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4 ways to use tech to engage your students

December 3, 2015Jessica Mizerak

Looking for ways to use today's great technology to make a greater impact on your students? We have four hints for using technology successfully in your classroom - no matter which subject you teach.

1. Vary your videos

Think back...way back... to when you were a student. Ah, those were the days! Although as I recall, many of my teachers chose one particular series of videos to show every week. Spanish class, biology, physics: VHS was a popular way to teach. A series can be great in terms of structure, but we humans like variety. If kids are rolling their eyes every time your favorite scientist comes onto the screen, why not mix it up and show some supplementary videos from a new source? 

Mix animation and live action videos. Try videos from light-hearted amateur chemists online combined with the more serious, professionally filmed experiments. Better yet, combine videos with an entirely different type of digital resource.

Teaching English literature? Don’t throw out your favorite film about Shakespeare’s life, but instead add a 3D model of the Globe Theatre to your lesson plan, letting students explore and “walk around” the structure.

After showing a video about Ancient Egyptian history, send students an interactive test directly to their tablets to see what they’ve learned from the video. Include images, audio or video clips in your test to boost interest and motivation in the assignment. The same goes for any subject - natural science, music, physics, mathematics - you name it! This strategy is a great way to ensure that students with different interests are motivated and can successfully learn about the topic.

2. Let students take control

Create class projects where students can select their own topic to write or speak about. There is more and more information appearing daily regarding the success of teachers and schools who let their students have more control over their curriculum.

Sound like anarchy? Start small! Begin with homework assignments. If you’re teaching a natural science class, allow students to explore one plant or animal of their choice in a specific content library, such as the mozaWeb Media Library. The students can later share their findings or opinion about their chosen organism, which is a great way to hand over power to the students without any fear of creating chaos in class.

Letting students choose to learn about what they are interested in as part of your class motivates and inspires students to keep exploring new ideas and can even build their sense of self-confidence. It can improve both student and teacher attitudes, can even result in better standardized test scores! We believe that all educators can agree on one thing: the classroom should be an inspirational place.

3. Combine digital with physical!

Once again, variety is the spice of life! Most teachers would agree that there’s no need to go 100% digital and paperless because there are many benefits to physical learning, from writing to hands-on experiments and activities. Every student learns in different ways, so give your students a chance to benefit from several different types of learning in one lesson.

  • Put screens and paper together. Give students a chance to draw or make a mindmap about the topic of your presentation on paper before asking individual students to come answer quiz questions on the interactive board.
  • Combine dice with on-screen activities. Have students throw dice or flip coins to decide who will perform the next activity. Or play music quietly as students complete group activities to increase background noise and reduce students’ shyness.
  • Fuse video with lab experiments or arts and crafts. Watch videos of do-it-yourself crafts or experiments before or after performing a hands-on activity to show different variations on a theme. This method can really jump-start students’ curiosity and help them imagine what else could happen when new materials or variables are introduced.
  • Use 3D models and physical models together. Let students touch and feel an anatomical model, for example, but show them how the inner workings function using a 3D. Combine these with photographs, and you have a completely visual lesson that involves several of the senses and engages students with varying learning styles.

4. Stand up!

Tablets are a great technology, but be sure to incorporate movement into your class games and assignments, especially if each student has their own device. Getting students to move around is a well-known tactic in pedagogy with many studies proving the benefits (for health and learning!) Just like calling students up to your chalkboard, whiteboard, or interactive whiteboard, movement can also be incorporated into tablet and PC use.

Have children stand in groups and have one student use their device. Or ask the students to take turns, passing the tablet around to answer questions one-by-one. Or place one tablet at each end of the room and create a small race out of a quiz or assignment. It can be a challenge to plan such activities, but with benefits like improved learning and greater active participation, we think it’s a worthy endeavor! If you’d like to read more about movement in the classroom, check out this Washington Post article.

As teaching technology evolves, teachers find newer, more innovative ways to use tech. The best part about edtech is that there are truly no limits! Try one new change at a time and don't be afraid to experiment. There are many exciting ways to add technology to teaching that can make a positive impact on the way students learn.

Tags: pedagogy , lesson plan , tablets , educational videos , 3D models
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