Technical Theatre

Technology in the Theatre Classroom

Written by Lindsay Price

Episode 180: Technology in the Theatre Classroom

Have you wanted to find some new ways to enhance your classroom with technology?  Have you been told you need to integrate technology in your classroom but don’t know where to start or what would even make sense to use in the drama classroom? Anna Porter was in the same boat. She started by getting an endorsement in educational technology and a whole world opened up. Listen in to find out how you too can incorporate technology into the theatre classroom.

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Drama Teacher Podcast brought to you by Theatrefolk – the Drama teacher resource company.

I’m Lindsay Price.

Hello! I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening!

This is Episode 180 and you can find any links to this episode in the show notes which are at Theatrefolk.com/episode180.

Today, we are talking technology in the theatre classroom. Oh, say that five times fast – “technology in the theatre classroom.”

Hands up, how many of you have expectations put on you to integrate technology? Right? Right? Hands up. Hands up – lots of hands up, I’m sure. How many of you have no idea how to do that?

Our guest today, Anna Porter, was in the same boat. Let’s find out what she did and how technology in the theatre classroom is totally possible and totally doable. Let’s get to it!

LINDSAY: Hello, everybody!

I am here with Anna Porter.

Hello, Anna!

ANNA: Hello, everyone!

LINDSAY: Anna, tell everybody where in the world you are.

ANNA: I am currently in Virginia.

LINDSAY: Awesome. Very good.

We’re talking today about technology in the Drama classroom. For some Drama teachers, I think that technology can be – well, I’m not going to say it’s a dirty word but it’s a weird word, isn’t it? Technology and Drama might not seem on first glance to go together.

ANNA: Yeah, definitely. It’s the tool that we want to use but sometimes feels like it gets in the way.

LINDSAY: Oh, I like that! How does it get in the way?

ANNA: Just in the sense that we’re often told we need to be using it but we don’t necessarily know how it works in our specific context.

LINDSAY: Yeah, totally.

And so, the reason I’m talking with Anna is she does a lot of work for Theatrefolk at the Drama Teacher Academy. She’s done a lot of lesson plans for us. She’s going to be doing something on technology in the Drama classroom with some Google tools. We’ll talk about Google tools in a second.

Now, Anna, when we were talking about something else, you let it be known that you have an endorsement in educational technology. What is that?

ANNA: I’m currently finishing that endorsement right now but it’s done through my state office of education where they are working to try and get teachers to use more technology in the classroom but I think they’ve recognized that the more teachers know about how to use it, the more they’re going to do it. And so, a lot of these classes deal with theory and how to better use technology and how to select technology that works well for our students and for our content area as well as helping us know what tools are out there because I think – for me at least – that was the biggest obstacle – knowing how to use it but what can I use and what resources do I have to do that? That’s a big part of what this endorsement has been.

LINDSAY: Why did you decide to take it?

ANNA: Because I have always wanted to know how to use technology. Whenever I had my review for my administrator, there was always that question. “How are you using technology in your classroom?” I would have to say I use my projector.” I knew there was more that I could do.

Also, as I’ve gotten to know more about how technology works, it’s been really exciting to see how it helps us as teachers differentiate our instruction a little bit more and also how it helps us reach those individual students that we may not normally be able to access in our classroom just because of the nature of class sizes or their individual needs and personalities.

LINDSAY: There is a lot in there that I want to touch on but there’s one thing that I don’t want to lose. How do you find technology reaches students that we might not ordinarily reach because of let’s say, for example, class size?

ANNA: For class sizes, I had classes that I’ve taught in that were normally about 35 to 45 students. And so, if I wanted to be able to assess a student on how they were doing on articulation, for example, I would have to, in order to get through all of my students, have them go up in groups.

If I could have students easily do, for example, a short podcast with a tongue twister or two that they can demonstrate their understanding with that, I now have access to see how that student is doing and, also, I can provide them specific feedback for them so they can improve. That’s one thing to me that was really helpful.

LINDSAY: Yeah. Is that something – let’s talk in theoretically – you would, say, if they recorded something, they could upload it somewhere? Did you ever use class websites or something like Google Classroom where everybody could make notes on a specific thing using the technology?

ANNA: Yeah, there’s multiple platforms that you can do that – whether it be the Google Classroom or I know a lot of schools have invested in Canvas which is also another great platform for doing that and you can have students upload their work and then you, as a teacher, can respond right there and they can see your response whether it be that you do your own podcast and you respond through speaking or whether it be written. There’s lots of different ways in which you can provide that feedback for students.

