robots in class from Hack Learning

5 Unusual Ways to Bring Technology to Your Classroom

Technology makes students more engaged. That’s not just a statement; it’s a fact that can be supported with research. A study from 2016 indicates that the iPad improved the literacy of students in kindergarten. It’s effective for all ages, too. Another study, focused on medical school students, shows that those who used iPads scored 23% higher on exams.

Education technology is huge and it’s here to stay. However, it’s also a challenge for modern educators. You have to be very careful with the apps and tools you choose and the way you introduce them in the classroom. The last thing you need is to make technology boring to your students.

We’ll share 5 simple, but unusual ways for you to introduce technology in the classroom.

1 – Bring Robots in the Classroom

Robots are becoming part of our lives. We all loved The Jetsons as kids. Can you imagine how would it be to make that cartoon almost reality for your students? Teachers are increasingly using robots to present a number of concepts from science, language, and math. The students, naturally, love this method. However, most teachers are not entirely ready to introduce it.

Vex Robotics, Lego, and SoftBank Robotics make it easy for you. Of course, you’ll need a considerable budget to get a robot for the classroom and go through training, but the good news is that most schools are willing to provide these resources for such a cause. The NAO humanoid robot from SoftBank Robotics, in particular, is a realistic character that moves, listens, speaks, sees, connects, and even thinks and feels. This is the kind of artificial intelligence that’s making your students ready for the future.

2 – Introduce Augmented Reality

When you and your students use a device to scan or view an image, it will trigger a subsequent action – another image, video, games, 3D animations, QR codes, or whatever else you want to show. This method is called augmented reality, and it’s a huge trend in education.

Hacking Engagement author James Sturtevant

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Aurasma is the most popular app teachers use for that purpose. You can use it in many different situations:

  • During your school’s art show
  • Making geography lessons more realistic
  • Leading the students to math videos when they scan a math problem
  • Giving your students virtual tours through museums, and much more

3 – Explore Virtual Reality, Too

Virtual reality is a different concept from AR. It’s not related to objects from the real surroundings. This is an entirely computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment, which you can interact with in a realistic way. Your students will need special equipment, such as gloves with sensors or a helmet with a screen inside.

If your school provides such equipment, it would be a shame not to use its potential. If that’s not the case, you can suggest the board to get super-cheap headsets that are compatible with iOS and Android, and cost less than $10 per piece.

Virtual reality is great for astronomy lessons. Your teaching will become much clearer and more fun if your students are seeing how the solar system works. Imagine how cool it would be for them to see the stars, move the planets, and track the progress of comets. You can also use virtual reality to explore the ocean or different places all over the world without leaving the classroom, or take your students through a time traveling experience.

4 – Connect Your Class with the World through Video Conferences

Are you teaching your students about different cultures and societies? Why don’t you use technology to connect them with classes from the countries in question? If, for example, you’re exploring the social or political culture of France or you’re teaching French, you can connect with a classroom from that country. Your students will definitely enjoy the experience.

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You can also connect your students with college professors and recognized experts from different areas of study. They can act as guest lecturers, who will boost the engagement in the class. You can use LinkedIn or Edutopia to form connections with educators.

5 – 3D Printing Projects for More Fun in the Classroom

3D printing is not new to engineers and designers. They use it to quickly build prototyping tools. For students, however, it is a new and intriguing technology. They can make anything they want, and that’s enough to get them interested.

They can build models of the atom, reconstruct ancient cities, or create art projects thanks to this technology. If you’re teaching a lesson about the wheel, for example, they can build a well-functioning wheel. 3D technology is useful and interesting for students of all ages. The best part is that it’s really simple to master, even for the non-tech teacher.

Are you ready to give technology a chance? Your students will be thrilled if you use any or all of the above-listed methods.

Please share your experiences with these 5 unusual EdTech tools and strategies in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Karen Dikson is a creative writer at Best Essays, and a teacher from New Jersey. Her works have been published on Huffington Post and other educational resources. She loves to help her students achieve their most ambitious goals. Connect with Karen on Twitter.

How to Teach Kids to Police Themselves on Social Media

Listen to “85: How to Teach Kids to Police Themselves on Social Media” on Spreaker.
Before we can teach kids to police their own social media practices, we must police our own actions on social networks, because kids are watching.

