How to create an active classroom experience with technology.  

GUEST COLUMN | by Jessica Sanders

CREDIT learn2earnThe traditional teaching method of giving a lesson at the front of the class puts you, the teacher, in an active position but leaves students in a passive role, where they are taught to but don’t interact with the material as much they should. In fact, Edudemic reported that teachers do 80 percent of the talking in class. This format can quickly cause students to become bored and disengaged—students that aren’t engaged have a higher rate of failing. When you use technology, however, the classroom becomes an active space, where you can interact with students and be more hands on. These active, technology-rich classrooms are often referred to as Active Learning Classrooms, and because of their many benefits, they’ve become a popular option for college professors in recent years.

You don’t have to rewrite your entire curriculum or individual lessons. Instead, take a look at what you’ve already prepared and consider how you can supplement with technology.

Creating an active learning environment is also a valuable opportunity for teachers of younger students, who have keep a whole class of inattentive students focused and interested.

While some teachers choose to rearrange their classroom to make them more student-focused, the simple addition of a few tech tools can make immense improvements for you and your students. See how simple it is to make this happen for your classroom.

Classroom Design (The Non-Tech Portion)

Some teachers like to rearrange their classrooms to make it more conducive to the active learning experience. In these classrooms you’ll commonly see one podium in the center of the room and round tables or desks that are placed together in a circular shape.

“This classroom design enables instructors to spend a few minutes guiding the whole class from the center of the room, and then quickly transition students into collaborative work without needing to reconfigure the furniture or organize students into groups,” according to Tech Basics for Active, Collaborative Learning. 

However, it’s important to note that this is not a critical aspect of active learning; you can facilitate this learning experience without rearranging your classroom. If you want to ease into it, consider the following four steps.

Step 1: Assess Student Objectives

Before introducing any new tech tools, it’s important that you consider the learning objectives for your students. You don’t have to rewrite your entire curriculum or individual lessons. Instead, take a look at what you’ve already prepared and consider how you can supplement with technology in a way that makes the lesson more active. For example:

  • Add an engaging video.
  • Task students with writing responses in a blog post.
  • Use Google Earth to explore a region students are learning about.
  • Connect with another classroom via Skype to further explore an assignment.

Or you can use the following ideas to build entirely new lessons:

Step 2: Consider the Learning Curve

Before implementing the tool in your classroom, it’s important that you learn how to use it. Not only will this make you more confident, but it will give you an idea of what kind of learning curve your students will have with the tool. For example, perhaps after setting up your teacher blog you know right away that there are a few students who will struggle with understanding the tool at first.

In this case, plan for a more personalized learning experience where you work closer with those struggling students on the first day to ensure everyone is on the same page later in the lesson.

Step 3: Introduce it to Your Students

Introduce any new tools just like you would a lesson or theme. Prepare any extra materials you’ll need, compile important resources, and create samples if necessary. This is the process Nicole Long, a secondary language arts teacher, used when she first introduced Skype in her classroom:

“For the first [Skype] session I compiled a list of resources and added them to the sheet; these resources provide tips on how to navigate Google Maps, a World atlas and a map of different time zones, among others—this is a helpful resource for students to prepare for every session. Try to keep this resource simple to encourage students to engage their own research as well,” says Long.

Consider what resources, tips and documents you’ll need for the specific tool you’re using.

Step 4: Reassess

Take a look at the progress you’ve made since introducing this new technology. Tools like Inside Mathematics, Whooo’s Reading, or an LMS will provide you with data about student improvements. Read through this information to determine if students have made any gains that you can attribute to that technology. If so, you can use this as leverage to get the school to pay for paid tools.

An active learning environment is more effective for students and gives you an opportunity to work closer with each student. This increases engagement and excitement, which will make your job easier too!

Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.