Change, watch the webinar I presented for Corwin Connect. I provide an overview of the book and share a handful of the myriad resources available in the book! There is also a discount code available at the end of the webinar for anyone who preorders the book!

Blended Learning in Action will be published by Corwin in September!

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3 Arguments in Favor of the In-class Flip

Whenever I train teachers on the Flipped Classroom Model, I’m always asked the same questions. “What do you do if your students do not complete the homework?” or “What do you do if students do not have access to the internet and/or devices at home?” These are valid questions and concerns. Homework completion and online access must be a consideration when teachers decide whether or not the flipped classroom is a viable model.

For those teachers who don’t feel they can successfully flip instruction for homework, I recommend the in-class flip. This is a variation on the traditional approach to the flipped classroom, which pulls both the online transfer of information and the application/practice into the classroom.

Colleen in-class flip

Recently on Twitter, I was asked, “Doesn’t the in-class flip defeat the purpose of the flipped classroom?” I don’t think so. The original intention of the flipped classroom was to allow students some control over the time, place, and pace of their learning. If they are able to watch a video at home, they can pause, rewind, or rewatch the video and pace their own learning in a way that isn’t possible when a teacher is lecturing or explaining information in class.

3 reasons the in-class flip is worth trying: 

1. Students still control the pace of their learning. 

Many teachers still march lock-step through lectures, mini-lessons, and PowerPoint presentations with the entire class. This approach provides students with one opportunity to get the information. The pacing is the same for everyone; even though, students write and process information at different rates. If they fall behind in their notes, they may miss important details or facts. If teachers record their presentations and allowed students to watch them at their own pace in class, then students can still pause, rewind, ask a question, or look up a word to better understand the information being presented. Those videos are also available online anytime for students who want to revisit the information.

2. Teachers are free to circulate and support students as they work. 

The in-class flip frees teachers from the trap of talking at the front of the room and allows them the opportunity to move away from a one-size-fits-all lesson. As students watch videos, the teacher can move around the room answering questions and troubleshooting with students who need it. Even the clearest video or lecture will spark questions for some learners, so these one-on-one conversations can help clarify complex concepts. (Click here for more on avoiding the one-size-fits-all classroom.)

3. Students can still apply the information in class with their peers. 

I’ve always said the magic of the flipped classroom lies not the information that is flipped or the media used to flip it. Instead, the magic is what happens in the classroom when the time created by shifting the transfer of information online is used to engage students in collaborative application and practice. To effectively create this time in class for student-centered practice, teachers must be thoughtful about the design of their lesson. It’s best to employ a Whole Group Rotation, if you have devices for every student, or a Station Rotation Model, if you have limited access to devices, to set up an in-class flip that both allows time for students to self-pace through the video or online information and work collaboratively with peers to practice applying that information. When teachers are able to balance these two elements of the lesson, they are free to shift from the role of a facilitator or coach supporting students as they work to apply information.

If you want specific strategies, resources, and lesson templates to design a Flipped Classroom (or in-class flip), Whole Group Rotation, or Station Rotation lesson, check out my newest book Blended Learning in Action! It’s available for pre-order at a discount: Corwin & Amazon.

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