I was reminded of this lesson recently, during an enthusiastic debate on Facebook. I explain in the podcast episode above.

5 strategies to teach kids to police their social media activity

1 – Think before you share

Social media can be intoxicating. You’ve likely seen the research about kids being engaged 7-10 hours daily and some adults being unable to function in normal daily life, because they can’t leave social media. It’s so easy to share pictures, graphics, links to content, along with comments and less-than-a-second likes and retweets (see number 4).

We must teach kids to fight the urge to share absent-mindedly. Facebook and Twitter make this extremely easy. Teach students this simple strategy: Read, Reflect, Decide. This process takes 30-60 seconds and it can make a difference in so many lives.

Just read your content carefully; reflect on what it means to share it; then, decide if it should be shared. Remind kids that sometimes they should decide to Not share or interact with content. Discuss what makes content shareable and, more important, if anyone be hurt by your actions.

2 – Never respond in anger

Think for a moment about something you’ve seen recently on a social network that made your blood boil. The share incited you more than anything you can remember. You flinched, frowned and your fingers tingled, because you couldn’t start typing fast enough.

Hopefully, in this case, you used the Read, Reflect, Decide strategy and didn’t post in anger. If something your see on a social network upsets you, it’s best to walk away. If you feel you must respond, do it privately and politely.

Look Inside

3 – Understand the longterm impact of your social shares

Yes, one bad tweet, like or share of content on a social network can hurt you for many years–in some cases forever. College admissions deans and HR directors are watching.

Many people have lost jobs because of one thoughtless share or comment on a social network. Is your future worth that five-seconds it took to post something thoughtless, and likely meaningless, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

There’s a recurring theme here: Read, Reflect, Decide. This habit will serve you well.

4 – Ask, “Why am I liking or retweeting this?”

The Facebook like and Twitter retweet are simple, fun ways to join a conversation on a social network. But when they are used without forethought, they are two of the most dangerous tools on the Internet.

People are so quick to like or retweet something, because they don’t have to create new content or comment; they can interact with content and, perhaps, show support of a friend in less than a second.

While saving time in our hectic social media lives is important, a simple like or retweet can be as damaging as an expletive-laced personal post.

Teach students to consider what their like or retweet means. It’s basically an endorsement of content. Liking a friends post about abortion or antiwar protests may feel like a simple nod to the friend.

Meanwhile, it can be devastating to other friends or even family members who have different beliefs. It’s okay to have an opinion, but it doesn’t have to be shared with the world, and there are times it’s best to simply say No to the like or retweet and move on.

5 – Avoid confrontation

How many times have you wanted to question someone’s intelligence or win a battle of sarcasm in a Facebook or Twitter chat? Consider how often this happens with kids who tend to have a much smaller filter than adults.

Guy Kawasaki, one of the world’s leading social media experts, says to stop at two replies to any heated discussion. Anything beyond two will most likely be negative and potentially harmful.

Plus, many people join conversations late, so they may have missed the context. They see something you said that seems snarky and they don’t consider the other person. It’s you or your student who looks bad.

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A version of this post first appeared at Brilliant or Insane

EdTech and the 4cs

Hacking Education Technology with the 4Cs

Listen to “71: Education Technology and the 4 Cs with Stephanie Budhai and Laura Taddei” on Spreaker.

Technology integration in today’s classroom is an always evolving hot topic in education. Stephanie Smith Budhai and Laura McLaughlin Taddei, college professors and authors of Teaching the 4Cs with Technology: How do I use 21st-century tools to teach 21st-century skills? In Episode 71 of the Hack Learning Podcast, they explain how teachers can hack EdTech with the SAMR model and the 4Cs.

The Problem — Tons of technology with little training

Many districts/schools are implementing technology programs that offer opportunities for 24/7 learning, but teachers need more support and ideas when it comes to implementing the technology in a way that redefines and transforms teaching and learning.

The Hack — Start with SAMR and develop the 4Cs

Purposeful instructional technology, founded on the SAMR Model (substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition). When using SAMR as a guide for instruction, teachers can more easily enhance the 4Cs (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity).


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What You Can Do Tomorrow 

  1. Use a framework (SAMR) to implement technology in a meaningful way.
  2. Write an action plan that includes at least one new technology tool you can easily integrate into teaching and learning.
  3. Encourage innovation by modeling.

