Our post on post-literacy got me thinking about some ways to use technology as a tool in the classroom. Here are some ideas on using technology with your middle/high school students. These suggestions could both engage your students as well as introduce tech-savvy skills they don’t have yet.
1. Google it. If students have a question, join them in researching it online. Show them the best way to phrase their search with keywords. Google has a search engine specifically for research called “Google Scholar.” Direct your students to this for googling scholarly articles online. SweetSearch is another search engine created especially for teachers and students to use in research. It only searches on credible websites that have been reviewed by the experts of SweetSearch.
2. Analyze sources. Teach students how to recognize which websites/authors/publications are more reliable sources than others. Many teachers find that when assigning research to students, their bibliographies tend to be full of mostly Internet sources that aren't always accurate. Students are going to use the Internet, so show them where to go. Have them look at publishing companies, the author’s credentials, and the date of the information. This article shows some great questions to ask as you are analyzing the reliability of a source. A good example of showing how irreliable sources can look reliable would be to show your students The Onion. While the site looks very legitimate, it is completely satirical in content and would not be a reliable source for any research paper.
3. Assign students to make a YouTube video. This can be a video where they are explaining a concept in depth (after having studied it out themselves), showing how to make something, or even just telling a story. Assigning students to make a video can be a great opportunity to teach technological skills as students must learn how to edit and post videos. You can share the videos in class time or have your students watch and comment for homework. Students can make videos individually or in groups, depending on the project. I once had a language class where every week, we were divided into groups to make skits in our foreign language (Mandarin). Our teacher took video of our skits and posted them (privately) on Youtube. While the skits were sometimes ridiculous, it was still fun. For an oral final, rather than prepare another skit, my group made a horror movie in Chinese. It was fun, creative, and it challenged us. Videos are a great medium for students that may be too shy to share during class. It is lower pressure to create the project outside of class time and then just sit back and let it play during class. See what Marisa wrote on using videos in the classroom.
4. Use e-books. E-books say the same thing as our traditional textbooks, but they are connected to your student’s best friend: technology. Also, mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones are much lighter than five ten-pound textbooks. E-books are easy to highlight and to notate, both features that can engage students as readers and increase comprehension (if taught how to use the feature). Many e-books have a function that will define difficult words. Students can get e-books in the public domain for free online at sites like Project Gutenberg. These can be downloaded to your computer or your mobile device (tablet, smartphone, etc.). Amazon [Amazon.com] usually has some free options every day as well for its Kindle devices and app. These are just some free ways to get students into the classics and other reading material, and it will provide an alternative to the games on their device.
5. Share an article on Facebook. Students must read, comment, and like other comments with which they agree. Find articles that are applicable to what you’re discussing in class (e.g. news articles, scholarly articles, book reviews). Try to find something controversial that will spark discussion. If they get used to seeing the articles on their News Feed, they may read other things you post. This is a good opportunity to get students engaged in what’s going on currently in politics, education, and other fields. You could also have your students post their own articles of interest.
6. Have students post papers on a private blog and then conduct peer reviews through comments. Wordpress and Blogger are both free blogging sites and the privacy preferences can be very selective. You can either create a single blog for the whole class, or have each class member create their own blog. Either assign the paper in class, or give the instructions of the assignment and grading rubric on your own blog so that the students can reference them as they write. After they post their papers on the blog, each student should comment on others’ work. The peers' comments should be worthwhile positive feedback. Peer reviews not only help the students practice positive criticism and analysis, but it also saves you, the teacher, a lot of work.
Which of these ideas do you think you could implement in your classroom? What are some ways you are using technology differently in your class? What are the effects you’ve seen of technology on education?