While some teachers and professors still resist the use of technology in the classroom, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to do so without running the risk of leaving students behind in a world that for the large part operates on the Internet. At the same time, you don’t have to include use of technology if you don’t completely understand how you can harness it to inspire and motivate your students.
When I was in college I took one course that focused on different ways the Internet and technology is used in various professional settings, including the classroom. Here are a few neat things that my professor used to facilitate collaborative learning:
1. Instead of a syllabus, we used a class Wiki.
Even though syllabi are standard for college and even some high school classes, there are so many limitations to the paper-based class schedule. Offering the class a Wiki instead was great for students in many ways. For one, we never lost our syllabus. Secondly, we had a centralized location where we could submit assignments. Students could create their own pages, on which they could leave comments and post additional material of their own that relates to the class. This collaborative learning environment helped all of us become more motivated to learn class materials.
2. During lectures, our professor had his notes up on a shared Google doc, so we could ask questions and share observations in real time without having to raise our hands and speak.
One challenge that virtually every teacher encounters is trying to get their students to pay attention throughout the class. In fact, this is precisely why many teachers discourage the use of technology in the classroom—because they think it adds to the distractions. Of course, this can certainly be true in some instances, like when kids are texting in class. But when you actually help technology help you, it can transform your class. Instead of just putting up your personal notes on a projector, use the projector to display your computer screen, which will have your notes listed on a Google doc. Share this with your students so that they can use their Internet-enabled devices to ask questions and make comments in real time as you go through your lecture. It’s a wonderful way to start a conversation and have the class material take on a new, interesting life of it’s own.
3. Our professor required us to use Prezi for all class presentations.
Prezi has certainly been mentioned here on the eLearning Site before. But when I was in college, Prezi was brand new. Pretty much the only thing used in college classrooms then was Power Point and maybe traditional projectors. I still believe that not enough educators and learners know what an incredible tool Prezi was. Every week, our professor had a student present part of the lecture themselves, which had to be accompanied by a Prezi presentation. Using Prezi essentially taught me the first steps in visual design and it really made every lecture that much more interesting. Students actually become more interested when they are engaged visually as well as verbally.
Of course, integration of technology in the classroom is a tricky business, because sometimes it can be used to subvert the goals of the class. But using technology in a traditional classroom setting can often have more advantages than you would think. Good luck!
This guest post comes courtesy of Mariana Ashley, who frequently gives advice on applying to online colleges to prospective students. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.