I recently took a liking to cooking; something I’ve experimented with throughout the years, subscribing to meal kit services and following along [basic] recipes while watching Food Network. One year ago, I left teaching to work for a textbook publishing company, working behind the scenes creating content and curriculum for an education ministry abroad. What I miss about teaching I am reminded of during my time in the kitchen. It is the meal prep process, the incorporating of and experimenting with different spices, ingredients and cooking methods.

The meals do not always (or ever) turn out like the picture, but the accomplishment of completing the challenge plus the joy of creating and blending something new while also learning is stimulating and fun.

Much like culinary arts, teaching has and continues to evolve. “Education is experiencing a transformative shift from issues of accessing and sharing information to designing active and collaborative learning environments where participants are actively engaged in deep and meaningful learning” (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013). Students are now part of a technology generation that doesn't take kindly to traditional classrooms. As instructors and textbook publishers, we must also strategize and innovate to thrive and continue to meet the growing demands of the changing learning environment. Whether simply incorporating the use of a technology, a learning management system or creating an entire maker space, there are ways to advance education innovation in multiple ways to keep students engaged.

Classrooms do not need to completely flip to be considered 21st century, but they do need to adapt.

While technology may be intimidating, it is important to identify the rewards and seek support with technology for both personal use and then professional instructional use. If you cannot model accurate use of the technology being used, seek out available resources, such as tech savvy colleagues or other students.

If searching for a perfect recipe that is a mix of synchronous instruction with technology-mediated activities and platforms, or if there is interest in enhancing the use of technology in the classroom, explore blended or flipped learning models and possibilities.

Blended or flipped classrooms are becoming increasingly popular in all educational settings due to readily available technology and the global reach and success of online learning. According to The Online Learning Consortium, blended learning is defined as a course where 30 to 70 percent of the instruction is delivered online (2014). Moreover, teachers are employing an adapted approach called “in-class flipped” learning, where the use of technology and online resources is employed in a whole-class setting. This method of blending traditional instruction with student-driven practices allows students to actively participate and take ownership of their own learning.

Furthermore, blended teaching and learning supports existing teaching practices, encourages independent learning and problem solving, creates engagement opportunities and helps create autonomous learners.

The following online tools are practical and free suggestions to help incorporate technology in hopes of enhancing the teaching model. Exploring ways to flip your classroom or simply experiment with free and readily available resources to enrich students’ 21st century learning experiences will boost student curiosity and lead to deeper engagement with learning.

Technological Learning Resources:
  • Wordle or WorditOut
    This free website allows students or instructors to create word clouds and word art. It is a visually stimulating way to practice vocabulary, spelling and graphic design. A more advanced feature is creating word clouds from sentences or whole documents, incorporating grammar lessons or word families.
  • GoSoapBox
    This is a real-time tool that allows educators to track student progress and comprehension. There are multiple features including Q&A, discussion forums and classroom management—group assignment, quizzes, and differentiated support.
  • Padlet
    Padlet is an interactive whiteboard. The whiteboards have made such an impression on classrooms, that textbook publishers have incorporated them in lessons as part of their online supplemental learning tools. Padlet allows you to create presentations by adding music, images, videos and notes or documents to the user-friendly interface.
  • Jing (a screencast)
    Jing is one of many screencast tools available on the Web. Screencasts allow you to create video tutorials or audio lectures using information and open applications on your computer screen. It is ideal for auditory and visual learners.

The online learning tools listed above are simple yet provide profound ways to flip the already established teaching and learning tools employed by the classroom teacher with technology that is readily available. Blending instruction requires two main ingredients: flexibility on the part of the instructor, along with the commitment to redefine and innovate classroom practices. There is a saying, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Imagine what a video is worth. What if students have the opportunity to create a video within a group using a free online tool such as Wideo or Animoto? This example assignment can help satisfy what Strong, Silver & Robinson (1995) say are four essential goals people who are engaged in their work possess: success, curiosity, originality and need for self-expression, and relationships. Through student-lead efforts, we can break down traditional boundaries of instruction and become facilitators of learning, not the sole arbitrators. It is our job to provide the ingredients and the recipe, but we must let the students do the cooking and even alter the recipe.


Keengwe, J., & Onchwari, G. (2016). Handbook of research on active learning and the flipped classroom model in the digital age. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference

Online Learning Consortium. Retrieved from www.onlinelearningconsortium.org

Strong, R., Silver, H., & Robinson, A. (1995). Strengthening student engagement: What do students want? Educational Leadership, 53(1)

Vaughan, N.D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D.R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca. Athabasca University press.

Suggested Reading:

eSchool News: Daily Tech News and Innovation https://www.eschoolnews.com/

Classroom Technology at Edutopia https://www.edutopia.org/blogs/tag/classroom-technology

12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers at TeachHub http://www.teachhub.com/12-easy-ways-use-technology-your-classroom-even-technophobic-teachers

Lejla Maley
Lejla Maley is a Curriculum Development Manager at McGraw Hill Education, creating high school STEM content for an education ministry abroad. She has seven years of ESL and Slavic studies teaching experience in the K-12 and Higher Education setting, including The Ohio State University and Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio, where she resides. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change at Antioch University, with a focus on culturally responsive pedagogy as well as creating effective communication among multicultural teams. She has presented in various state and national conferences on blended learning, content-based instruction, course design and language acquisition. She is the president of the Ohio TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) organization, an affiliate of TESOL International Association.