It wasn’t that long ago that schools had just a handful of PCs at their disposal, where the students would have to line up in the library to check their emails at lunch break or after school. Thankfully those days are gone, with students now equipped with smartphones, powerful PCs and tech savvy minds that exceed those of their teachers. It has become harder and harder to keep kids engaged in the classroom environment with so many interesting detractions to hand. Just as we saw the slow decline of chalk, the scratchy blackboard and the overhead projector, we are now watching the slow painful death of the white board and the standard classroom of forward facing tables and chairs. Technology has moved so fast in the last 20 years that it has been almost impossible for schools to keep up. With children engaging with faster, more powerful technology in their own homes than at school, the basic slow running school computers and shared iPad can, as well as being a bit backwards looking, be very frustrating for students.
There is an argument that perhaps our modern obsession with multiple backlit colourful screens is giving us all Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s no coincidence that the man behind the rapid expansion of the handheld touchscreen device, Steve Jobs, didn’t allow his children to have certain Apple products as he believed it was bad for them to be looking at screens all day. However there is no denying that, from the perspective of keeping students interested and engaged, teachers are now facing an uphill battle to be as interesting as their iOS counterparts. Children have become used to responding to fast-moving, sophisticated games and applications that can make a history lesson feel like ancient history. Fear not though, because there are many techniques that can help your classroom learn in the digital age. Here are a couple of ideas to get you thinking:
Getting your students to recite poorly pronounced words in a foreign language is what teachers had to resort to when there were no native speakers available in the classroom. The best thing to hope for was accelerated learning on a foreign exchange program, when the students would head off to stay with a family in France for a week. The internet has changed all of that and native speakers of the same age groups can now be readily available to talk to your students in every lesson. By teaming up with other schools worldwide you can organise individual Skype sessions for all of your students to learn and make friends alongside students from all around the world. The empathy and understanding that comes from engaging in conversations with native speakers, who are going through the exact same process learning English, is a priceless experience for all students. With Skype and other free communication apps, it’s an experience that can be available on a daily basis and for free.
A lot of your students will be on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook already. While Facebook’s “Friends” based structure is a minefield for teachers to get involved in, it can be useful for setting up groups and sending out deadline reminders. Being “Friends” with your students is of course never advisable. Twitter however is a perfect way to engage with your students and you can set yourself up with an account that is purely for academic purposes, enabling you to direct message your students and re-tweet important topics/educational links that appear online. Many teachers from around the world are getting involved with things like Twitter Tuesday, where students are encouraged to tweet about certain themes or issues. There are countless teacher guides for using Twitter for education purposes online, as well as policy and liability guidelines.
There are of course thousands of brilliant education games and interactive websites online that can be used for endless learning experiences. Here are a few ideas:
SurveyMonkey.com – Have your students create and complete their own online surveys. Showing them the importance of market research, opinion gauging and data crunching.
goanimate.com – Teach your students how to make professional animations from this great online service. Allow your students to express themselves artistically and create their own beautiful animations for a low cost.
mathschamps.co.uk – An array of maths puzzles for varying levels of ability. Simple and easy to use and an excellent resource.
befunky.com – Everyone can edit photos now and this brilliant photo editing site is an ideal introduction for students to a world of endless photo opportunities.
soundation.com – Recording audio is no longer something that only sound engineers can do. In fact your students are probably already doing it in Garageband at home. This is a great website to introduce the ideas of audio recording to your pupils and you don’t need an Apple Mac to run it.
Are you planning to open your classroom to new technologies and digital teaching methods? Specialist insurance providers such as Bluefin Group have in-depth knowledge of the education sector, and can provide the necessary advice and support to help manage risk and ensure your school is fully protected.