Playing Purposefully with your Tech

Creation Time:

When you want to learn something new in technology, the best way is to try it.

Just try it.

Give yourself permission to play for 10 minutes.  Click lots of buttons.  See what happens.

This is how you begin to learn the cause and effect of the program you are learning.  Sure, the first few times you try it, you probably aren’t going to use it to the best of your ability, or to the program’s capacity.

You are trying things out, and weighing the results.

You are *gasp* playing.

That’s right:  This seems like a dirty word in education, but playing is important.

Playing usually leads to creating.

Play Rules, or, Defining Play:

WeVideo is a great example of a program that requires play.  When I say play, play doesn’t necessarily mean login and go (however, knowing your students, and the program you are using, it could mean that).  Play can still be guided, and have a purpose.  Make this clear with your students. “Today we are learning to use WeVideo.  By the end, we will feel comfortable adding multiple video tracks, audio, and some titles/headings”.  How students reach this goal can be where they can be completely creative.

Play can mean:

  • A chance to work around the program to make it make sense for you;
  • Learning about the ins and outs of the program, with the ‘final’ piece being student choice;
  • A general rule or boundary within the program, or a general goal for the end result of the session;
  • A small challenge within the program;
  • A guided play session – where you give them the specific rules around the play, but how they get there is up to the student.

When in play, you are looking for a student to be immersed in the program, engaged, and sharing what they are learning.  You are looking for students to be creating, changing, and developing their understanding.  Play is collaborative, so students should be welcome to share and explain their findings, or consolidate with each other, after an initial session.

little boy playing in the sand
Giving your students “sandbox” time so students can learn a program without high stakes.    Photo by Kaboompics .com on


WeVideo is an online movie editing program that students need to muck around in before they get to the nitty-gritty.  There is so much editing capacity, colour keying and greenscreen included, that students need time to experience the program without feeling like they have a lot at stake.  Here are few suggestions for a first ‘sandbox’ WeVideo session:

  • Create a mood video.  Using the WeVideo library (when on a browser), edit, add music/sound effects to create a mood.  The mood could be:  Suspenseful, Victorious, Joyous – you get the idea.  Students are still using all the editing tools, but are able to have a focus on completing a task.
  • Make a video about you:  Have images/films of what you enjoy, with music to match.  If working in partners, cut to interviews of each other and the videos to show what each person enjoys.

Now that students have used the program to edit, you can start assigning book trailers, PSAs, and, generally, as a way for students to demonstrate their learning creatively.


Grade 2 students using Soundtrap to do read alouds to practice fluency.

Soundtrap is an online audio editing studio. It can be used for creating digital music or recording any audio, such as podcasts, read-alouds or live musical performance.

As soon as you get into the studio, it is set up to click and explore.  Have your students start by using the microphones, finding one that changes their voice.  Play with the loops, and start exploring with some instruments.  This will help students see where their work goes, and how deep you can go musically with Soundtrap.  To try, start with:

  • Do an interview with another student.  Have intro and outro music;
  • Give a TED Talk-style speech on something you are knowledgeable about.  Add music to create a dramatic effect;
  • Read a section of a book, adding chimes for page turns, or music to rise and fall with the action of the text.

Now that students have tried it out, you can do podcasting, interactive read alouds, or having students do dramatic readings of their own writings.


Flipgrid is a video discussion platform that allows users to make selfie videos and respond to others in a “grid.”

Once your grid is set up, and you’ve shared the link, students can begin recording.  Start with talking about themselves, interviewing a friend, or reflecting on what they learned at the end of a lesson.  Students are going to play with the selfie stickers, want to re-film, so give them the first time a chance to play with these features.


Google Drawings:

Google Drawings is a layout and design app, integrated in G Suite. This program can get pretty detailed (layering, bringing forward, and some photo formatting), but Drawings has a lot of different uses.  For art, comics, storyboarding, creating infographics, and graphic organizers, getting some creative time in Drawings can be a great way to see how the program works, and what features will be frequently used.

Start with designing a name logo, drawing overtop of an imported image, to using the shapes to create a template to a basic comic.

my penguin comic!

Lead up to creating the tools to represent math thinking, infographics, or using the upload a Google Drawing into a Google Doc so students can interact with the drawing.


Once you have given your students a chance to play, why not consolidate with them?  Sure, you might have a specific task you want them to do, but you could always put it out there:


  • Wherein the curriculum or what subject areas and tasks do you see yourself using this program?

  • How will this program help you demonstrate what you have learned?

  • How will using this program help your teacher understand what you learned?  Or any member of the greater school community?  Global community?

Ideally, now your students have more to add to their tool kit to have them demonstrate their learning.  Giving them permission to play in the program before you assign it will then make more confident students, and students will have more time to access the curriculum, and demonstrate their learning than learn the program.

So, let’s play!  How are you letting students ‘sandbox’ new ideas and programs?  How is giving time to try, and come back and share learnings, an important part of your classroom?  Feel free to share or continue the conversation on Twitter — @heidi_allum


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