Eduporium Weekly | Catalyzing Classroom Learning with Innovative Technology
In order to get kids excited and get them engaged, more must be done to ensure they’re given beneficial sparks. Educational technology serves as a catalyst for learning in a number of ways, two of which include its ability to engage students and the fact that it helps catalyze tech skills growth by default. While other factors can help spur student engagement and achievement, the obvious answer in the 21st century is technology. And, whether in a classroom, library, or afterschool makerspace, there is a compatible tech tool for just about everyone.
Using Technology to Ignite Innovation and Guide Learning
Technology helps children to get excited about learning. It helps them relate more effectively to the content and it definitely helps them to find authentic meaning in what they are doing. EdTech is a tool that, when used effectively, can catalyze new levels of learning without requiring too much trouble. There are so many ways educators can use technology to reach their students, but, for the sake of this post, we are going to focus on ways of using it that help kids ignite their own creativity and further develop key skills. Technology can help students learn a variety of different things, including new skills, concepts, and mindsets. It just depends on how it’s introduced to them and how much faith they have in letting it guide their learning.
EdTech helps create an authentic purpose for students. It’s able to help them realize the connection between skills and concepts and how they can still learn a lot using tools that are interesting to them. Since kids tend to very much enjoy learning with any kinds of new tools, especially technology, teachers can take advantage of this by encouraging communication and an active group dialogue in the classroom. When kids are excited, they tend to enjoy working together more, so this is something useful teachers should keep in mind. Tech also helps students solve problems creatively, design solutions to solve specific needs, and explore their own questions, which are all very relevant in the real world.
Students need learning experiences that both matter to them now and will remain relevant as they prepare to enter the real world. There is perhaps no better catalyst for creating these kinds of experiences than technology. Kids are going to need to possess skills like coding, 3D printing, and maybe even familiarity with tools that are not yet on the market. Working with technology from a young age helps eliminate the fear, apprehension, and belief that they do not know what they are doing. When students realize that it only takes a bit of determination and optimism, they can see that new technologies are not meant to be a puzzle for them to figure out, but rather a catalyst to equip them with the skills for solving more important problems later on.
Igniting Improved Collaboration and Engagement with 1:1
We speak a great deal about the value of hands-on technologies in the classroom and the positive impact tools, such as robotics and 3D printers have on learning. They are not the only tech tools that are able to reboot student engagement and ignite new levels of in-depth learning, however. In fact, some of the technologies being used to do this have been in classrooms for 15 or 20 years - or at least in schools for that long. We’re talking about computers - simple laptops or Chromebooks or whatever your preference is. Classrooms that make use of a 1:1 setup offer students the opportunity to engage more deeply in the concepts being discussed and provide them with a window to access information much more rapidly than they are used to doing. In essence, 1:1 programs simply make learning and classroom work much more efficient.
If you’re considering trying 1:1 to catalyze student engagement and retention, Chromebooks are probably the best way to go. They’re extremely affordable, which is great for purchasing enough for an entire class, and only allow students to access relevant information without any distractions. To maximize the effectiveness of any 1:1 program, however, more should be made about the tech integration rather than the device itself. With 1:1 access comes an entirely new world of learning possibilities as it allows teachers to instantly be able to access a wealth of online resources and provide students with these same opportunities. Plus, kids get the added bonus of mastering Web skills, which could even include 1:1 coding.
Part of the reason 1:1 programs have been so successful in sparking increased learning opportunities is that they help create a collaborative atmosphere. Kids are even learning about trial and error and failing forward with the help of new tools like these. Not only do the students see added benefits, but teachers do as well. Using 1:1 technology tends to get teachers talking with their peers more and learning new ways to become more collaborative and innovative. It gives teachers more freedom in the classroom as well and results in students becoming more free to explore all the possibilities of tech-based learning rather than just some. In short, 1:1 classrooms help spur deeper learning opportunities than what is obtainable with traditional teaching methods and tools.
Using 3D Printing as a Catalyst for Deeper Learning
You might not know it, but 3D printing is something that can be used to advance learning in all grade levels. And, we mean all grade levels. There are 3D printers designed for students to start using early on in elementary school and some that are powerful enough to unlock new accomplishments all the way up through the college level. The possibilities that 3D printing creates are far-reaching and unlike any other educational technology. It’s able to set in motion brand new ways of thinking in students as both the software and hardware enable them to see what it’s like to digitally fabricate an object or device. When using a 3D printer, the gears in a student’s brain are constantly turning - just like the filament spool found inside the printer.
