Using Digital Tools to Customize Learning

Instructor: Kim-Kathie Knudsen

Kim-Kathie has taught high school and college Spanish and has worked as a professional development specialist and instructional technology administrator. She has a master's degree in Teaching and Curriculum and is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Digital tools and instructional technology resources allow for students to learn according to their learning style. Leveraging these resources creates instructional opportunities for teachers to flip their classroom.

Why Go Digital?

Tuesday's homework was for students to complete two pages of problems. On Wednesday, you begin going over the homework and realize very quickly that some students did not complete it, some did not do it at all, and the rest of them had numerous incorrect answers. Instead of sticking to your lesson plan, you spend the majority of class re-teaching the concept and correcting the homework.

Sound familiar? What if, instead of practicing a new concept at home, students could use digital resources to learn the content at home and then come to class prepared to practice the concept? Flipping your classroom is a great way to use your classroom time wisely, avoid frustration and work avoidance at home, and allow your students to learn in a way that makes sense for them.

Flip It!


The flipped classroom refers to an instructional model that changes the order of delivering and consuming instructional content. In the traditional classroom model, students listen to a lecture or content presented by the teachers, do a guided practice to check for understanding, and then complete individual practice at home. The breakdown often occurs during the guided practice and independent practice; some students don't fully understand the concepts being presented and then struggle with the independent practice. In a flipped model, students listen to and engage in the content presentation at home, oftentimes complete an assessment to check for understanding, and then practice and hone their understanding at school.

Flipped learning can be used for all students and content areas but needs to be a well-thought out and carefully implemented process.

  • At the elementary level, students might watch a short video on BrainPop and complete the quiz at the end of the lesson.
  • Middle school students, with a longer attention span, are able to watch a video and complete a video note-taking guide. They are then prepared to analyze and debate the content the next day, instead of spending valuable class time on the lesson presentation itself.
  • At the high school level, teachers may create content and film themselves teaching the lesson so students can watch at home. Students might even complete the first steps of the practice and then come to class prepared with questions. Flipped classrooms lend themselves to high school students, since many high school students have access to digital resources at home, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and can benefit from anywhere, anytime learning. Students can access this content at home, on the way to sporting events, or during study halls.

Where to begin?

Flipped learning is not something that is an overnight idea to be immediately implemented the next day. Time and professional learning is critical to begin successfully adapting this instructional strategy.

Find the Right Digital Tools

A good start is to begin researching free digital tools to use and implementing them to see what works with your students and what doesn't. A tool may be appropriate for a 4th grade social studies lesson but is not engaging enough for a group of seniors in an Advanced Placement course. Digital tools and resources can be found in an online search for instructional technology, and most of them are free. Before you begin your search, check with your district instructional technology coordinator, IT administrator, library media specialist, or grade level and department leaders to see what is already being used in the district and what may be available to you. Some programs may already have student accounts set up, saving you valuable time.

Creating and Managing Digital Content

Many models of flipped learning have students learning content at home. An easy way to do this is to find content in your field that students can watch, then assign this to students through a link on your website. There are many educational websites that contain digital content on a variety of topics. If you prefer to create your own content, a simple digital camera or built in webcam allows you to film yourself and upload the file to an online platform, such as your learning management system. Free screencasting tools can also allow you to screencast your computer and narrate the content. The file can then be saved and uploaded to wherever you house your resources.

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