How to Bring the Classroom into the Digital Era

Mosaic v4 is the latest education-focused platform released from LiveTiles. The new Mosaic platform was especially created for educators, with an easy-to-use user interface design and pre-configured tiles ready to bring all kinds of digital tools into the classroom. From social media to news feeds, everything you need can be integrated into your site in seconds by dragging the tile of your choice onto the canvas and adjusting the settings to suit your curriculum requirements. Pearson, the educational and publishing conglomerate out of the U.K.—best known for standardized testing services, covers a few of the common challenges teachers face in a recent article.

The first problem is “that most work is done individually and if there is any group work, it often involves competition rather than cooperation. But we now know that the best way of learning is through experience: not just listening” (Alabaster). This is something I’ve seen firsthand in my classes and have heard discussed in various high-level university meetings.

The basic problem is that groups, by their nature, create dynamics where members contribute differently. Sometimes group members will divide the work and everyone takes on a different side project. All of the parts are pieced together at the end and it becomes a complete project. When it’s time to present work, no one really knows what’s in their presentation. And when something goes wrong, which it usually does, they all blame the group members responsible for that part of the assignment.

Group members only want to take responsibility for their small part in this model. That’s not ideal for an educational experience, and it’s a way of dividing tasks that I always discouraged. Then there are group members who will take on a leadership role, while others slip into the background. Usually the group leaders will complain that the others are not doing their work. Those who fall back are not as concerned about their performance in the class, and they are willing to accept whatever comes their way. The instructor has to ensure that group members are contributing more or less equally throughout all parts of the presentation assignment. But how to do it without losing a lot of time, which is already in short supply?

The clearest solution to this problem would be to utilize our Mosaic platform, where you can embed discussion channels and specific group pages from Yammer or Facebook, for example. You can create student and teacher portals, and allow parents access as well to involve them in supporting students at home. Embed social feeds in your digital classroom and assign regular progress updates to make sure everyone is doing their part for each aspect of the group project. This provides a quick and easy way for group members to report their progress directly to the instructor.

It will quickly become apparent whether all group members are contributing equally based on their progress updates. Although it is innovative, there is no reason not to use a social media program like Twitter in K-12 schools. Twitter has been recognized as a helpful teaching tool in a number of ways already, this adds one more to the list (Miller).

The best part of this is that it won’t take much time away from other work. A teacher’s time is always in demand, but everyone can check a few short status updates at some point during the day. It bears repeating, it’s important that it’s assigned in a way that encourages all members to work on every aspect of the project, and report that work in to the instructor. Teamwork is the goal, and with everyone understanding their part to play, it can be accomplished.

How to Bring Classroom into the Digital Era

Another big issue ranging throughout all levels of education is student engagement. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, with various priorities and commitments outside the classroom—extracurricular activities, working part time or even spending time with friends. For many, putting an emphasis on their education outside the classroom is very difficult. That’s a problem since “The basis for effective learning is engaged students. But we all know that isn’t necessarily an easy thing to achieve” (Alabaster). I have seen student engagement initiatives over the last several years that show just how important this is to administrators and faculty alike, not to mention parents and students themselves.

Every institution I have attended or taught for has done something to improve engagement. New buildings and student unions have been constructed, learning cohorts were formed, learning specialists were hired and entire classes were created (which I also taught) with the express purpose of forming strong learning communities out of students who were just meeting for the first time. All of these plans have their strong points, but there are also simpler (and much less expensive) ways of strengthening relationships and getting the students to buy in to the experience you are offering them.

The easiest way to boost student engagement is actually the same way we boost employee engagement in the digital workplace: social intranet collaboration. My research study into this area proved that having an interactive online forum was helpful in supporting university goals for a classroom. The same sense of cohesion and collaboration that came out of our higher education setting would also apply to other grades. In fact, my research in this area actually included high school students as well.

LiveTiles can help with this challenge quickly and easily through our Yammer Tile, or Yammer Slide Tile if space is a factor. The use of Yammer and the Yammer Tile on your site engages everyone inside and outside of the classroom. It’s more helpful and a lot more fun for students to share pictures, videos and opinions over a social intranet like Yammer than it is through regular email, which is the other standby for this kind of interaction. By having Yammer and Twitter on your site, you make it easy for everyone to stay engaged, reminding them to contribute each time they see the feed. K-12 educators might even assign points for posting or responding to content as a ways of measuring student participation.

How to Bring Classroom into the Digital Era

Try making Yammer and Twitter a part of your educational toolkit and see the results. If you’re not familiar with Mosaic yet, now is the time. We’ve just unveiled the latest version; Reach out to us and let Mosaic work for you. We recognize that digital trends can be intimidating, involving Microsoft’s signature programs such as SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure to name a few. These are often thought of as project management or data management tools. While they are used for those purposes, educators throughout the world are finding innovative applications for them as well. Of course, there isn’t much digital training for teachers, and you may think it’s going to be complicated. If you’re not feeling very tech savvy, remember that ease of use is our core goal. LiveTiles created Mosaic to help teachers who don’t have a history of computer programming or software design. If you have any trouble at all, we have knowledgeable customer service agents standing by to help 24 hours a day. LiveTiles Mosaic makes the newest teaching technology accessible to everyone.

References:
1. Alabaster, George. “Practical Solutions to Real Teaching Challenges.” Pearson 28 April 2016. 20 July 2016.
2. Miller, Samantha. “50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom.” Teach Hub n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

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