One of the most pertinent careers today’s students will be finding themselves filling, as evidenced by its presence in ‘STEM,’ is engineering. Engineering has largely already become one of today’s most profitable STEM careers and only shows signs of advancing. By engaging in 3D printing, students can help build a number of different skills that would make them marketable to employers looking for engineering help. To be an engineer, one must be comfortable with creating prototypes and blueprints, taking into account balance and foundational strength, and building structures that will likely outlast their own lives. On a smaller scale, 3D printing helps mimic the challenges engineers face and gives students an attainable way of mirroring these challenges in the classroom.
Not only can 3D printing serve as a catalyst for helping students build these invaluable skills, it can be a catalyst for deeper classroom engagement as well. So much attention to detail goes into creating a 3D printed object, so students are forced to take precision into account with every design they create and upload. So much is being made about the “next Industrial Revolution” bringing about a shift to completely automated manufacturing, which very well could happen. Some people think that, right now, 3D printing is catalyzing that change. When students use 3D printers in their education, they’re taking part in remotely controlling automated manufacturing, which will only help them understand the future even better once they arrive in it.
EdTech Helps Ignite PBL and Creativity
It’s very difficult to change something that has been in place for a number of years - never mind a number of decades. The traditional education system that most of us know and most of us, unfortunately, grew up in is a perfect example of that. The educational models most of us grew up with, however, are outdated at best and stunting the skills development of our students at worst. We are very much in a new era of learning, one that is characterized by the need for hands-on involvement, critical thinking, and the chance for creative problem solving. Children need project-based learning and the chance to develop their creativity at every turn. They need something new and technology can help get the ball rolling.
Much of PBL revolves around the integration of EdTech in one way or another. In an ideal world, students would get to use maker products and other tech tools every single day. These kinds of tools allow them to design, construct, and utilize various devices and solutions to replace textbook learning. When engaged in PBL, students get the chance to focus on relevant skills development instead of just content alone, which optimizes their chances of future success. While project-based activities may be a catalyst for higher-level learning, it’s generally EdTech tools that make this possible in the first place. In order to allow this to happen, however, educators need to be willing to disrupt the traditional classroom and fill it with some more innovative approaches to preparing students for the future.
Once classroom PBL is created, it’s the addition of technology that really catalyzes the learning. Even if students are not creating projects all the time, they’re still able to learn valuable tech skills through the active use of technology. Take Computer Science, for example. This is going to continue to be one of the most important fields in the modern workforce. Students simply cannot learn all they need to know by reading a textbook. And, while computer technology is not necessarily designed to be a classroom teaching tool, it has sort of become one by default and an important one at that. Hands-on opportunities, PBL, and constant practice help kids build the comfortability they need and the added element of EdTech takes their intellectual and creative development to the next level.
VR as a Catalyst for Creativity
A lot of the time, it’s the newest and coolest technologies that get students the most excited about learning. Having tried it on a number of occasions ourselves, we can say with a good among of confidence that virtual reality undoubtedly has the potential to catalyze all sorts of high-level classroom innovation. VR opens up worlds that would never have been possible for kids to explore even just a few years ago, but it’s its potential for enabling immersive learning and incredible new levels of engagement that has this technology poised to ignite deeper learning experiences. When students can walk into a classroom and dive right into their learning, something is being done right.
Depending on the different VR systems or if students are using augmented reality (AR) instead, they’re generally able to examine images and concepts right up close. When working in groups and using virtual reality, students share creative ideas more fluently because the excitement is there. In fact, they tend to enjoy taking the lead and deciding what comes next all on their own. Not only is this good for creating a collaborative dynamic with real-world relevance, but it helps them to get to the more deeply hidden concepts and sites that VR helps them unlock. It also allows kids to recreate science experiments that would be impossible for them to do in real life either due to space restrictions, materials, or practicality.
The main benefit of using virtual reality in the classroom is that it enhances engagement. That’s not to say that this is the only one, however. VR helps make students curious about their future careers and prompts them to explore innovative solutions in the same way they must be able to do in the future. The hundreds of virtual reality apps available and designed for use in education allow students to see how a certain problem should be solved before they apply what they’ve learned to solve it in real life. This kind of “practice” is extremely important and the idea of incorporating other disciplines, like art and literacy, into science is just one more reason why virtual reality is at the top of the list for launching greater excitement in the classroom and leveraging technology to catalyze in-depth learning.
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Image: © Softbank Robotics