January 9, 2018

By Stacey Ryan

After 17 years in the classroom, I’ve discovered what works and what doesn’t. I’ve been able to adapt my approach to teaching so that I can assess student understanding in the moment.

When getting students ready for the real world, we have to teach them the importance of collaboration and problem-solving, especially when working in small groups. My classroom model includes a lot of group work where students complete tasks in groups of four to six, or sometimes with just one partner. For some educators, this approach can make it challenging to gauge student understanding through formative assessments.

In order to be successful, every teacher needs to have a few tools that can assist them in their journey. Here are a few of the tech tools that keep my classroom inspired every day and continue to encourage my students to be involved:


  • Lightspeed Activate System: This classroom audio system powers classroom communication. Designed to monitor small-group discussions, the two-way pods are the size of a glasses case and double as hand-held microphones. This makes it easy for students to pick them up and take them anywhere they want. By “dropping in” on students’ learning conversations, I can listen to them collaborate and share their ideas in an authentic and natural setting.

When students do not actively answer or participate in a whole-group setting, it can seem as if they don’t have a strong conceptual understanding of what they are learning. By capturing students’ learning in a small-group setting and without the teacher at their side, I am able to hear my students think aloud and readily verbalize what they know. It has given them the chance to open up and socialize in a different setting.


  • Kahoot!: I use this game-based online learning platform for my students to respond to questions related to our class content, individually or with a small group, on any device.

This tool increases student engagement and promotes excitement for learning because students are highly motivated by the game-based component. They receive instant feedback after each question, and as the teacher, I am able to see the number of students who answer each problem correctly. I can address misconceptions right away and give the proper feedback about students’ understanding of concepts. It also promotes learning conversations and reflection after each question. Downloading students’ results at the end of each game provides me an alternative assessment as well as feedback for future planning.


  • Skype in the Classroom: Skype has been one of the easiest and most impactful ways to connect what students are learning in class to the world and their future careers. Last year, my students Skyped with Olympic and Paralympic athletes who shared how they use math in their careers, along with lessons about grit, goal-setting, and growth mindset. We even connected with a video game designer to help launch our Hour of Code activities. These types of experiences give students a new outlook on how what they learn in school will one day be relevant to the world and their future.


By using technology to our advantage, we can create a classroom environment that blossoms. With these tools, I am confident that my students are learning how to collaborate and become lifelong learners.

Stacey Ryan

Stacey Ryan

Stacey Ryan has been an educator for 17 years and is currently a 7th-grade math teacher at Andover Middle School in Andover, KS. Her passion is facilitating school innovation, real-world projects, blended learning, and leadership development to make learning relevant and meaningful for students. Follow her on Twitter: @sryanalr.

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