As an educator, how many times have you struggled to get your students to put down their electronic devices? Smartphones, tablets and laptops emit this irresistible blue glow that draws their attention away from your lessons.
Of course, technology can also be an educator’s best friend – giving students a glimpse into an interactive world full of possibility. We’re beyond the point of no return. Technology is here to stay and evolving every day. So let’s partner with it, instead of trying in vain to get our students to put down their devices.
Here’s what this looks like:
Online and Offline Brainstorming Exercises
Students are incredibly creative. They view the world through young eyes. Brainstorming is a powerful interactive learning strategy for helping them channel their creative energy in a way that helps them learn about the topics in your lesson plan.
You might envision a group of students sitting around a chalkboard, offering their ideas and collaborating with the visual aid of the web of ideas outlined in chalk.
Online collaboration is another exciting strategy for allowing students to brainstorm wherever they are. Classroom forums and digital idea mapping allow the conversation to continue. Students that might be too shy to raise their hand may feel more comfortable interacting from behind a screen or keyboard.
Sometimes an idea is too complicated to summarize in a quick forum post or text. Many of my students have started utilizing screen recorder software. This lets them share what is on their screen – even drawing on and highlighting items of significant interest. This allows them to be a more engaging part of the conversation, and it’s fun to see their excitement increase as they see their fellow students engaging with their ideas.
Classroom Conversation Starters
Interactive education strategies go beyond technology. The biggest hurdle to getting students to interact might be getting the conversation started. The faculty at the University of Central Florida compiled this exhaustive report to help teachers get interactive conversations going.
It’s loaded with great ideas:
- Picture Prompt: Show students an image and ask them to take turns pointing out unique aspects of it, or how it makes them feel. Students can then discuss each other’s findings.
- Pass the Pointer: Students take turns pointing out areas of a complex image. They share questions and insights.
- Private Facebook Discussion Groups: Instead of traditional forums, allow students to interact in a private, controlled Facebook group. Teacher can regularly post topic ideas.
- Report from the Field w/ Twitter: Ask students to report in on a current event they’re participating in via Twitter. Organize the conversation with a unique hashtag.
- Twitter Clicker Alternative: Generate a unique hashtag. Project Twitter at the front of classroom. Ask students to answer a question or provide an idea containing the hashtag. All of their posts show up in real-time to facilitate a group discussion.
There are hundreds of ways teachers can deploy interactive learning strategies – some of which transform electronic devices from a distraction into a learning tool. Teachers today should start testing out the strategies outlined in this article. And, with a little practice and development, the interactive classroom of tomorrow will begin to take shape.
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