As an educator, I’m always trying new things to engage my students and to prepare them for their future. A few years ago, I made the commitment to incorporate technology into my instructional model. Technology, after all, is second nature to our students. It only seemed appropriate to build on the skills these “digital natives” are learning on outside of the school setting and have it part of our classroom setting.
Since introducing interactive technology to my classroom, I have noticed a striking increase in student engagement. My students love it! By making an effort to incorporate interactive activities into my daily lesson plans, I’ve found an opportunity to better promote collaboration in the classroom. I try to incorporate lessons that include group work, discussion, debate, higher-order thinking skills and encourage a variety of viewpoints, as well as lesson that allow me the capability of differentiated instruction.
Now our mobile devices have become a key tool in this process. Some teachers might assume that in order to use mobile devices effectively in the classroom, each student should have their own. But that isn’t always true. Instead, we occasionally use mobile apps to encourage group collaboration. For example, I can present a difficult word problem to them and push it to their mobile devices. They then work together in groups of 3-4 to come to an answer they all agree on. I can quickly push their group’s answer up on the digital whiteboard to easily present the solution to the entire class. When I do this, my students are excited, they are working together and they are learning from their peers.
Adopting classroom technology has also broadened my ability to perform assessments. I can quickly check a student’s comprehension when presenting new material using multiple choice, true/false, short answer and essay questions. I used to have to ask the class if everyone understood a concept – an admittedly imperfect measurement. The problem was that many students were reluctant to indicate their lack of understanding to their peers. With the mobile app and the anonymous “clicker” capability, everyone participates and I obtain an instantaneous and true encapsulation of my classroom’s overall understanding.
I can also tell which students are getting the concepts, as well as provide more one-on-one attention when I see that other students haven’t quite gotten it yet. Because mobile apps allow for quick and easy feedback, I now sometimes even ask students to show me what they understand about a lesson before I teach it. I now spend more time teaching concepts that I know kids are struggling with and less time on the areas they seem to already understand. This has helped guide my lesson plans and I’m seeing results. The mobile application even allows me to experiment with lessons that include quizzes, polls or contests to augment assessments with collaboration further enhancing my students’ learning. It’s been an illuminating – and sometimes even surprising – experience to teach using technology… and I will never look back.
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Another aspect that has transformed the culture of my classroom is student driven instruction. Every student with a mobile device can now interact with the lesson displayed on my interactive whiteboard. Mobile tools such as the MimioMobile mobile app allow my students to actively participate in the lesson from anywhere in the classroom. So instead of waiting for me to call on students one at a time, each child can test their own understanding and interact with the lesson directly from their seat. And most importantly, I can catch more students progressing or in some instances, struggling with the flexibility to roam around the room.
It is fun to watch their excitement about using highly responsive technology as part of their everyday routine. It has become second nature to them! I’ve found that as I continue to use various features, it has become natural for me to integrate software and hardware into my lesson plans. I’ve been able to bring resources that I’ve already prepared into the software, and I have started to take advantage of discussions through online teacher communities, as well as new lesson plans created by teachers, for teachers. It has allowed me to give inventive lessons to my students every single day.
I have found that lectures and outdated textbooks do not produce the same level of engagement as a lesson integrating interactive tools. We owe it to our students to take advantage of the tools they are familiar with and keep them actively participating in their own education. For me, technology has been an excellent lesson resource, an easy, intuitive tool, and has made me a better, more effective teacher!