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Impactful Virtual Learning: Tech Tools to Keep Your Students Cognitively Engaged

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Sept. 12, 2020, 11:34 a.m.

By Ashley Taplin


Google Jamboard is a great tool to use both synchronously and asynchronously to enable students to display their thinking and foster collaboration. The board includes virtual pens and highlighters, text boxes, sticky notes, and uploading images/gifs.


By sharing the board with the class, students can work on pages together in real time or independently. Similar to a vertical non-permanent surface, students can “spy” on other boards to help generate or compare ideas, and the teacher can observe student work and provide immediate feedback.


Some of my favorite ways to use Jamboard are shown below- as a space to show work, coupled with a Which One Doesn’t Belong prompt, and as an optimistic closure with feedback from students.



Ideaboardz is another platform that brings more interaction to virtual learning through writing. After determining your prompt, simply share the URL link with students. I love the visual it creates with sticky notes and how participants can respond back to each other, making it a collaborative and reflective space.



Maximizing Video Conferencing Features

Whether you are using Zoom, Google Meets, or another platform, there are several great strategies to create a more interactive environment. Using a Zoom poll can provide a way for students to engage with the learning target and success criteria, check for understanding, or formatively assess during a lesson.


I have also seen the chat used in a variety of creative ways. One teacher, Kyra Lockhart, asked students to send their answers just to her. In doing so, she was able to provide a safe space for students who felt apprehensive about posting. She then celebrated success and followed up whole class with misconceptions.


Teacher, Howie Hua, also suggested using chat blasts to increase engagement. To do one, give students a few minutes to process and answer a question or prompt, but tell them not to submit their answer yet. Then, on the count of 3 tell students to press enter, having all of their responses show up at once. This strategy encourages participation, relieves the stress of having to answer first, and enables students individualized process time without being pressured by other responses.


Connect, Extend, Wonder

Lastly, my colleague shared this template from Brian Housand to push beyond a “notice and wonder” protocol and help students connect, extend, and wonder. Click here to access, add a copy to your GoogleDrive, and try it out with students.






Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

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Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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