The rapid advancement of technology has led to massive innovations in the classroom. Notes that were once scribbled into notebooks are now typed on tablet computers, and handwritten essays have been replaced by printed work from a word processor. It is tough to find the right technology balance for your classroom, however, as extra tech may serve as more of a distraction than an asset. Educators should focus on a few key classroom additions that directly benefit students.
If your students have access to tablets like the Apple iPad, it is worth looking around for valuable education-based applications that can enhance your teaching. Scholastic, for example, offers interactive e-book downloads via its Storia iPad app, while Popplet is a digital graphic organizer aimed at boosting creativity. On the teacher side, apps like Common Core Standards and TeacherKit help keep you organized and on-path with your grading, lesson plans, and contact information. Many textbooks are now available in tablet form, as well, which can lighten the loads in students' backpacks. Both the Apple iPad and Microsoft Surface have a bevy of art applications that can inspire students to create.
It is hard to overestimate the impact of the Internet on education. Students now have access to a wealth of knowledge from all corners of the globe and can interact with other students in classrooms thousands of miles away. Providing your classroom with a way to access the Web for research or investigative purposes will engage them in the global community of Web users and better prepare them for the realities of an Internet-based world. Naturally, considerations must be made for the age appropriateness of the Web depending on the level of your students -- a strong anti-virus suite is critical, and it's important to restrict site access via either close supervision or special site-blocking software. Additionally, the Web should be used as a tool, not a distraction.
Classroom Home Page
One of the toughest components of being a good educator is staying engaged with students when they are outside of your classroom. Building a classroom home page through which students can talk about lesson materials, share ideas, and contact you in the event of an academic emergency is an excellent method for leveraging technology to your advantage. It also gives you a place to post your syllabus and homework assignments; your students will always know what is expected of them. Any student with access to the Web will be able to instantly engage with the classroom via the classroom home page. You can build pages with advanced tools like Adobe's Dreamweaver or use established content-management suites like WordPress or Joomla. Services like Squarespace and Site Builder are also available for those unfamiliar with the basics of design.
Tablets, PCs and the Internet make excellent general education tools. However, many specific education disciplines benefit from specific technologies. Digital cameras and basic editing software like Photoshop Elements, iMovie, or Windows Movie Maker can help students learn the art of storytelling, slideshow software such as PowerPoint and Prezi enable students to make exciting presentations, hobby circuit boards and motor kits teach kids about electricity and design, and smart calculators are invaluable for learning complex math theories. Spotting opportunities for technology integration into individual lessons and curriculums is up to you.
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