One of the challenges to teaching young students is keeping the curriculum engaging and interactive. With the increased impact of mass media on young minds, teachers are unfortunately often competing with forces beyond their control. Special effects in movies, the immediacy of the internet and the ways video games bring three dimensional worlds to life all combine to shape what “entertainment” means to kids and teens today. And so, of the many hats that teachers wear, the “entertainer” hat is particularly challenging.
Unfortunately, traditional means of teaching often leads to boredom and disengagement. While it is important for kids to learn how to learn regardless of teacher style, it helps when teachers can go an extra step in making their lessons engaging. As many teachers are finding out, technology integration adds a whole new dimension to learning — and you don’t need to be a entertainer to make it happen.
Integrating technology into the commonly taught subject areas (like math, science, social studies, language arts or literature) provides project oriented, hands-on learning opportunities. For example, I recently met middle school studies who combined social studies with technology — and now know more about the Civil War than they would otherwise. Traditional learning would have had them researching the topic and and then writing a five paragraph essay. These students took their research and writing to another level. They added music, photos and narration to create a ten minute documentary on the Civil War using iMovie. For more on this story, go to this past blog entry.
Linda Benefal, the current Coordinator of Instructional Technology for Alhambra Unified School District (outside of Los Angeles), has similarly made learning come to life for students by integrating technology. She is currently planning to return to teaching high school English in the fall, where she plans to re-invigorate her curriculum with technology based projects. She hopes to have her students create digital stories, literary newspapers and multimedia presentations. They will also create their own website as an electronic portfolio of their work. As she explains, “I see no reason for students to be disengaged and bored in the classroom. I passionately believe that creating an educational environment that provides many methods of learning and many ways to demonstrate mastery of the content will harness the imagination of my students. In the past, when my students did projects utilizing technology, they often surprised me with the scope of their projects. They went far beyond the project requirements and provided a fresh point-of-view that demonstrated both critical thinking and creativity. ”
Stay tuned for more examples like these.