Active Learning

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.

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5 Responses to Active Learning

  1. Pingback: 5 Ways to Amplify Student Voice With Technology

  2. pjimison says:

    Reblogged this on WJU EdTech and commented:
    Great post by Jessica Sanders, Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. What struck me most was the phrase, “…teachers do 80% of the talking.” In many university classrooms, I believe this is probably true. We (I’m including myself here!) need to make our classrooms engaging and active. Enjoy the post. Thanks, Jessica!

  3. stephhoutz says:

    Creating active learning experiences is something I am working toward in my classroom. I have recently created this type of learning by using a website called Nearpod. Nearpod allows teachers to present information with the incorporation of technology allowing students to actively participate during a lesson.

    I recently used this application in my classroom using iPads. I used a PowerPoint I had already created and uploaded it to my account on the website. The PowerPoint presentation focused on identifying the different coins, their values, and counting the value of different sets of coins. With the use of Nearpod, I was able to create activities to find out what students already knew prior to their learning to help guide my instruction. Other activities provided opportunities for students to draw to solve problems or answer multiple-choice questions.

    All responses students make on their iPads are sent to my iPad to check for understanding. When students complete a drawing activity I am able to share good examples of student work with the whole class by clicking share. When I click share all iPad screens display the anonymous student work I chose to share. This type of sharing allows for great classroom discussions on different ways to solve problems. Since I am able to see all student responses on multiple-choice questions, I motivate student learning with this application by rewarding whole class success in answering questions.

    I think the incorporation of Nearpod to teach money was successful for several reasons. I think the first reason it was successful is because I took the time to become familiar with the technology before I tried using it with my students. The next reason it was successful is because I did not go out of my way to rewrite my lesson, I simply found a way to integrate technology into the lesson to enhance student learning. Another reason the lesson was successful was because I paired students up to work in partners on the iPads. By grouping students I had them actively discussing their learning with a partner before they used the technology to display their knowledge. Last, this lesson was a success because students played an active role in their learning. The active role that they played made the learning experience more meaningful and enjoyable for the students.

    • Will take a look @ Nearpod, thanks for sharing Steph

    • stephhoutz says:

      Good luck. It is really simple to set up a Nearpod account. You just go to Nearpod.com and create your account. Then, if you use PowerPoint presentations for instruction and you already have them created you just insert and start creating.

      You mentioned an idea to create active learning with technology by assigning tasks on a blog post. Do you have any suggestions for getting started with something like this? What types of prompts would you use?

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