The classroom is evolving, teachers are embracing tech, and students are more digitally connected than ever before. As a result of these modern changes to culture and the popular use of technology in education, educators at all levels are seeking ways to seamlessly integrate new learning tools into their classroom. In this article, we are going to look at some ways in which this can be done, sooner rather than later.
Gamification or game-based learning
Game developers around the world have been hard at work over recent years to code games that find the perfect point between being fun and educational. Difficult topics, test preparation, and group activities are all enabled through this medium, but perhaps the best advantage to educators and learners is that game-based learning drives increased dopamine surges, information recall, and self-competition. Some classroom digital games can help teachers to track progress and allow for a certain level of customisation regarding the content.
Similarly to game-based learning, the introduction of simulations increases dopamine and information retention, but rather than be based on a game, a simulation is based around a real-world scenario and tests knowledge and decision-making skills. Simulations can be useful to teachers who want to put different teams together and test their chemistry, though they’re not limited to group work, and can be very useful for individual application. For themes of business, marketing, economics, and politics, business simulations are perhaps the best way of bringing technology into the classroom, and for developing long-term transformational skills.
One very modern twist on classroom behaviour management is digital noise trackers which pick up how many decibels of sound the class is making and presents a warning when it spikes over a certain level. If there is some incentive or punishment attached to the digital noise tracker, it can be a great way of bringing some order into the classroom and may even encourage students to shush each other, giving you more time to present your lesson.
2020 is the year that we all got extra comfortable using video calling software like Skype and Zoom for more professional purposes. If you weren’t using these applications before, it’s likely that at some point during the lockdown you started, and that familiarity that has been built up will only encourage more video calling in the classroom. Fortunately for teachers, it’s not the students video calling each other that we are talking about, rather, it’s the opportunity to use video calling as a way of hosting a guest speaker in your classroom without them having to travel and be physically present. Ask your students to prepare questions (you can even do this digitally as a collective) and introduce this new type of lesson.
Whilst some teachers are comfortable presenting powerpoints or playing videos, few are yet to embrace the incredible digital potential of podcasts. Some students learn best through audio, by listening to information and then storing it, so this method will appeal to those, but it may also spark the imagination of those who are yet to get into podcasts. For learners of just about any topic, there are podcasts that interview relevant experts or writers, go into the history of a subject, provide the latest information and data, and more. Students could also be given projects where they must work together to create their own podcasts.
An online calendar
Keeping on top of your work is hard for students who are balancing multiple classes, modules, and subjects, and it’s no different for teachers, who may have hundreds of students in different courses all at the same time. To streamline things, a class calendar can be an effective way for students to see what their homework is, what time classes are, and when exams are taking place. Any extra information educators can provide in the notes is a bonus to the students.
A digital ‘exit ticket’
At the end of a class it’s important for educators to round up what has been learned, check that the concept has been understood, and quickly test the student’s knowledge on the subject. Whilst this is typically done as a Q&A, or as a quick interaction with students as they leave, the potential is there for this exit ticket to be a digital activity. Since almost all students in a class will have a smartphone, you can get them to spend the final 5-10 minutes posting what they have learned as a digital comment, Tweet, or even a journal entry – whichever is most relevant to your class. This activity allows them to concept check themselves in order to get out to their next class, and with digital proof, educators can make sure that the lesson has been understood.
Whilst some teachers want absolute autonomy over what they teach, some are willing to embrace the collective input of their students in order to help drive the classroom content in a more interesting and engaging direction. Digital surveys provide educators with an opportunity to ask their students customised questions in a variety of ways (drop-down, multiple choice etc) and find out what they really want to do during the class.
Some subjects will benefit more from blogging than others, for example, maths blogs might not work, but philosophy, English, or history blogs can get the creative juices flowing. Setting homework as a blogging exercise can give students a reason to write and a platform where they have some control over design and identity, allowing their personality to shine in multiple ways. The pride they take in their blog and its content could even be worthy of a percentage of a grade, if an educator sees enough engagement.
Class Facebook groups
Akin to the class calendar group, having a private portal for each class where key dates, activities, and tests can be marked and discussed is vital. A Facebook group goes even further than a class calendar, giving opportunities for discussions, polls, and sharing of key resources. As long as the group continues to be active and includes contributions from both students and educators, it can be a great way to integrate technology into the classroom.
These 10 ways to integrate technology into the classroom are just the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that there are dozens of innovative methods for approaching digital integration, but the best place to start is by opening a dialogue with your teacher or students and discussing what could add value.