Helping Students Learn by Doing

What happens to learning when students are able to interact with content.

GUEST COLUMN | by Tom Piche

CREDIT Epson America“Anyone, anyone?” echoed Ben Stein’s character to a disengaged class in the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Thankfully, education has dramatically changed since the ’80s and the teacher is no longer the sole speaker or facilitator during lessons. A shift in learning, where students are able to interact with the content at hand, has become commonplace in many classrooms.

This type of hands-on learning can lead to lifelong success. It can motivate – and actively engage – all students, especially those who thrive by doing. It can also help kinesthetic learners strengthen their short- and long-term memories by involving movement. Plus, students are accustomed to multitasking in today’s wired world, so educators must provide engaging activities to grab students’ attention. Confucius said it best, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Another great way to engage the entire class in the learning process is working with the students to create a digital mural on the classroom wall that relates to science or social studies.

One proven way for educators to engage students is by leveraging technology. Educators can get students out of their seats and interacting with technology in many ways. For instance, an educator in an international school in Japan used an interactive projector to have students follow along with the story of Harold and the Purple Crayon and play out the role of the crayon.

Other examples include students playing a game of Spanish Hangman where they form teams and work together to figure out the word or phrase, and junior scientists testing water or soil samples on their school grounds and bringing the data back to the classroom to share what they have learned. Another great way to engage the entire class in the learning process is working with the students to create a digital mural on the classroom wall that relates to science or social studies.

It is through these types of activities that the following benefits can be obtained:

  • Greater retention of material – tactile activities help students commit the subject matter to memory.
  • Development of critical thinking – when students are tasked with inquiry-based projects they are challenged to problem solve through deeper thinking and reasoning.
  • Fostering of social-emotional skills – through group work, students learn how to deal with oneself and others in an effective manner.
  • Furthering leadership skills – working with other students allows for them to assume roles that reflect their strengths.

To further reinforce these benefits, teachers can allow students to take ownership of their learning and become teachers themselves. When students are designated as the teacher, they must rely on deeper thinking to demonstrate the understanding of content. If students can successfully teach their classmates a certain lesson or idea by utilizing engaging technology, they develop leadership skills and better comprehend the subject matter.

Educators across every content area can provide hands-on experiences. It’s important for educators who embrace technology to help other teachers understand the technologies available to them in the school and offer suggestions for incorporating hands-on learning lessons as part of their curriculum.

Tom Piche is product manager for K-12 interactive projectors with Epson America, Inc. Contact him through Twitter @EpsonEducation

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