There’s no debate that in the 21st century, new technologies have played a significant role in how we teach and how our students learn. Social networking, online teaching, class blogs and wikis, podcasting, interactive whiteboards, and mobile devices are just a few of the many technologies used in classrooms all across the country.
It is apparent that in helping to develop technological skills, students will be more capable learners and better prepared to enter the workforce of the future. Thus, it is vital for educators to fully understand technology themselves and how to integrate it in today’s classroom and curriculum. Let’s take a look at some of these technologies.
Since today’s students already spend a lot of their free time on social media, integrating it into your teaching seems like a logical choice. Through social networking, students can connect to the curriculum and various learning resources. Some of the best information for student assignments and projects can be found on social media such as YouTube and Instagram live video.
Students can also communicate easily with fellow students via social networking. You might consider creating a Facebook group for your class or grade level to serve as a place to post topics for discussion and where students can ask questions about any class or subject matter.
Technology has helped increase learning opportunities whether its supplementing classroom instruction or enrolling students in full-time classes and programs. Students can take college classes while still in high school, high school classes while in middle school, and even middle school classes while in elementary school. They can access additional courses through online institutions for dual enrollment, make up credits if they are deficient because of sickness or poor achievement, and partake in a limitless number of exciting enrichment classes and programs.
Another advantage of online teaching is that it can help accommodate students’ diverse learning styles and needs and may allow greater flexibility in the time and place a student studies (students may work from school or home, or, in some cases, from any location). In addition, online teaching is a great boost for rural and disadvantaged communities that may not be able to afford certain classes and curriculum that larger, more affluent districts readily offer.
Class Blogs and Wikis
Class blogs and wikis, although somewhat different in nature*, can be used in many ways to build classroom unity. Teachers can publish class photos and showcase individual and group work. Or you might consider posting a daily recap of classroom activities, possibly written by a different student each day. Blogs and wikis are also a great place to share homework and discuss class projects. You can provide access to parents to view the websites to broaden their educational awareness of their child’s learning and build stronger communication with you as an educator.
(*Definitions: A blog is a regularly updated web page or website that is written in an informal or conversational style. It is typically run by an individual or a small group of people, and they are the ones that write, edit, and publish its content. In contrast, a wiki is a collaborative space where anyone who has access to it can write and edit the content.)
Launching a podcast is pretty easy and doesn’t require a lot of equipment. A microphone and pair of headphones, recording and editing software, and a publishing platform to share your work will get you started. Some teachers use podcasts to build literacy skills, having students listen to them to hear how words are pronounced and to boost their reading/oral language fluency. This can be especially effective with English-language learners as well as special needs students. Other teachers use podcasts to introduce or supplant any subject matter, provide relevant educational talks that enrich and inspire, and to share current events/world news.
Podcasts provide your students with a wealth of communication including narration, dialogue, and interviews. They are a unique way to boost your curriculum beyond the textbook and to add variety and interest to learning at little to no cost.
Interactive whiteboards are also easy to use. They help students to see, hear, and interact with the learning material, thus tapping into the varied learning styles of students to maximize their learning. Teachers can get immediate feedback about their students’ progress to impact their lesson planning and teaching strategies when they see their students respond or demonstrate their learning.
There are lots of uses for whiteboards, such as playing educational games with the entire class (like a virtual scavenger hunt to find information about a president or a specific country). Whiteboards are often used to have students teach a concept to another student to show mastery of a skill. And teachers can display limitless media types (e.g., videos, illustrations, maps, graphs, weather photos, etc.) to aid in instruction.
“Limitless?” you may ask. Yes, limitless–because interactive whiteboards are connected to the internet, they can supply a steady resource of online tools and information. Even better, many other devices like video cameras, cameras, microscopes, and computers can be attached to the boards to further enhance instruction.
More and more school districts are providing students with assigned access to laptops, tablets, iPads, and Chromebooks to bridge the equity gap of student access to technology and their background learning experiences. And students are using other electronic devices that have portable functionality like smartphones, smartwatches, e-readers, and handheld gaming consoles. Now, Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and Wikibooks provide free educational information available to everyone.
Research has shown that students increase their critical thinking and problem-solving skills when given opportunities to use mobile devices in the classroom. Furthermore, mobile devices empower students throughout the learning process; they help students to stay organized with their schoolwork while personalizing learning.
Teachers can design online surveys, polls, and weekly check-ins for students to provide their opinions on lessons, help with student concerns, and help shape subsequent teaching lessons. They can use Twitter hashtags to have students tweet any questions and feedback with a classroom hashtag.
Using mobile devices in core subjects, teachers can integrate more digital content (media and visuals) in their everyday teaching to impact their presentations and lessons. For example, they can incorporate digital animations and simulations in their lessons to explain abstract concepts in math or science. They can teach digital literacy by analyzing web pages and sources with their students to help them discern if a site is reliable or not and establish standards that make good sources. Students can be given choices of product assignments that reflect their learning (e.g., videos, eBooks, flyers, digital art, etc.) which inevitably boosts their creative expression and helps them flourish as learners.
Mobile devices can take students on a digital field trip to the North Pole in the morning and the Globe Theater overlooking the Thames River in the afternoon; students can take in a view from the Statue of Liberty and hike the Appalachian Trail before embarking on the study of early America and never physically leave the classroom.
Teachers can use computers to keep track of their students, check on their work, make grading transparent, and share an online classroom calendar. And, if students complete their work early, online activities can be beneficial to fill their time, whether it’s a learning station, watching videos, playing learning-based games, or exploring other online activities related to their learning.
Technology helps transform education, specifically by expanding the learning experiences in your class or subject matter. It empowers your teaching skills and engages students with the learning process to better their future learning success.
Published by www.teacherfriendly.com.