Learn more

Visit the Integrating the 4Cs With Technology website.

Look inside Teaching the 4Cs with Technology.

Stephanie Smith Budhai has 9 years PK-16 teaching experience, and is in her fourth year as an assistant professor at Neumann University, serving also as the director of graduate education in the Education division. Dr. Budhai holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from Drexel University, a M.Ed in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland College Park, and a B.S.Ed. in Elementary and Special Education from Temple University. She also holds teaching certifications through the Pennsylvania Department of Education in PK-12 Instructional Technology, PK-12 Special Education, and K-6 Elementary Education, as well as the Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System (PQAS) and Quality Matters Peer Reviewer Online Course certifications. Dr. Budhai became interested in educational technology integration while studying Learning Technologies at Drexel University and completing her internship at a PK-8 independent school for her Instructional Technology Specialist certification. Dr. Budhai is also on the Leadership Team of the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology.

Laura McLaughlin Taddei is Associate Professor of Education at Neumann University in Aston, PA, advising undergraduate students and adult learners in an accelerated BA degree program for early childhood professionals. Dr. Taddei was a career changer and began her second career as an early childhood teacher. Prior to this, she worked with adults providing training for an insurance company. While teaching young children, she was passionate about the importance of high-quality professional development and became a certified trainer and consultant through the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. She has been teaching in higher education for the past 8 years. Dr. Taddei completed her BA degree in Business as an adult learner in an accelerated degree program at Immaculata University in 2000. She went on to obtain a Master’s in Education with certification in K-6 Elementary Education from Cabrini College in 2007. She also holds certification as a Private Academic Pre-k-K Teacher, PQAS certified trainer, and Quality Matters Peer Reviewer. She received a Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership in 2012 from Widener University. Her research interests are in the area of teacher and faculty development, instructional coaching, culturally responsive teaching, collaboration, and educational technology. Follow Laura on Twitter: @drlaurataddei.

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Hacking EdTech

Improving EdTech in Schools: #HackLearning Chat

Co-author of Hacking Education and chief product producer at, Jennifer Gonzalez, helps us hack EdTech in this live #HackLearning Twitter chat.

People love their education technology, as evidenced by 585 tweets to the chat in just 30 minutes. That’s hacky!

Review the chat archive below

Don’t miss the live #HackLearning Twitter chat, every Sunday at 8:30 AM ET. 

Of course, we share amazing resources daily on Twitter, so bookmark #HackLearning and lob us a tweet daily.

Can’t make it to the live chat? Check out our chat archive here.

in-class flip-Hack Learning Podcast

How to Unflip the Flipped Classroom


In this edition of the Hack Learning Podcast, Mark Barnes is unflipping the popular flipped classroom. Listen to what Mark says about the flipped classroom in the podcast episode above and learn more about the in-class flip in this excerpt from Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School, by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez.

The Problem: Flipped Learning Can Fall Apart at Home

Flipped learning has become wildly popular in education. Unlike a traditional course setup, where content is delivered in class and students apply and practice their learning through homework, the flipped classroom turns that arrangement on its head: The initial content delivery happens at home (often through a video of some sort), and then students and teachers re-converge in class to apply and practice their learning.

The thinking behind this arrangement is that teachers’ expertise is much more valuable during that application stage; when content is delivered in an automated format, this frees up the teacher to really interact with students as they use and engage with the content through discussion, practice, role-play and simulation, inquiry, and hands-on projects.

Here’s the thing, though: If a lesson is going to flip with any success, the at-home learning absolutely has to happen. Students must learn the initial content in order to apply it. This requires every student to have at home a working device, a reliable, consistent Internet connection, and an environment conducive to concentration. Unfortunately, in many communities, securing all three can be challenging. Even in cases when all of these things can be arranged, their stability can be questionable.

For some teachers, these complications have been enough to make them abandon flipping altogether. They quickly write off flipped learning as a trend that just doesn’t work or isn’t worth the trouble. This is a shame, because in too many cases, these teachers resign themselves to staying in the role of content provider, allowing their time to be consumed with lecture and demonstration when it could be better spent engaging directly with students.

Audible from Hack Learning

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What if you and your students could still get the benefits of flipped learning without messing with all the variables of the home environment? What if the whole flipped process could remain in school?

