So, you've got a room full of technology—and a mandate to use it. What's next?
Technology in classrooms is about more than just pleasing the higher-ups who want to see you realizing value from their investment. New digital tools can help you engage students at all levels, activate multiple learning styles, and provide exciting, memorable activities. And let's face it: your students are glued to their devices all the time anyway, so you might as well take advantage of their love of tech and get them learning.
Here are some examples of how you can use technology to help you teach the core subject areas and improve your own experience as a teacher in the process.
Digital storytelling tools such as inklewriter and Storybird make writing more exciting for students. They can use images and interactivity to make stories come alive, allowing students at all levels to be creative and explore different methods of retelling their favorite stories or telling some of their own. Storybird, in particular, opens storytelling up to young students who prefer to communicate with images rather than written text.
For Expression and Portability
You can also use these tools for poetry appreciation assignments, giving students a new way to experience and understand poetry (not exactly the most approachable literary form). You can even take the kids outside to act out some of their favorite hopscotch poems—balancing all that screen time with some outdoor time might not be a bad idea.
You can incorporate more technology as students present their ideas to the class. For example, an interactive whiteboard—a device you can connect to your computer that allows the user to edit and control the whiteboard display in real time using their finger or a stylus—will allow your students to enrich their slides with diagrams and visual explanations while they're giving a presentation.
Fostering a love of mathematics is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for getting students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math careers. Offloading certain tasks to computer applications can open up new ways to get students interested.
Conrad Wolfram, CEO of the European branch of Wolfram Research, shared some new ideas for making math instruction less boring. The disconnect, he says, is that the way math is taught in schools is nothing like the way professionals use it in the real world. Technology offers an opportunity to change that. Rather than calculating everything by hand, Wolfram suggests, students can learn how to use computer applications to do laborious calculations for them so they can focus on higher-level problem solving and critical application of mathematical concepts. This approach helps students see that math is more than hand-calculating; it's something they can really use to solve problems.
For Visualizing and Interacting
Interactivity and problem-based learning offer great benefits for science instruction, too. Animoto is a cross-platform tool that lets students animate concepts and bring them to life. The solution allows students to create videos explaining concepts they're studying and share them with the class. It includes clips, graphics, and music tracks that students can use to create their videos.
By using a tool like Animoto, students not only benefit from teaching their peers through the videos they create; they also get to use their musical and visual senses to enliven the sometimes dry topics they focus on in science. What better way to get them to see the beauty of science than by letting them explore graphics of enlarged crystal structures and fractals, then actually use them to create something of their own?
Using technology in classrooms isn't just a mandate from on high; it can make your job a lot more fun. Technology gives your students the ability to create different types of assignments: tikbot animations, interactive group stories that actually show that everyone was involved—anything that's not the same old written report. Not only are these types of assignments fun for your students, they also make things more interesting for you while you're grading their projects. How many lab reports exploring the finer points of creating boric-acid slime can a science teacher read each year, anyway?
But more importantly, using these different technologies during class keeps kids engaged and excited—and nothing makes your job easier than working with a group of students who want to learn.