Developing an Interactive Classroom
Guest post by Bill Lester, on behalf of the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, KS.
We all know that students today are having trouble unplugging when they enter the classroom. They are living in a world that is moving faster than ever, so when they enter the classroom the movement is still at a snail’s pace. We have taken steps, though small, in the right direction to make the classroom more exciting and interactive by developing uses for technology in the classroom, but haven’t found way to implement them into our lesson plans for everyday use. Here is a list of strategies that can be used to implement technology, everything from traditional strategies that are currently used, to some new strategies that you may not have heard of.
1) Virtual Field Trip – Field trips are becoming too much of a liability for teachers to plan and execute. If teachers could they would take their students to the moon and back to make the learning experience more exciting. With virtual field trips teachers are able to expose their students to new locations and experiences through pictures, videos and interaction. There are different websites that already have pre-planned virtual field trips set up so that teachers don’t have to search for resources and put information together. Here is an example of how you could take your class on a field trip through the Solar System:
- Nineplanets.org is set up so that you may take your students through an interactive solar system experience. Having students decide what to see next or produce questions that lead to class discussion are classroom events that teachers spend hours planning for. Virtual field trips like this one can be used to determine how long it takes to travel light years, what a planet’s atmosphere is made up of, or have a look at the solar system through a Geocentric View.
- Virtual trips don’t have to be taken out of this atmosphere, you can travel from the pyramids of Egypt to the Stone Heads of Easter Island.
2) SmartBoards – SmartBoards are starting to appear in most classrooms around the U.S., however a majority of teachers are still learning just how valuable and effective this tool can be. You can take some of your everyday lectures or lessons and make them more interactive by simply making them look like a computer screen and having the students interact, ex: underlining, outlining and even adding their own notes. Here is an example of how you can take a normal review game and make it a little more interactive:
- Exchange.smarttech.com has tons of apps that allow teachers to find different versions of their old review games, i.e. Jeopardy. After a few years of playing Jeopardy in the classroom students may become bored with the game, but still like the concept. So instead, download the Koosh ball template that has the same questions that you would use in your Jeopardy review, except now the students have to throw a soft object at the board. Whatever symbol on the screen is hit will reveal a new question for the team to answer.
- You don’t always have to teach with a new strategy, sometimes all you need to change is the presentation, check out Atomic Learning's Engaging Students with Interactive Whiteboards Spotlight for more ideas on how to use interactive whiteboards in your lessons.
3) Facebook Page – Creating a class website is something that has been made even easier with the popularity of Facebook. We already know that when our students aren’t listening in class they are most likely on Facebook, so why not take advantage of it? Here is an example of how you make organization easier:
- The social media site that has transformed social interaction also has the ability to transform your classroom. Facebook provides users with a “news feed” that compiles updates from the pages they select so why not create class page where assignments, updates and acknowledgements are made? Another incentive for students to visit the class page: bonus questions! Directing students back to the page to find an answer to bonus questions encourages participation and gets students to the class page.
- Not sure you're ready for using Facebook in the classroom? Atomic Learning offers workshops on Facebook for Educators and Facebook for Students to get your started.
4) Virtual Stock Exchange – Having students make economic decisions, critically thinking about their decisions and seeing the outcome that comes of those decisions is a lesson that all teachers want students to take away from the classroom. Here is a great example of how students learn about the process of decision making:
- Another great resource that teachers can use is MarketWatch (Marketwatch.com/game/) in which students log decisions that they have made and the outcomes of those decisions in the Stock Market. You can have students write the thought process that took and why they chose one stock over another, the outcome, and what they would do differently next time.
5) iPad – iPads are very multifaceted and if you have them, you should be learning how to use them during your entire class period. Training from Atomic Learning helps you and your students gain the skills to apply different strategies and have the solutions that we need when figuring out how to apply technology strategies. If one doesn’t work in one class a large or small adjustment can be made, by simply use a different app or program until you’ve found one that works for you. Here is an example of an app that helps students make goal oriented decisions:
- https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iearnedthat/id366144564?mt=8 is a great app that allows students to come up with goals on the first week of school that they want to accomplish by the last week of school.
- Check out Atomic Learning's iPad training tutorials, as well as the Documenting Kitchen Science tech integration project for inspiration.
Whether we go back to school to become a master in teaching or we can learn from the training resources Atomic Learning provides, there are many effective ways to learn to enhance your lesson plan with the use of technology that will not only better your students, but you as an educator. Yet either way, we need to constantly be advancing and bettering the strategies that we use to teach America’s youth.