When Seguin High School English Language Arts teacher Mark Weber completed his master’s degree in educational leadership from WGU Texas in January, he also became WGU’s 100,000th graduate. The degree is a key part of Weber’s mission to help as many students as possible, including those who may be struggling with some of the same challenges he had growing up. “There is no other job in the world that I would rather do,” said Weber.
As a teacher with mixed-ability classes, Weber looked for ways to incorporate the strategies he learned as a student at WGU to keep students engaged. He purchased virtual reality goggles and software for virtual field trips to places like Venice, Italy, and to view classic sculptures in three dimensions. Student assignments included writing persuasive essays and reviews about their virtual experiences.
Weber tells students the virtual reality trips are stepping stones to expanding their horizons and that education is their ticket to the real world. By incorporating technology-infused activities, he transforms his classes, personalizing education to meet the needs of his students. And, while he wants to move into an administrator role one day, he knows students need to hear that message and get excited about education again.
The need for technology in education continues to grow, and teachers can play a critical role in assessing the makeup of their class and determining what technology will work best to ensure all students are engaged. With a wide array of available technologies, from budget-friendly tools to evolving technological, multimedia and interactive activities, making the shift to technology-driven activities is beneficial to teachers and students alike.
Working with what you have and searching online for new opportunities falls under the ‘free’ or ‘almost free’ category of tools that ease resource constraints. While access to notebook computers for every student is great, it isn’t necessary.
Your library, cell phones, or computer lab are also great resources. An Internet search for low-cost or no-cost apps for teachers brings dozens of results, another search may help identify ways to supplement lessons and provide new materials—a virtual tour offered by a museum, copyright-free photographs, sound clips, videos, or online teacher-developed webquests, added in keep your lessons fresh. Make it a habit to search for relevant tools to support lesson plans.
Discovery activities are shown to increase creative thinking, communication and collaboration. When teachers facilitate learning in technology-infused activities, students are empowered to become the creators, explorers and artists, developing creativity and problem-solving skills.
When students design a website or video, create digital media, comic book or storybook, they must master the subject and technology—learning how to use the tools, while gaining a deeper understanding of the subject. What and how they learn provides skills they can use for all aspects of their lives.
Multimedia and interactive tools—like virtual reality goggles, can get every student communicating about shared experiences. Class blogs encourage students to collaborate, reflect and share knowledge.
Taking virtual tours and video chats with other students around the globe, or with experts from other countries, allows classes to learn from other cultures and other languages.
For students who may struggle to fit in, technology tools provide a way to engage and equalize—web tools, cameras, word processors, software, can help create opportunities for independence and inclusion.
Technology is a great motivator, instantly increasing student engagement. Technology helps students keep up with every aspect of their lives in and out of the classroom and helps transform mundane lessons into something that is engaging, collaborative and thought-provoking.
For English language learners, increasing motivation is key to the success of language acquisition, excitement and engagement. News ELA is a tool to increase reading comprehension and can be used by the entire class to keep up with current events. Schools can also help students struggling to learn English by creating a multilingual web presence.
Used properly, technology should help teachers become more efficient and effective—personalized emails to communicate and share important and time-sensitive information, moving attendance records and progress reports online where they can be easily accessed by parents, or software applications that quickly assess and test reading comprehension are some ways teachers are saving time in the classroom.
Thus, technology can be used to improve more than just the student outcomes—it can make a teacher’s life significantly easier, too.