LINDSAY: Awesome. Let’s go back to the endorsement.

What has surprised you the most about taking this endorsement in educational technology? I’m just going to leave it at that. What has surprised you learning, taking on this new knowledge?

ANNA: Surprised me the most – I think for me, the biggest surprise was that there are more opportunities to use technology than what I thought.

A big thing that kept me from using technology was I never felt like I could have the resources – that I was so low on the totem pole, so to speak, in abilities to get into the computer lab or get into we had a mobile Chromebook lab but they were always taken by the testing subjects. And so, I didn’t feel like I had the right or I had the preparation to ask for that.

But, going through this endorsement, I found a lot more opportunities – whether it be having students bring their own devices that at least at my school they finally opened up for students to bring the last two years I was there and utilizing that. Or even just tools that teachers can use on their own that don’t involve every student having to have their own device.

To me, that’s been the biggest surprise – that there are a lot of different types of tools out there that can be adapted for your individual situation.

LINDSAY: I think that’s a great point because it keys into the fear that a lot of teachers have and the resistance that teachers have with using technology in the Drama classroom. I think you hit it right on the head. “Well, I don’t have access. I don’t have access to that lab. Maybe I’m in a school where my students don’t have, you know, there’s one-to-one iPad schools and that’s like, well, that’s great for them but it’s not great for me,” and that’s something that can turn a teacher off immediately. It’s like, “Well, they say I’m supposed to use technology but it’s not applicable to me.”

This idea that, “Hey! There might be apps that students can use or programs that teachers can use on their own, it’s kind of like a doorway, isn’t it?

ANNA: Definitely.

LINDSAY: Cool! Let’s start with that!

What do you think is a really useful app that teachers can use in their classroom?

ANNA: I think the big thing just depends on what you see and need in your classroom to be.

I agree completely that you never just want to use technology just for technology’s sake. It needs to be something that fits with your balance in your classroom.

For me, one of the biggest things that I was excited about because I knew this was something that I struggled with as a teacher – communication with students and my other stakeholders – whether they be parents or administration. And so, that’s the reason why I’ve been really excited about the different tools is because I feel like they have been developed to kind of act as a personal assistant in some ways to teachers for communication and also allow students to give information back.

One of the ones I really like – and I spoke about this before – is Google Forms because I felt like I was trying to communicate but that paper trail was just getting in the way. Google Forms made it so that I could post something or send something or have it on my website and I knew that students had access to it, that parents had access to it, and I knew I was going to be able to get that information back.

Google Forms has different ways that you can organize that information. For example, I would normally send you questionnaires – you know, “Parents, what can you do to help?” If I got that back, I would have to make my own spreadsheet so I knew who I’d contact. Well, Google Forms takes that information and makes that for me already. It eliminates that extra step and also helps me communicate what I need and helps parents communicate back what they need. That’s one of my favorite tools.

LINDSAY: That would be easily used in a rehearsal situation, too, huh?

ANNA: Definitely.

It could be used whether it be for absent request forms for parents or students. It could be your stage manager does their rehearsal log via Google Forms. And so, there’s lot of opportunities to use that with costumes or whatever it be – lots of opportunities for that use.

LINDSAY: Let’s stay on Google tools for a second. I think that this is something that we all know what Google is and we all know that it’s the search term and I use it, I have a Chromebook so I use Google Drive and Google Docs. But there is a world of Google out there that a lot of us don’t know.

ANNA: Definitely. It seems like they’re coming up with something new each time I go back and look. It’s really great.

LINDSAY: So, Google Forms can really help in communication with students and with parents. What about something that’s happening like an exercise that’s happening in the classroom itself? What’s a good Google tool that could help with maybe a scene or maybe some research, something like that?

ANNA: Possibilities could be you could use Google Photos – whether it be that you upload a short video of a performance so students can watch it or pictures so they can see these are what staging looks like, this is why I’m saying you need to cheat out, or even if you had another group that was watching them provide them the opportunity to see what it looks like so they have the opportunity to critique themselves.

Or if you are doing some kind of research assignment or characterization even, there is custom search that you can create on Google. I don’t know about anyone else but I got really tired of having Wikipedia as every report or response I got. Not that Wikipedia isn’t a good starting place but there are ways to create a search engine for your students to aim them at sites that you may want them to look at more than Wikipedia – whether it be educational sites or production companies or anything else that you feel would be a valuable resource. You can create your own custom Google search for them to be able to go to and find information.

LINDSAY: Oh! That way, you know where your students are getting their information from and you can see how they’re deciphering it and maybe pulling it apart and, you know, maybe making sure that they’re not just copying down what they see on those sites.

ANNA: Yeah. You can even make it a specific assignment because there are different ways to adjust your custom search. You can send them to an actual activity that they go to. It just depends on how you want to customize it and what you want to do with it.

LINDSAY: I know just a tiny bit about it. Have you ever used Google Classroom?

ANNA: I have not. I would love to but I’m not affiliated with a school that has it.

LINDSAY: That’s okay. We will put some links down in our show notes.

You mentioned a little bit about putting up a scene so that students could maybe watch themselves and get feedback. What kind of technology is good in the classroom for giving feedback?

ANNA: Canvas – which I mentioned before – can be a great way for students to upload. There are also some great collaborative websites. Whether it be something like Padlet where it’s kind of like a message board that students can use that you can also upload videos so you can have students that upload a preview and students respond. Of course, you would have to work with your students to make sure that they understand critique and how to do it professionally and appropriately. A lot of these sites also allow you, as a teacher, to be the moderator but you just have to look and see what that is as well as prepare your students for that.

If you have Apple devices, you can utilize them creating their own iMovie and then posting that to a common site that you have – whether it be you have a classroom website and then students can go there and you view each other’s work that way.

In providing feedback, that’s critique-wise from each other, they are able to do that in a common forum in that way. As a teacher, if you have the ability to – you know, we talked about Canvas – sending responses that way.

There are also some other assessment tools – whether it be through their taking a quiz or anything like that – that you can also see how they’re doing in real-time and provide them feedback in that way so there’s formative quizzes. We talked about Google Forms – you can use that for quizzes as well but there’s some different opportunities in those tools.

LINDSAY: Do you have any specific assessment quizzes?

ANNA: Yeah!

LINDSAY: What are some assessment quiz apps or software that people can use?

ANNA: Yeah, Quizalize is a fun one. This one can be for if you want students to do it as a team so it kind of creates a kind of team game aspect to it or individual and you see the names cross the screen towards the finish line so it’s competitive in that way.

Socrative is another platform that you can use for quizzes. You can also use it for exit tickets. There’s this game called the Space Race Game where they can do it individually or as a group to kind of check and see formatively where their knowledge is and what they’re understanding.

Formative is another one where you can send activities out. You can also send them feedback immediately. You can add content. For example, you can content a quiz and you have reading content in there and you want them to respond. They can also draw. If you wanted to have them draw a picture of a lighting fixture or “Show me what it looks like to create the stage picture, what would that look like?” or “What are the parts of the stage? Label it.” Formative is a fun one because they can actually draw on that one. It’s not just typing.

Kahoot! is a popular one. A lot of teachers I know use that one and their classes really enjoy it but, basically, it’s game-based and they have their own screen where they have just blocks that they push and it’s kind of like their own buzzer with four options they can push and the questions just laid on the screen.

Quizlet is another one that I like that’s a little bit more individual but you can create your own flash cards but then kids can also quiz themselves. That’s a great way to kind of give them a pre-quiz or a study guide to help students. We talked briefly about this being a good way for students to memorize lines even so they can put their lines in, create flash cards that way, and then they can actually quiz themselves on it through matching games or filling in the blanks.

One other one, if you don’t have one-to-one technology, Plickers is where you basically print off – it kind of looks like a QR code but each student has their own picture code and you ask a question and they hold up the card in the way that shows the answer and you, as a teacher, just have to scan that. You can use your phone, you can use an iPad – any kind of camera that’s connected to the internet and you can scan the room and you can see exactly what the students’ responses were.

Those are some good options.

Also, again, if you have a platform like Google Classroom or Canvas, you can create quizzes within that tool.

LINDSAY: That was awesome. Of course, we’ll put all those into the show notes. It just seems like, when you were talking about the assessment and the possible applications, the thing that came to my mind was these would be fun.

ANNA: Yeah.

LINDSAY: And just that notion that, well, technology is not scary for our students, right? It’s part of their lives and it is the thing that makes them most comfortable and sometimes we’re the ones with the issue when it comes to technology in that it is a hurdle to be overcome. I think, for students, it’s the other way around. Technology is the thing that they’re most comfortable with and the Drama classroom is the hurdle that they have to overcome.

If there’s a way to sort of bridge the gap, I feel the more I – and I’m certainly one of those people, I have certainly dipped my toe in technology but it’s a little teeny tiny toe – I think that, the more that we can use it, maybe the more that we can really bridge the gap to getting students who maybe are placed in the Drama classroom – not against their will but because they have been placed there as opposed to choosing it – maybe technology is a doorway and a gateway and a way for them to use their comfort zone to kind of get out of their comfort zone.

ANNA: I agree! Throughout this endorsement and also throughout a lot of what we’re hearing in the lingo more and more in education, we hear about 21st Century learners where they’re focusing on the 4 C’s – creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking. To me, it’s like, well, we’ve been doing that in the Drama classroom all along! What are you talking about?

At the same time, as you said before, some of these students that come into our classroom that need to be there, we are perfect for bridging that gap because we’re using those skills and we can help them work on utilizing them in both interpersonal and in our classroom, talking to people face-to-face but also how do you translate those skills into the world of technology which is a skill that they’re going to need throughout the rest of their lives.

I agree; I think that the Drama classroom is the perfect place for us to help prepare these students – whether they want to be there or whether they are being encouraged to be there through their councillor or parents. You know, I think it’s a great opportunity for us as teachers to utilize that.

LINDSAY: I wanted to just jump back to what you were talking about with feedback and having students reply online. I wonder too if that’s a really great way to encourage students who maybe are in their shell to actually interact with and give feedback. I think that particularly today’s students are terrified of doing something wrong or saying the wrong thing – that whole failure notion is up to eleven these days. I think it’s really easy for a student to not give the feedback and not say something in the general conversation of the classroom and that maybe this is an interesting way anyway. I think it’s a great experiment. If you’ve put a scene up, you know, if you’ve got a platform where you can post a scene or put up the variety of scenes and say, “Everyone has to comment on two scenes,” something like that, eh?

ANNA: Yeah, there’s lots of opportunities – whether it be a silent discussion where students can remain anonymous. So, using something like Answer Garden where it’s limited to the number of characters they can use but they have to make a comment or you can have it so it’s something like Padlet where they have to be able to say who they are. You know, you can decide if you want anonymous or not but I agree it’s a great way for us to encourage those students that may otherwise try to stay hidden in their responses.

LINDSAY: Do you have any others? Because you mentioned one of them might be a good one for learning lines and this seems to be the bane of every human being who cares about putting p a scene or putting up a play – having students to learn lines.

Are there any other suggestions you have where you can incorporate technology in helping students learn lines?

ANNA: I’ve had students that have used Speak It where they can have their text and it becomes sound. And so, if you have an auditory learner, that can be a good way for them to be able to hear that and you do have to remind them, you know, you don’t want to fall into vocal patterns, of course, but sometimes they need to hear that line in order to process it a little bit more.

I did mention Quizlet.

If you have learners that need to be able to visually be able to see what’s going on, you can have them make their own Google slideshow of their scene and have a picture that reminds them of what’s going on and maybe some keywords and they can flip through that to help them review what their lines are.

You know, just kind of thinking about what is their preferred learning style, can we access that visually, auditory, kinaesthetically we can do it. Well, maybe a game. We talked about some of these games that students can play on their own – whether it be through the Quizlet again or maybe it be through Class Kick and they have to do drawings of whatever it is – just different things that they can do to engage with their lines – whether it be game form or just practicing on their own.

LINDSAY: I love the idea of creating a visual for a scene via Google Slide deck. Just come up with a visual, come up with images for each moment in the scene. It’s a really great way to demonstrate a different type of comprehension. Yeah, totally.

As we’re wrapping up here, you are nearing the end of your endorsement. Where do you want to go with technology? Where do you want to go and where do you see Drama and technology going off into the sunset hand-in-hand?

ANNA: Well, I would love – at least for my personal classroom – to be able to find the tools and be able to utilize them and have my students feel comfortable with them and me feel comfortable with them to be able to communicate more clearly and also help my students demonstrate what they know better and me being able to give them more clear feedback. That, to me, is my motivation in continuing this and what I want to see in my classroom and be able to utilize. I want my students to know that I understand where they are personally and I have the ability to do that. Also, I want them to know I want to give them that feedback and I want them to improve and that they can take that and be able to go in further than what I’m already able to do in my own classroom.

LINDSAY: You know what? I think you hit on something that is a question which we should all be asking ourselves. In today’s world, here we are, we are firmly chugging along into the 21st Century, how students are demonstrating knowledge effective and are the same old tools useful? You know, maybe we need to find new tools and new procedures to allow students to – and this is not talking about dumbing it down or letting them off the hook – it’s just what is the format that we’re using for having today’s students demonstrate knowledge and is that the most effective?

ANNA: I agree!

LINDSAY: You see! You gave me something to think about. I love that!

Last question. Our listeners are Drama educators. I always get dinged for how I say Drama. Drama educators and potential Drama educators. What would you say, what is your advice for those who are still on the fence or their schools are on the fence on implementing technology in the Drama classroom?

ANNA: I would say think of an area that you have that “I wish…” for. What is something that you want to do better? I would say that 99 percent of the time, there is some element of technology that can help you to do that – whether that be for your own organization, your own administrative tasks that you do as a Drama teacher. We wear lots of hats. What is something that you wish you could do better with your students? Whether that be, again, through communication, through reaching that student that seems to just not engage.

What is one thing that you want to try to do and then pick a tool that you think could work for that and try it. You don’t have to start with this whole, you know, fully integrated classroom all at once. Find a tool that sounds good to you that you could use on your own if you don’t have technology readily accessible to everybody.

Also, talk to other teachers because they’ve gone through the same process of finding what works for them and then adapt it. see what will work for you because you’re not the only one going through this process of transitioning to having more technology and utilizing that. It’s something that teachers are going through all over. And so, learn from what they’ve gone through, what has worked for them and what hasn’t. But that’s what I would say my advice is.

LINDSAY: Oh, that’s a great ending note – that we are not alone and you are not alone and there’s somebody out there and probably quite nearby who feels exactly the same way that you do. And I think that that’s the thing that I find most interesting about technology. People say that it’s very isolating and I find sometimes the exact opposite feeling – that it makes the world a smaller place and that help really is right around the corner.

ANNA: Yeah, it enables us to break down some of the walls of our classroom that we can reach outside of our own classroom walls to another community and that’s a great way to use technology as well.

LINDSAY: Awesome!

Thank you so much for talking to me today, Anna!

ANNA: Thank you, Lindsay!

LINDSAY: Thank you, Anna!

Before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS.

If you’re listening to this in real-time, that means it’s April and it’s the middle of April and it’s before April 24th and, if all of these apply, one of these apply to you, keep listening. I want to tell you about a summer special. If it’s not that month and not those dates, stop listening! Just go! Leave! I mean it!

Okay. Are you still here? Are you still listening? Okay. If you are, you are coming to the end of your school year. That means summer is coming up and I know you. You may take a little time off but you are also interested in getting better – improving those skills, your reading plays for next year. You are thinking about next year. I know you are! Don’t deny it!

You want something that’s going to make you a better teacher for next year. Well, if you’re not going to do any of those things, if you are an “I’m taking my summer and I’m sitting by the pool” type of person, awesome! Kudos! All the more to you! But you should stop listening! Go! Leave! I mean it! No judgment. You’re sitting by the pool. I envy you. Let me tell you.

All right, are you still listening? I have to tell you about something great.

This is our Drama Teacher Academy Summer Special where we offer three months for the price of two. Yes, that’s right! Three months for two. For $74.00, you get not one, not two, you get three months of DTA – the Drama Teacher Academy – which means professional development courses; that means curriculum – curriculum that’s linked to standards; that means lesson plans; that means resources; and everything is designed for you, dear Drama teacher – designed for the classroom.

Head on over to DramaTeacherAcademy.com – that’s all one word – to get in on this fabulous, fabulous deal! Or you can click the link in the show notes which are at Theatrefolk.com/episode180.

Finally, where, oh, where can you find this podcast? We post new episodes every second Tuesday at theatrefolk.com and on our Facebook page and Twitter. You can find us on youtube.com/theatrefolk and on the Stitcher app. You can subscribe to The Drama Teacher Podcast on iTunes. All you have to do is search for the word: “Theatrefolk.”

And that’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.

 

Music credit: ”Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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Lindsay Price

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