In today’s global environment, teachers need to be technologically savvy. Providing students a broader range of learning activities will prepare them for real world experiences, as well as keep them interested in learning and processing new information. As teachers we know that the more a student can apply what they are learning to their own lives, the more likely they are to retain the new information.
There are plenty of free hosting sites where a teacher can create a website for the class. Websites are static – they only change when you change them. You can use the website to post class rules, grading scales, student’s work, school schedule, etc.
A blog is much more interactive than a website. It is easy to update a blog each day to reflect announcements and homework assignments. Students and parents can comment on posts and ask questions. WordPress has an easy template for getting starting with blogging with students.
There are many great sites that provide students the opportunity to learn about any number of subjects. The New York Times, the Smithsonian, art galleries, museums, zoos, etc. all have interactive activities for students.
• Consider sending students on a Virtual Field Trip to learn about the war in Iraq or to study the fall of the Roman Empire.
• Create a Scavenger Hunt for students where they have to locate information that pertains to the current lesson.
• Find interactive assignments in Virtual Labs and Academic Games for students to practice new concepts. Kids and adults both love playing video games, and there are many such games online that are used in learning all types of subjects. Online labs have exercises and quizzes that allow the student to email results to the teacher and offer immediate feedback to the student.
Check out Summer Learning: Creative Ideas to Keep Your Child Learning all Summer Long for ideas and sites that work well with students (I’ve tried them all and love them!)
For those students who are auditory learners, send them to Youtube or Teachertube to watch a video about an assignment. Teachertube is better for younger learners because it is monitored for content. Youtube frequently has nasty comments on some very well done videos, which is a shame. You can also use your Netflix account to stream movies for the classroom via the projector.
Join the Conversation
Start a discussion with students online. Assign students to read a short article and then discuss the article on a discussion forum. You can create one of these on your website, on your blog, or use a site like yahoogroups. You can also create a Facebook identity for your students where they can post questions about assignments, thoughts regarding activities and assignments, or just chat with another. (You will of course need to monitor these discussions!)
Help students set up Twitter accounts (with parent’s permission) and stay connected with them through Twitter. Give a pop quiz on Twitter and see who can come up with the answer the fastest and tweet it. Obviously, this is an outside the classroom activity, as most schools don’t allow cell phones in class. I do use this with my college students, however.
An important note is that not all students are technologically proficient, and those that are may not understand proper netiquette. Spend some time early in the year teaching students about navigating the web and proper behavior on chats and discussion boards.
Participate in discussions and model correct net usage by staying active and engaged with whatever venue you choose. Above all, enjoy the experience of online learning!