The Hack: Flip Your Class…In Class

The In-Class Flip moves the flipped learning model inside the walls of your classroom. Using a set of iPads, tablets, a few classroom computers, or even students’ own devices, the content delivery portion of a lesson—the “home” part in a true flip—would be set up as a station in the classroom. This allows students to receive the content in the same way that they would at home, while freeing up the teacher to engage remaining students as they apply the learning from the video or from previous lessons.

To demonstrate, let’s assume a teacher has a 10-minute recorded video lesson to deliver some portion of his content, and his classroom has six tablets for student use. He sets those tablets up as one station (with earbuds for non-disruptive listening) and arranges to have the 10-minute video accessible through those tablets.

in class flip stations via Hacking Education

In-class flip station model from Hacking Education

Next, he sets up a station where students will directly apply the concepts introduced in the video, such as a writing assignment, a set of discussion cards, a game, or a practice sheet.

Students will go to this station only after they have seen the video. Because he has 24 students, but only six tablets, the teacher needs more stations, so he sets up three more that do not rely on the information from the video. These can be short hands-on activities, skills practices, games, or reviews of prior learning.

When students arrive, they are divided into groups of six and placed at the first four stations. Note that station 5, which students can only do after they have watched the video, stays empty for the first round.

For the following round, students rotate to the next station. This time, the first group of students watching the video is able to apply that content in the next station. Although stations 1 through 3 are just basic classroom activities, the rotation from station 4 to station 5 in this example is basically what replicates a flip. Instead of delivering the new content himself, this teacher now has Station 4 to do it for him. This frees him up to rotate around to the other stations, interacting with students as they engage with both the new content at Station 5 and prior learning at Stations 1 through 3.

What You Can Do Tomorrow

Although setting up an In-Class Flip requires planning and preparation, you can get a taste of how it works by trying this mini-version:

  • Go on a treasure hunt. Locate a video online that delivers some simple piece of content related to your subject area—something you haven’t taught yet. If YouTube isn’t an option at your school, try looking at Vimeo, TED-Ed, or TeacherTube.
  • Prepare a post-video activity. Create some kind of task students can do after they have viewed the video—a written assignment, a quiz, discussion questions, something hands-on, or even an activity that you would run yourself—that will require application of the learning from the video.
  • Prepare another independent activity. This task should not be directly related to or dependent upon the video in any way. It is not necessary to create a full set of stations for the “non-flipped” time; as long as you assign independent work that will engage the rest of the class while other students rotate through the flip, the class should run smoothly.
  • Complete a test run. As part of tomorrow’s class, have students take turns sitting at the video viewing station, then completing the post-video task. Make yourself available to answer questions during the task. Instruct students who are not watching the video or have not yet seen it to do the independent activity during the remaining time.

A Blueprint for Full Implementation

Step 1: Take inventory.
Determine how many reliable classroom devices you have access to on a regular basis. These do not all have to be the same kind; a combination of tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and even smartphones would work—anything that allows students to view pre-recorded videos, either through an Internet connection or by storing the videos on the devices themselves. If you are very short on devices—say, you only have two—consider whether students might be able to pair up on the same device at the same time. Headphone splitters can be purchased for less than $5, allowing you to plug two sets of headphones into the same output jack.

Step 2: Choose lessons to flip.
Decide what portion of the content will be delivered through video. (Although video is not the only way to deliver content in a flip, it is the most common, so we’ll use that in our discussion here). The content should be something students can grasp reasonably well on their own. It could be a short lesson that explains a new concept and gives examples, a demonstration of a hands-on task they will do later, or the steps of a skill they will practice after the video is done. Students will only be able to absorb small amounts of content in one stretch, so consider how you will break up the content, providing stops during the video for students to take notes, answer comprehension questions, or briefly practice skills.

Step 3: Record the lessons, or find pre-made videos online.
This is the time-consuming part. If you want to start by looking for videos created by others, consider the libraries offered on sites like EDpuzzle, eduCanon, and TED-Ed. If you are unable to find videos that meet your specific needs—and for many people, this is the case—you’ll need to start making your own. Creating these videos is easier than you think: One way to do it is to build a presentation using PowerPoint or Google Slides, then present it in slideshow mode while you talk, recording the whole thing using screencasting software like Screencast-O-Matic, Jing, or ShowMe.

More on the in-class flip and other quick fixes for every school

Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School

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Featured image credit: I flip for you via photopin (license)