Recently we had a great opportunity to talk with Lindy Hockenbary - a K12 trainer, EdTech expert, speaker, and author who specializes in integrating technology into the learning process. She is an educator who has also created a curriculum and worked as a technology integration specialist. She began writing about her experiences after assisting teachers in transitioning to online learning during the pandemic, including a chapter on online learning in Like No Other School Year. She also wrote a full guide to online and digital learning, A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning.
Lindy has several EdTech certifications. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Educator Level 2, a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Master Trainer and Expert, a Minecraft Certified Trainer, a Hāpara Champion Trainer and a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator.
First, could you please tell our readers about your EdTech experience? Why did you choose exactly this industry?
Lindy: My career in EdTech happened both naturally and by accident. I taught middle and high school career and technical education. My classroom was a computer lab. In fact, at the time it was the only access to computers in the entire small school! I constantly had students coming in and out of my classroom to type papers for English and other classes. Technology always came naturally to me. Then, having this 1:1 environment accelerated my integration of technology as a learning tool. I decided that I wanted to help other teachers use technology as a learning tool and began pursuing a master's degree in educational technology. At about this same time, I took a job as a technology integration specialist. That was 10 years ago now. I can't imagine doing anything else!
In your opinion, how to engage learners in a virtual environment in an efficient way?
Lindy: I can tell you how you do not engage learners in a virtual environment: through all-day synchronous video calls! Video calls are more fatiguing than face-to-face interactions. In fact, a new term entered the pop culture arena during COVID to explain this feeling—“Zoom fatigue.”
So how do you engage learners in virtual environments? Engagement starts in what I call the "digital course homebase." (This is typically a learning management system). In online learning, students won’t get very far, if anywhere, unless they open the homebase. Therefore, teachers have to be strategic about encouraging students to engage with that course homebase. This could involve providing opportunities for students to socialize, embedding fun activities such as virtual show and tells, or embedding fun facts or riddles. Teachers also have to ensure that the digital course homebase is clear and consistent, so students can find what they need in order to engage with the course content. In addition, teachers have to develop connections with students and create a sense of community. These are the foundations to engagement in virtual environments.
To get to the meat of engagement, it depends on whether the learning is synchronous or asynchronous. In synchronous, smaller groups are better for video calls than larger groups. Because video calls are more fatiguing, teachers should build in brain breaks. Creating a schedule that divides synchronous virtual time into smaller chunks helps keep learners busy and on their toes. Use tools such as Pear Deck and Nearpod that allow learners to interact in creative ways such as drawing. Invite virtual guest speakers and take students on virtual field trips. There are a plethora of options for virtual field trip options.
For asynchronous, I am a big fan of creating self-paced lessons. A self-paced lesson includes everything a learner needs to complete the lesson on their own. Imagine them as lesson packages the teacher wraps up and hands to their students. Within that package is everything they need to be successful with learning on their own. This blog post elaborates and provides templates. It is important to include brain breaks within asynchronous work too! Providing students choice is key to engagement in virtual environments. Offering choice is especially easy in asynchronous lessons since time is not a constraint. Choice boards are a great strategy for online teachers. Online learning does not have to be all at a device. Just as in a physical classroom, there are many learning opportunities that can happen away from a device. Use their unique environments to your advantage! For example, math teachers could have students take pictures of shapes in real-life; every student will have different examples!
What technology integrations help to manage online classrooms?
Lindy: As mentioned earlier, every online teacher must have a "digital course homebase." Canvas, Schoology, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, and Seesaw are some K-12 examples. This is critical. In addition, online teachers need the following essential instructional tools:
- Forms tools such as Google Forms or Microsoft Forms
- Slides tool such as Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint
- Collaboration tool such as Padlet and Flip
- Video conferencing tool such as Zoom or Google Meet
- Screencast video creation tool such as Screencastify, Loom, or Screencast-o-matic
Above that, teachers can add to their tech toolbox with tools such as Jamboard, Canva, Blookit, Pear Deck or Nearpod, EdPuzzle, and Book Creator to name a few.
Is it worth investing in AI/VR to improve online learning?
Lindy: Virtual reality offers a unique and exciting opportunity for online learning. It really depends on the goals of the school, but I think AR and VR are great investments into virtual learning initiatives. There are VR-based online schools popping up, for example Optima Classical Academy.
There are opportunities for teachers that don't have access to AR/VR equipment to still utilize virtual worlds with avatars, such as Mozilla Hubs.
Could you please predict the trends of eLearning for 2023?
Lindy: I think we will see more and more virtual reality being used for virtual learning.
I also think we will see more schools go back to having virtual offerings to try to increase enrollment or gain back students lost to schools that do have virtual options.
I think we will see a shift from a heavy focus on synchronous online learning to a more balanced approach of synchronous and asynchronous.
As a K-12 trainer, speaker, and author specializing in integrating technology into instruction, could you please explain, what are the 3 important roles of technology in a K-12 classroom?
- Save time: Teachers have very little time and more and more keeps getting asked of teachers. They should use technology to save them time. For example, there is no reason in 2022 to manually grade a multiple choice assessment. Use a tool such as Google Forms and even improve the task by allowing students immediate access to their results. Research shows fast feedback is key to learning.
- Personalize learning: It is nearly impossible for a teacher alone to personalize learning for a classroom of 30 students, but technology allows teachers to duplicate themselves by creating videos, self-paced lessons, etc. This allows students to work at their own pace and for teachers to open their time to working with individual or small groups. For example, in replace of a lecture or direct instruction-based lesson, the teacher creates a video of the "lesson" and during class time, the teacher is able to meet individual student needs.
- Learn real-world skills: In order to survive in the 21st century, students have to be equipped with technical skills.
We hope these answers will help improve your online learning and integrate EdTech solutions easier. The PioGroup team is always ready to develop efficient custom EdTech solutions, particularly for business requirements.