5 Tech Tools Making Classrooms Better
Online education made it possible for people to continue studies while juggling jobs, parenthood and other responsibilities that formerly inhibited the learning process.
Teachers are integrating tools like the cloud and social media to provide a better learning experience for students. Platforms like Facebook and Tumblr are used heavily every day. But adding another platform to the daily routine can seem overwhelming. By bringing new light to how each tool is utilized, students might be more inclined to participate.
Cameron Pittman, a high school physics and chemistry teacher at LEAD Academy, uses video games stored in the cloud to teach physics.
“Any successful education system prepares students to enter the world as knowledgeable, responsible citizens,” says Pittman. “We’re doing students a disservice if their education does not reflect the challenges they’ll face. Technology has irreversibly altered the world around us, and as such, education must follow suit.”
The game, called Portals, runs through a school-friendly game distribution service, Steam. Portals has a site called Teach With Portals, which allows teachers to access lesson plans and unique puzzles, and join a teachers-only community forum to share experiences.
Below, we’ve rounded up a few other ways that social media and technology are bring innovation to the classroom.
1. The Cloud
A big part of nontraditional studies comes from the cloud. Virtual communities provide the same quality education, while meeting the unique needs of students.
Indiana University High School is one of the schools utilizing the cloud, and it enables students worldwide to earn an accredited diploma through virtual learning. Because everything is in real-time, students and teachers have access to all material at all times — all they need is an Internet connection.
The cloud also makes education more streamlined for students and teachers, and at times, less expensive. Rather than carrying notebooks, textbooks and other physical learning materials, all resources are stored in the cloud, making it easy to send and save files for assignments and note-taking.
In April, Facebook tapped into its former “College Only” days with Facebook Groups for Schools. These online communities serve as digital bulletin boards, so group members can share files, post jobs or internships and stay up to date on what’s happening on campus.
Students and professors are also utilizing Facebook as an online study group — one that can be open or closed to the public.
Schools such as John Cabot University created a public forum to keep students and parents informed, share photos or videos from classroom activities or schedule upcoming events.
Twitter may not provide the same cloud-like backup that a site like Facebook has, but that doesn’t make it less valuable.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, professor Les Harrison required all students register a Twitter account (if they didn’t already have one) and use it collectively as a book club.
Just as Twitter users carry out television and movie-related conversations online, students can apply the same methods to reading assignments or projects. Harrison requires the students to tweet thoughts and inquiries on reading assignments. Each student was asked to also respond to other classmates’s comments.
Students and teachers are encouraged to bring other notable figures and organizations into the conversation, or they can subscribe to lists of people who are relevant to the subject matter.
Twitter is particularly useful for lecture courses that are too big for in-class conversation. To get students involved without interrupting, University of Texas-Dallas history professor Monica Rankin used Twitter so students could post messages or ask questions during class.
Instead of doodling in a notebook, students can create a more organized and less messy collection of notes, thoughts and clips with a micro-blogging platform like Tumblr.
Professors at the Columbia School of Journalism utilize Tumblr in a way that’s similar to online education sites such as Blackboard. With the pages feature, professors can post their syllabus and other relevant information in a way that’s easy to access. At Missouri School of Journalism, Jen Lee Reeves’ class Tumblr is a great resource for students and anyone else interested in journalism trends.
Students can either have individual Tumblr accounts, or professors can set up a group blog. They can then submit assignments, reblog, ask and answer questions, and engage with each other on a platform they’re already using heavily.
Tumblr also has an education tag — managed and curated by a handful of professionals in the education industry — that’s a great resource for students.
Don’t think Pinterest is only useful for your wedding plans. The hot social pinboard can be a valuable resource for teachers, too, as a way to create and organize lesson plans online.
Furthermore, it can be a great tool for collaboration — whether that’s with like-minded professionals, or encouraging parents and students to post pictures or ideas that pertain to the classroom.
Students can use Pinterest as an individual tool for organization, or in a group project. It’s a great way to keep ideas and visuals in one storyboard. Similar to Tumblr, it can also be used as a digital notebook, full of quotes, images, artwork and videos.
How does your school — or your kids’ school — integrate tech into the classroom? Tell us in the comments.