Introducing technology into the classroom might seem like a redundant concept by now. Babies are rewarded with a smartphone after their umbilical cord is cut. Children in second grade probably text each other when they are bored in class and by fifth grade they are updating high test scores on LinkedIn. In fact, it’s probably getting kids away from screens that is the real challenge.
But as a teacher using technology is vital in keeping up-to-date and can be useful in engaging the class. So here are five ways to do so without leaving them in front of Youtube and walking out of the room.
Create a Class Webpage
A class page can contain a broad spectrum of information, and you can use whatever format with which you comfortable. It can be a bulletin board with links to resources, or a place where each student can have their personal blog, detailing their class’s journey. This New Zealand school has got the right idea. This isn’t a space for students to compete with grades but a place where they can discuss learning as a goal in itself.
Give the Class a Webpal
This is a great exercise for an impatient class that requires a very patient volunteer. If you have the type of students who tell you that math is pointless because they have calculators on their phones and that an app that will solve life, you can put them in touch with someone able to contradict them.
Once you have found a volunteer, ask feisty students to compose emails with their questions to this kind professional. Use this time to work on their penmanship (or whatever it is called in the keyboard era) and check that their letter isn’t too snide before they click send. This could be someone like an animator (they use linear algebra to rotate display the ways an object could be rotated) or even a forensic scientist (they use math to work out the projection of a weapon that may have caused the victim’s death). Do not pick an accountant.
Give the Class a Webinar
Say you have found an astronaut who is willing to explain to your classroom that math is actually not a waste of time and for the moment there is no app to take them up to space. Unfortunately, the astronaut may be busy and doesn’t have the time to reply to 20 snarky emails. In this case, you can conduct a web conference whether it’s on Skype or Google Hangouts or something more sophisticated. In reality, you can invite almost anyone into your classroom from anywhere, as long as they willing to accept the invitation.
Conduct a Poll
If you want to teach students percentages and statistics you can conduct an online poll or survey in the classroom. Here is just one of the many websites that make it easy. You can ask the students what is their favourite thing about math. Have the results available instantly and input them into a graph or pie chart on the computer. This is one way of helping them visualise ratios using information that is relevant to them.
You don’t need to do anything terribly sophisticated to bring technology into the class. If you see a student doing something nice, you can take a photo or a video and upload it. You can create an electronic newsletter (group email) for parents and students with some of these pictures. Or you can display these images to the class with a highlights reel from their week.
You can ask your pupils to make a PowerPoint-style presentation of their book report. This format allows them to fine-tune their summarising skills and design abilities. Or you can record your students reading and play it back to them, teaching them about tone, pronunciation and pace.
Ultimately, technology is just a tool and a very useful one in the right hands.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.