Building Meaningful Relationships in a Digital Classroom

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by Randy Fairfield, 3/28/17

As technology becomes increasingly prevalent in our schools, workplaces, and everyday lives, many educators feel the pressure to make the shift to a more digital classroom. The threat of automation is a workplace reality in many sectors, and it is more important than ever for teachers and students to learn to leverage technology to add value to their work.

Does technology hurt relationships?

One of the biggest concerns expressed by educators over the influx of devices in classrooms is that something is being lost—particularly, that students are losing the ability to communicate and collaborate with their teachers, and with one another, face-to-face.

Consider the following piece of spoken word poetry by Prince EA:

It’s true that, if not used intentionally, technology can add a cold and disconnecting element to our classrooms. However, it’s also possible for technology to be used to add value to our relationships and bring teachers and students closer to together.

Watch how Ms. Kornowski uses Google Forms to connect with students:

Using tech for good in a digital classroom

When you consider both Prince EA’s spoken word poetry and the example from Ms. Kornowski, it’s clear that the problem is not so much the technology itself, but how we use it. Both you and your students can learn to use technology to better communicate and collaborate in the digital classroom.

If your school has adopted Hapara and Google Suite for Education, then you and your students have a bevy of tools at your disposal that can be used to improve communication and collaboration.

Consider the following example of a Hapara Workspace that does just that:

Hapara Workspace

Hapara Workspace

In Hapara Workspace, both teachers and students have the ability to collaborate by adding resource cards to support student learning. Students can add a card while they are in class or out of class. You can then use the resources they add as a jumping off point for discussions about whether or not the resources are relevant, helpful, or credible.

Teachers and students can also use Workspace cards to link to other collaborative tools like Google Hangouts. This allows students to collaborate via video chat while working on a group project outside of school. A teacher could also conduct class from home on a day when school is closed due to inclement weather.

Hapara Highlights Activity Viewer

Hapara Highlights

Hapara Highlights provides teachers with visibility into what students are looking at online. This could help or hurt teacher-student relationships. If you’re using Highlights in your digital classroom, the following tips will help you ensure it contributes to a positive classroom culture that is conducive to healthy communication and collaboration:

Be upfront and transparent with students. Show students what kind of visibility you have into their Chromebook usage, and let them know that you trust them to make good decisions too! This proactive and positive approach will solve the vast majority of issues you may run into in a digital classroom.

Start Highlights tracking at the beginning of the class period, and use the Activity Viewer to check it again at the end. If a student or two is having a hard time following your classroom expectations, even after you’ve taken positive and proactive steps, you can use the Activity Viewer at the end of the class period to identify those students and pull them aside for the one-on-one conversation they need about digital citizenship.

Technology doesn’t have to be cold. There are many ways to use it to connect with students and support their learning!



Randy Fairfield, MEd and MBA, is a teacher and consultant in the Richland School District in Eastern Washington. He is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer, Edmodo Certified Trainer and Hapara Champion Trainer and Consultant.

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