I was embarrassed. My students had more technology than me. We didn’t have a policy that allowed them to use their phones in class, and at the time, though I have them now, there weren’t computers.
“Miss, why don’t you have any computers? And why can’t
I use my phone?” one student asked. I had no answer. I started to look for one.
I began to search for teachers using technology effectively in the classroom. I hoped to find teachers who somehow made technology work without having a budget or a structure in place to allow students to bring laptops and phones–maybe even teachers with no computers in the classroom. I didn’t know the terms “edtech,” “blended learning,” “BYOD,” or “flipped class” at the time, and I wasn’t familiar with mobile edtech apps. I didn’t even know there were different specialties in the computer world. As far as I was concerned, we had a few tech platforms in the library, but nobody used them. Students said they were boring.
“Simple, use Learnist,” said my friend. He sent me the beta invitation to Learnist.
I loved Learnist immediately. The solutions I needed became clear. I wanted to bring new, multimedia material into my classroom and give students access at home so could take their learning outside the classroom. I wanted students to be able to access the learning with their devices and computers. I’d tried a wiki. It didn’t work, because students had too many places to click. On Learnist they could participate, access the material, contribute, and be social–all in one spot. When they learned together, they learned better.
I started by creating Learnist boards for class and linking them into my class blog. It’s since replaced the textbook. I used Learnist to teach students about 21st century digital citizenship–acceptable ways to interact, comment, and reply online. These are skills that are so important to teens, especially now. Learnist is an open platform, and it’s not just for education, so students need to realize they’d be sharing their learning with people all over the world, from all walks of life. In addition to developing them into responsible digital citizens, Learnist began to raise the quality of their work, because they knew the world could see.
Students were learning curation–selecting and showcasing the best sources. They learned perspective–they had to pick out sources that supported their opinion or presented a balanced learning opportunity, depending on the assignment. Students also created boards of interest to them. They hardly realized they were analyzing, writing, editing, and producing. It was just fun.
One student project was even featured on Learnist’s home page. Another student used Learnist to do her senior project for graduation, Vegetarian Diets and Disease Prevention, an educational outreach about how vegetarian diets can help make people healthier.
Using Learnist in the classroom changed everything for me. It allowed me to put together resources for my class–effectively blending and flipping my class before I even knew what those things were. I was able suggest learnings and supplement students, extending the classroom literally around the globe as students traveled, went on family vacation, or left for holiday. I was able to circumvent the issue of BYOD, because Learnist can be used anywhere, either in the classroom directly or on students’ own time. Now that we have a few computers in the class, we can use it as a central theme to our lessons during the class period as well.
I have fun with Learnist, personally, too. I love to cook, create, garden, practice yoga, and run. I share recipes, collect yoga routines, and make gardening and sustainability boards, and occasionally boards about humor, too. So, while I’ve found Learnist to be something I couldn’t teach without in the classroom, it’s also fun to use it when I’m relaxing, too.