How can educators create learning experiences that foster collaboration, and problem-solving, but also nurture imagination and curiosity during the school day? It’s simple: try something new. Here are a few innovative practices that might help get you started:
1. Coding: The “Hour of Code” happens during Computer Science week in December, but it doesn’t have to stop with just an hour. Code.org resources are available 365 days a year, and many schools are focusing on ways to go beyond just the hour of code through simple programs like Google CS First, and coding programs geared towards girls like Made with Code.
2. Virtual Reality: Virtual reality immerses the user in a world that they can interact with. The low-cost Google Cardboard viewer, which works with virtual reality apps like Discovery VR, gives students a 360-degree view of the world and gives “virtual field trips” a whole new definition. And over at Nearpod, the company recently launched Nearpod VR. Through a grant, Nearpod is giving select schools full sets of VR Cardboard, access to 25 content-based lessons, and professional development with one-on-one support.
3. Augmented Reality: Different from virtual reality, augmented reality involves a trigger image or QR code. With apps like Aurasma and Daqri, triggers activate the apps to show something, like a video or another image. This emerging technology creates mind-blowing learning experiences that captivate students and get them excited about learning. For the classroom, teachers are using augmented reality apps paired with QR codes to create interactive scavenger hunts, where students solve puzzles that tap hidden codes, through music, movies, and images.
4. STEM and Design Thinking: Couple STEM and design thinking together to create a process that mirrors design engineering in the real world, helping to empower students to make meaningful connections and solve complex problems in the classroom through an interdisciplinary approach. For example, the Biome Charter School (St. Louis, MO) offers “customized, project-based and student-centered learning opportunities with an emphasis on growth mindset and STEAM.” From STEM Expos and Design Thinking competition, to transforming the traditional Science Fair nights into Family STEM Nights, schools are deep in the realm of creative experimentation.
5. Student Blogging and Forums: Students need a space to share their voices, and we can accomplish this through blogging, school broadcast teams, and student forums. Or give students a voice through events like an “Edcamp for students”—an informal platform that allows students to explore topics of interest to them and become facilitators of their own learning through discussion and collaboration.
6. Creative Learning Spaces Makerspaces can fit any budget, theme, or age level. Students can work at the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy to demonstrate understanding of curriculum standards when they “make,” and create, evaluate, and analyze solutions to problems. You don’t have to teach kids how to be makers.
7. Social Media in the Classroom: Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Voxer, Snapchat—chances are you’ve heard of at least two of these platforms. But there are so many more opportunities for students to connect and create socially: Mystery Skyping, Google Hangouts and Connected Classrooms, Edmodo, and social media tools like Pinterest provide spaces to build many lifelong skills—even from an early age.
Innovators commit to sharing digital learning content and powerful ideas for improving teaching and learning, and innovative educators have amazing stories of how they’ve transformed learning—so how are you sparking innovation in your classroom?
Patricia Brown is the Technology Integration Coach at Old Bonhomme Elementary School in Saint Louis (MO), where she implemented the first annual OB Family Tech week and Digital Learning Day.