Work smarter not harder

1 June 2018

By Keriann O’Rourke

I am a self-professed “drama tech nerd”. I love everything to do with the newest gadgets, online learning communities and digital tools to use in education. I am constantly learning and experimenting with different ways of doing everyday tasks in a more effective and efficient way. I have developed my own websites, apps, twice presented at an EdTech conference and this year have jumped into the role at ISTA as the Digital and Social Media Coordinator. But I wasn’t always so plugged in.

I began a sceptic. I did not see the value in the continuously changing educational technology in relation to my own drama lessons. I thought the technology that students were bringing in their backpacks and pockets to my classroom were more of a hindrance than a tool. I have worked in schools with access to many great tech resources but the drama department was underdeveloped when it came to operating with the same quality of learning experiences, tools and skills as other teachers. I became aware that other’s teaching practices were evolving and my own classroom was doing things in an “old school” way.

So I made a conscious decision to make my teaching more innovative. I registered myself to attend a Google for Education summit and I haven’t looked back since. I was introduced to a world of education that was very different to my theatre world. It was new, engaging, exciting and at times overwhelming. Educators were “geeking out” about these new educational tools, openly sharing ideas, problems and collaborating together to find solutions with a buzz of energy like no other. I collaborated with classroom teachers, maths specialists, geography teachers, literacy coaches, digital coaches, administrators and more. However, who I didn’t meet were other drama teachers. I have actually never attended an EdTech workshop that was intended for drama specialists. Regardless, I decided to make it work. I went into every workshop with an open mind looking for ways to creatively adapt EdTech tools that were designed for others and seemed so different to my own classroom needs. I made connections with the larger learning outcomes I was trying to achieve and began to develop more innovative ideas and practices to take with me.

Since that summit I have experimented with EdTech in a theatre classroom with both success and failure; neither of which are really that scary or great a risk. I have found that the worst thing that could happen was that whatever I tried simply didn’t work out as I had hoped. But it didn’t stop me from trying again. I looked for answers online, asked questions of other teachers and joined Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) that helped me navigate these new tools. Solutions are out there, they sometimes just take a bit of effort to find the perfect one for our unique drama classroom needs. Theatre in itself is not a stagnant art form and neither is the world around us. And our educational practices should evolve right along with it. So why not try a few yourself?

Keriann’s EdTech in the drama classroom favourites

*Please note: You may be asked to sign up to view some of the listed links.

Doc Appender

What it is: Google forms add-on (available in the Chrome web store)

What it does:

– Creates personalised quick and easy feedback questionnaires to create instant feedback from your own personal comment bank using the assessment criteria from rubrics and/or other descriptors of your choosing as well as individualised comments.

– A table with the written text embeds itself directly into the student’s Google doc as soon as the form is submitted.

Ways to use it:

– Teacher progressive and final assessment feedback and grading.

– Fast report card comment writing.

– Share the Google form to the students to use as a peer editing task.

– Allows teachers to see the student’s critical thinking skills and reflection while also holding them accountable for their role in the development of their peer’s work.

Similar tools: Doctopus and Goobric

Watch Keriann’s how to video here


What it is: Google Chrome extension (available in the Chrome web store)

What it does:

– Screencasting is a video recording with narration of what is happening on a computer screen or other device. Those handy “how to” videos you find online are screencasts.

– In the drama classroom use Screencastify to provide quick feedback to students’ performative work.

– Students submit videos of their performance work in progress or as a final piece.

– Watch the video on your device while using Screencastify at the same time to record teacher comments. Share the newly narrated performance back with the students.

Ways to use it:

– Students can view their performance from the audience point of view.

– Very useful in showing students your thoughts as you watch their work and can also show students exactly where in their performance work you are making your comments and suggestions.

– Students can create a screencast to explain their thinking and process of creation.

– Students can also provide feedback on each other’s work that can be reviewed and re-watched.

– Students who struggle with writing can add specific detail through speech and are not hindered by a written task.

– Bonus! It downloads automatically into Google Drive and can also upload directly into your YouTube channel.

Similar tools: Screencast-o-matic, Explain everything, Google hangouts

Watch Keriann’s how to video here

Watch Keriann’s screencast example here

G+ communities and collections

What it is: Google online community creator

What it does:

– Communities are groups where people can join and share links, messages, polls and posts. Can be closed or open groups allowing teachers to monitor the membership.

– Collections are a way to group ideas and resources by topic. Great for sharing with others within the G+ community to be able to quickly access online resources.

– Quick and easy visual posts with the feel of social media which allow students to comment on each other’s posts in a simplistic form.

– Easy to access and post information from a variety of devices. Allows for lots of communication and quick responses.

Ways to use it:

– A great tool for starting a unit of work, introducing and sharing resources and brainstorming ideas.

– Bonus! G+ has many EdTech communities that provide new innovative teaching ideas that allows you to ask questions to large communities of educators eager to help.

Similar tools: Flipgrid and Padlet

Suggested EdTech communities to get you started: Connected learning, EdTech Team Global Community, Educational Technology, and more!

Keriann’s example G+ community

Keriann’s example G+ collection


What it is: A website that allows teachers to crop videos, embed questions, quizzes, voice recordings into a video and track student responses.

What it does:

– Engages students and holds them accountable when watching a video.

– Allows teachers to see who has watched the video, their answers to questions to monitor levels of understanding and the number of times they watched the video. Gives teacher insight into student’s understanding of material.

– You can choose to allow students to skip questions or be required to answer them all in order to watch the full video.

Ways to use it:

– Perfect for use as a flipped learning model. Students come to class with an understanding of the material even before the lesson begins allowing for less time spent front loading material for students and more practical work during classroom time.

Similar tools: Zaption, Playposit

Keriann’s War Horse puppetry example

What it is: Google Chrome app (available in the Chrome web store)

What it does:

– Allows students to create their own synchronised notes in time with the video that students are watching in a split screen format. As they type, their notes are timestamped at the exact timing of the video and can be rewatched.

– Video must be already online (YouTube/Vimeo) to sync.

– Notes are automatically saved in Google Drive making it easy for students to access their notes.

– Forces students to slow down, look for examples in the video and comment on specific elements.

Ways to use it:

– Teachers can use it to annotate student work providing written feedback.

– Students can use it to make detailed notes on recorded material, ask specific questions, provide written feedback to others or create a synchronised written reflection of their own work.

Similar tools: None

Watch Keriann’s how to video here

 This article was first published in Scene which we publish three times a year and send to all our members. You can find out more about becoming an ISTA member here.