By Alvin Crawford
Digital media use in the classroom has been proven to expand students’ critical and creative thinking skills, to increase motivation and self-esteem, and to develop skills needed for the modern world. As schools increasingly incorporate technology into their curricula, it’s time for teaching to evolve to better serve the needs of the 21st century learner.
So how can teachers keep up with students who have been raised on technology in the Information Age?
It can be intimidating to teach using technology to a room full of tech-savvy students. But though it’s not always as simple as just using a laptop instead of textbook, there are ways to complement – not replace – existing teaching methods.
Teachers have found creative – and often budget-sensitive – ways to implement social media and other technologies in their classroom, with positive results. Sometimes all it takes is a network-connected community and a large screen to provide the tools to develop modern, engaging lesson plans.
Here are some easy ways to maximize technology:
- Google: The behemoth search engine hosts numerous platforms that can help enhance a lesson such as Google 3D Tours, which allows you to create interactive maps to help students better visualize lessons. For example, you can travel to ancient Rome via Google Earth or explore the night sky.
- Twitter: Twitter is about more than just 140-character status updates. It can be a valuable tool for organizing and interacting with students outside of school hours. Tweeting due dates, flagging relevant news stories or using it to field questions, and encouraging students to follow certain topics pertinent to classroom lessons are just some of the ways that teachers can capitalize on the growing social network. Some examples of top teachers on Twitter are: Vicki Davis, Islayian, and Kelly Hines, to name a few.
- Computer games: Educational computer games have come a long way since the days of “Oregon Trail,” but they are still a fun, interactive and effective way to help students learn everything from vocabulary to advanced math problems. Big Brainz’s Timez Attack is a great example of a way to master multiplication tables. Mind Snacks is an excellent tool to master SAT vocabulary.
- Videoconferencing: Videoconferencing isn’t just for CEOs. Skype and Google Hangouts are a great way to collaborate on projects, take a class in real time if you can’t be there in person, and hold study groups. Open Study is a great online study group for students. Tareasplus, a new Spanish-speaking online tutorial site, is a great way for ESL students to get math and science lessons in their own language.
Preparing young people for the future is more than just outfitting the classroom with the latest technology; it’s about evolved ways of learning for both teachers and their students. Schools, as we know them, were not originally designed for the 21st century student, but by steadily integrating some of these tools into the classroom teachers can update their lessons to better meet the needs of today’s students.