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Online Tools to Engage, Assess, and Provide Executive Functioning Scaffolds

Author: Samantha Goldman

In our January CIDDL/CEEDAR Affinity Group – Preparing Teacher Candidates for Online/ Hybrid Instruction meeting, Dr. Sean Smith and Dr. Maya Israel asked participants to discuss instructional techniques for engagement, assessment, and executive functioning in small breakout groups. All participants were invited to share out ways they have modeled these areas in their classes for pre-service teachers and related service providers as well as provide technology-based tools that they have used to address each approach.

Engagement: Fostering Collaboration and Moving Beyond the “Sit and Get” Mentality

Thinking back to the brick-and-mortar classroom, collaboration looked very different than it does in the digital world. It was a clunky process where students would drag their desks together, share books, and use posters to answer questions. Though a great exercise and experience in working with others, this is not as easily executed in the hybrid and online world. One group of participants shared that they used Google Slides as an online jigsaw to allow students to work together on a product without them having to share physical space. Other examples of tools and strategies to increase engagement are nearpod.com, Jamboard, giving students choice, using breakout rooms, and providing clear rubrics.

Assessment: Increasing the Frequency of Formative Feedback

The prevalence of Learning Management Systems (LMS) has rapidly increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in K-12 education. Many LMSs  provide instructors with embedded dashboards showing data such as engagement with content and scores on assignments. Using this data to make informed decisions about course instruction and design enables instructors to quickly embed formative feedback into their lessons.

Additionally, online assessment platforms like Formative, Seesaw, and Pear Deck provide teachers with the ability to “see” what their students know. Go React was also talked about as another method to look at formative assessment. This tool allows pre-service teachers to think about how they can use video in their own classrooms to analyze their own teaching, even when teaching remotely.

Executive Functioning: Planning, Managing Information, and Self Management

Modeling how to teach executive functioning skills is a necessity in that future teachers will need to not only model these skills for their students, but also will need to fully embody them themselves. Participants noted that things like chunking information so that pre-service teachers can stay organized and helping them monitor their time on task were essential elements of this area. Other areas discussed were the management of classroom behaviors. Some of the tools they listed were the embedded calendar tools and To-Do lists in LMS, time management tools like pomodoro, forest, and online timers, as well as organization and self-management tools like Trello.

Model, Model, Model

What has arisen from the pandemic is an increased availability of technology such as laptops, access to reliable Internet, web conferencing, webcams, and a wide variety of online tools. We are able to use technology to enrich curriculum through engagement, assessment, and executive functioning strategies. More importantly, it’s our job, as the educators of future teachers, to model how to use technology to support these areas so that future teachers have the knowledge and skills to use it in their classrooms.

What examples and tools have you used in your hybrid/ blended/ online classrooms to support engagement, executive functioning, and assessment? We’d love to hear about that in our community.