Like many educators, I simply can’t stop teaching. While I anticipate the end of the school year just as much as the next person, I always find myself back in teaching mode after a few weeks, tutoring all summer long. Like the students, I believe teachers also fall victims to the summer learning loss and I wanted to avoid it at all costs. Yet I still wanted to enjoy my summer and spend as little time as possible managing and preparing classes and lessons. So I decided to try something new. After playing around with a few teaching platforms, I liked the idea of easy and fast lesson and student management, but I wanted more. I wanted something that would give me all my resources instantly in one place, help me create great lessons fast, and manage everything for me. I had just about given up hope that such a system existed until I found Fishtree. Fishtree allowed me to do everything I wanted and more. Creating lessons and managing classes became easy and fast, with the added bonus of being able to collaborate with students instantly and safely through social media! Best of all, everything was available in the one place.
Creating lessons for my students, I like to be very prepared. Fishtree allowed me to create well-prepared lessons in minutes. All I had to do was create a class, type in an objective or two, and generate resources. The system actually found all the resources for me, including the most informative videos and the most accurate articles. I could then add these to my lesson, include my own instruction, search the web for more using the search engine, and add my own private notes, without moving from the site. What usually annoys me most about making lessons really engaging is hopping from site to site trying to find the right content, then having to organize a lesson aptly around that content. Fishtree gave me exactly what I needed saving me so much time and effort.
Finding the best resources to suit your lesson is a long and painstaking process. Combining the most relevant multimedia with traditional content is often extremely hard to manage effectively. The last thing I wanted was to spend my summer holidays looking for resources in every corner of the web. Fishtree allowed me to access all kinds of resources: videos, podcasts, articles, real-time media… Most importantly, from the one location. All I had to do was search for resources based on my learning objectives, and I immediately got what I was looking for. Once I found everything I wanted, I could add them to my lesson with one click. I could then upload my own videos, images and text to make my lesson complete.
3. Social media
One of the best aspects of Fishtree is its social media stream that allows you to collaborate with your students in real-time. Using this feature, I could see if a student has viewed my lesson, started or completed assessments, found his/her own resources, or if he/she particularly liked something within the lesson. The open discussion platform allows students to find, share and exchange material related to my lesson, to discuss concepts through the comment section, and ‘like’ to their heart’s content! I loved the fact that it was so interactive and that I could monitor all activity making it as safe and controlled as possible. I could even get in on the action by commenting and ‘liking’ in the same way, which made the learning process even more fun and enjoyable for all of us. I had been reluctant to try out social media in the classroom due to the safety issues, but as these were eliminated using Fishtree, I could really dive in and got to see the fantastic benefits that social media has to offer in education. Best part of all… the students loved it!
4. Performance and progress
Another vow I took when I decided to tutor for the summer was not to spend my time grading. As I was aware of the fact that summer learning should be a more enjoyable process for both student and teacher, I also didn’t want the students to be bogged down with assessments every week. At the same time, I wanted to ensure my students got something from my teaching and to find out exactly where they were struggling and succeeding. Fishtree helped me eliminate the grading process while tracking student assignments for me, providing me with amazing diagrams of progress and performance. I could simply assign an activity to a student, receive a notification once it was completed, Fishtree would grade it for me (incredible!), then providing me with an in-depth analysis of a student’s performance and progress on that activity. I couldn’t believe how easy it was.
5. Student Engagement
The students loved using Fishtree for more reasons than one. While the fun and enjoyment of interacting through social media was an obvious plus, it had a lot more to offer. Through Fishtree’s adaptive system, each of my students were provided with individual resources, recommended specifically to suit his/her learning needs. I didn’t have to worry about the differentiation process, Fishtree did it all for me. They would each be given different resources and assessments tailored to them, to ensure they were always learning to the best of their ability. Another aspect that I found particularly engaging about Fishtree was the fact that my students were learning independently. I would only intervene to offer feedback or respond to queries, everything else they did on their own. They could even create their own personal notes based on the lessons and activities that I assigned, that they could share with one another using the social stream. This meant critical thinking and collaboration were constantly taking place, so student engagement was never an issue.
Thanks to Fishtree, I could enjoy my summer without worrying about lessons, resources or grading. Best of all, I found something that really works, and that both myself and my students thoroughly enjoyed. Not only did my students and I successfully beat the summer slide, we found something to introduce to the class come August. After witnessing the amazing benefits of using it for a summer, I can’t wait to see what it can do for a whole school year!
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About the author:
Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter.