How to Make Digital Learning Interactive

In this episode, Angie and April discuss strategies to make digital learning interactive with Erin Flanagan from Erintegration.

Grow with Angie and April: A Podcast for Teacherpreneurs
Grow with Angie and April: A Podcast for Teacherpreneurs
How to Make Digital Learning Interactive

Digital learning is on everyone’s minds these days. So, today we’re talking about what you can do to make digital learning interactive and tips for converting your existing resources. And, we’re continuing the conversation in our Mastermind group. Head over there to share what works for you and hear what others are saying:

Now that teachers everywhere are dabbling in digital learning, it doesn’t look like this is something that’s just going to go away once everyone is back in the classroom. So, digital products will be something we can continue to focus on more than just converting our existing print resources.

It’s something April and I have been wanting to talk about, but it just wasn’t that popular. Obviously, things have changed. So, we are excited to have Erin Flanagan from Erintegration as our guest on the Grow With Us Podcast. 

Erin is an expert in interactive digital training. Most of her store has a technology focus and she’s familiar with making resources that can be used on various platforms. It’s the identity of her brand and blog. So, we hit her up with our interactive digital learning questions.

What resources are selling well right now?

Erin has found that fully contained resources seem to be selling the best right now. These are the resources that include all directions, don’t need any other resources, and the students can complete the entire thing within the platform they’re using. 

Right now, most teachers are focused on trying to do short lessons with the students and then assign them work they can do independently. So, any products geared towards that are most likely going to be more popular. 

For example, Erin has a multiplication fact practice activity that is self-checking, and students can do completely on Google Sheets. The teacher doesn’t even need to be involved in giving directions. Things like this are getting a lot more attention right now. 

Teachers are looking for simple resources that don’t need a lot of guidance.

What can we expect next year from digital resources if the classrooms are open?

I think the fact that most of Erin’s store is geared entirely toward digital learning, it shows her answer to this question. Even before the pandemic hit, there has been a shift in general to teachers using more digital tools. Now, schools are realizing that it’s important for them to have a game plan for distance learning in place whether it’s for a pandemic or a snow day. Schools don’t want to be left in the position of scrambling to figure it out after the fact in the future. 

Erin believes that as teachers transition back to the classroom they’re going to want to keep some of the things that are great about digital learning. There are some things you can do on a device that you just can’t do without it. She thinks teachers are finding those positives and will be considering them as they buy resources for the fall. 

I agree with her. Teachers that were afraid to try digital products in the past are building up confidence in using them right now. They may feel better using some of the more complex digital resources when they’re back in the classroom. 

Right now parents are the ones having to troubleshoot the login process and getting their kids set up. When everyone’s back in the classroom, teachers may be thankful to be able to handle these tech issues. 

What’s the difference between clip art and moveable clip art? 

Erin shared that sometimes teachers are confused that both clip art and moveable pieces are both PNG image files. To Erin, the biggest difference is that moveable pieces are designed to only be used on a screen. They aren’t meant to be printed. So, she recommends keeping the following things in mind:

  • Color choices. Consider the palette that you’re using. You don’t want anything that’s too bright or jarring. Color choices for screens are different than when you’re printing. 
  • Keep the design simple. You want it to be easy for kids to know what they can click on and move and what they can’t. The more simple the design, the less the kids have to choose from which can make it less confusing. 
  • Transparency. This is a cool option you only have with digital. You can make things transparent to create the hide or reveal aspect as the image moves across the screen. 

I use some of Erin’s digital clipart in my math resources and really like the transparency aspect of the protractor. It makes it really easy to see the lines underneath while measuring the angles. 

Where do you store digital pieces on the resource?

Erin recommends the best practice here is to create some type of visual so students know what area is clickable. For example, you could create a gray shaded bar on the bottom with all of the moveable pieces. Or, you could use an icon of a mouse clicker on the square so the kids can see that they can move those images. 

Some people choose to make space for them right on the slide. If I run out of room on the slide, I’ll leave a little piece hanging on the edge and let them know that they can zoom out to see the full pieces. Sometimes it can be hard to fit everything in.

What programs can digital moveable pieces be used in?

You can use moveable pieces in pretty much any program that you can upload an image to. As long as you can upload the image, Erin shares that you can most likely move it around while in the edit mode in order for students to move pieces. 

  • Seesaw  – Around 25% of classes are using this platform. The login is really easy. 
  • Google Classroom – This platform is really integrated with other things. If you can make something for Google, it covers a lot of others. 
  • Nearpod – Also compatible with Google Slides
  • Microsoft Classroom – You can export Google slides that can also be used in Microsoft
  • OneNote – Popular with older kids

There are lots of options and many can work together. For example, you can import Google Slides into Seesaw but you lose the moveable piece aspect. The easiest way to work around this is to save it as an image and as the creator of the resource, you can insert the moveable pieces into Seesaw for the teacher. Then, you save it and share the activity link with them. If you don’t use moveable pieces on the resource, you can just share the image file. 

What’s the best way to use moveable pieces to make digital learning more interactive?

Erin shared a few simple ways that you can make digital resources more interactive:

  • Create manipulatives. Erin has a lot of digital math resources with moveable manipulatives. You can use them as counters for example. 
  • Digitize a real process. Erin shared that Martha at Primary Paradise uses paint dabbers in the classroom, so she digitized the process with moveable pieces. Most students aren’t going to have something like that in their house. 
  • Hide and Reveal. This is a great way to create self-checking resources. You can read more about that in Erin’s blog post here

Things to remember with moveable pieces

It’s nice because more clip artists are starting to get on board with moveable pieces. But it’s important that you pay attention to the Terms of Use when buying clip art. There are some that you can layer and some you can’t. There are some that you need a special license for in order to use on digital. 

And, it’s not that artists are trying to be difficult. There are scrapping tools that can make it easy for people to steal the images that these artists spent time creating. 

Another thing to remember with buying moveable pieces is that some are a lower dpi. However, Erin uses a higher dpi on the ones that she creates because Google Slides compresses everything so the output of the slides doesn’t always look as good with low dpi images. 

Tips on converting existing resources to digital

Because of the current situation, a lot of TpTers are exporting their current resources and putting them in a Google file and adding a text box on top. So, we asked Erin for some tips on how to make these resources more interactive for the students. 

Erin recommends looking for ways to give the students more choice. For example, you can use Google Master Slide View to allow students to edit the background and add colors and photos. This can also allow teachers to edit it so the resource can become editable. You can find out more about how to do this on Erin’s blog post Combine Multiple Slides Into One Google Slideshow.

What about PDFs?

PDFs are a digital resource. If you already have them in your store, it’s more about buyer education right now. Some things don’t make sense to be on Google Slides. It’s OK to use PDFs for these types of resources. There are many programs that allow students to annotate on top of the PDF. A few options Erin shared include:

  • Seesaw
  • Kami 
  • Smallpdf
  • PDF Candy

Kami has a paid extension on Google Chrome, but most people use the free version. Erin likes that teachers can upload the PDF and then students log in to have access to a bunch of tools. 

Smallpdf and PDF Candy are both PDF editing sites that kids can use and they don’t require logins. They can upload the PDF and annotate on top of it. These are good when you’re in a pinch but Erin doesn’t recommend making it the go-to option.

If students use iPad, you can assign a PDF in Google Classroom and the iPad will allow the kids to have access to all kinds of annotation tools. 

Designing from scratch is easier

Because of the pandemic, all of us TpTers have been in a rush to convert resources into digital resources. And, while it was necessary during this time, Erin shares that it can be much easier to create digital resources from scratch. 

So, if you want more information on designing for digital, Erin will be speaking on the topic during the virtual Teachers Pay Teachers Conference this summer. And, feel free to join us over in the Mastermind where we’re continuing the conversation.