In 2006 I had my first experience teaching in a 1:1 environment using technology. At the time, students had laptops and the classroom had a SMART board. Today, technology in the classroom includes e-textbooks and learning management systems (LMS). Since then I have worked with the iPad, Chromebook, and Surface Pro to integrate technology-based pedagogical methods into Christian religious education. From this experience, I would like to share five tools for implementing digital technology in a theology classroom.
Nearpod is a web-based application that engages students in the teacher’s presentation of the class content and offers immediate assessment of student learning. With Nearpod, a teacher can create slides or upload an already prepared PowerPoint, Google Slide, or PDF. Additionally, a teacher can insert interactive slides to poll students’ views on a topic or ethical question, evaluate the student’ prior knowledge on a topic, or create a real-time formative assessment after a concept has been presented.
For example, a teacher could create a multiple-choice, true-false, matching pairs, or fill in the blanks questions quiz. The open-ended question slide permits students to express their thoughts on the topic, as well as respond to application or evaluation questions. The teacher can then show student responses on the main classroom display. Lastly, the teacher may opt to have students view the presentation on their 1:1 device. This allows students to follow the teacher presentation on their device or work at their own pace. Some limitations with Nearpod are its inability to allow users to rearrange the textboxes on a slide to make room for other textboxes or images, write on a slide while presenting, and to animate the content on a slide so the content does not appear all at once.
Wooclap is a web-based application like Nearpod. However, Wooclap offers several interactive features not available in Nearpod, e.g. brainstorming, a rating-scale, finding a correct area on an image, prioritization, and sorting. Wooclap too allows for live messaging, gamification, and is compatible with PowerPoint. Compatibility with PowerPoint allows the user to insert Wooclap interactive slides into one’s PowerPoint presentation. Wooclap shares the same limitations noted for Nearpod. Unlike Nearpod (that is designed for educators), Wooclap is tailored for a broader population. Consequently, while Wooclap offers more features, Nearpod attends more to specific needs of educators.
Kami is also a web-based application that allows the user to annotate e-books and PDFs. In Kami, the user can highlight text, use textbooks to make annotations, add notes on the side, draw and handwrite, and insert audio annotations. This means students can interact with their class textbook on PDF as they would with a hardcopy textbook. Moreover, students can add typed, hand-written, or audio annotations. Teachers can also go paperless as students can download handouts, complete them on Kami, and then submit the annotated assignment to the class’ LMS. As Kami is designed for educators, Kami offers blogs for educators to share best practices.
This web-based application is a great tool for digital story telling as users can create a storyboard with scenes, characters, props, dialogue, and explanations. This is a helpful tool for presenting content and evaluating student learning, particularly when teaching a Scripture or Church history course.
PowerPoint’s strength lies on the user’s capability to customize the slides by mixing images, fonts, textboxes; along with the animation and transition of slides features. Additionally, when presenting, the teacher can highlight and write explanations on the slide with content or use the white screen function to have a clean whiteboard for which to offer further explanations. This is a valuable tool for classroom management as, when used with a tablet, a teacher can offer explanations from anywhere in the classroom. Lastly, the narration feature records the slide transitions and animations along with the teacher’s verbal and written explanations.
This narration can be exported into video to create Vodcasts. This is a valuable tool as students can access the lecture on their own device in class or at home. Also, students can work at their own pace. One limitation of PowerPoint is that the teacher is the active participant and students are passive recipients. However, the integration of Wooclap into PowerPoint overcomes this limitation. The integration of Wooclap also does away with the teacher having to choose between PowerPoint and another application that engages students and with switching between applications when presenting class content
Israel Diaz, M.T.S., M.A. Theo
Department of Theology
St. Thomas Aquinas High School