One of the latest buzzwords in education is “active learning,” but what does this really look like in the classroom? Active learning refers to the idea that students are actively engaged in the learning process, rather than passively absorbing content. The benefits of using such activities are many, including improved critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information, more motivation, and improved interpersonal skills.
How can teachers get started? One idea is to move to an “I Did” mindset. Teachers often write objectives, or “I can” statements, on the board before the learning begins. Instead, consider asking the students to share “I did” statements after a lesson that they’ve created or learned. Planning activities geared toward individual learning, paired study, informal small groups, and cooperative student projects will help to make this classroom shift. Here are some great tools to introduce when moving to an “I Did” culture:
FLICKR: WEB-BASED VIDEO AND PHOTO SHARING.
Lesson idea: Movie/video making and YouTube are on the rise in education. With Flickr, students can use photos to build a storyboard for a video and compose their own stories or creative news stories. Teachers can also encourage students to create their own image galleries of artwork, crafts, writing, designs, and class presentations.
VOICETHREAD: CLOUD-BASED MEDIA AGGREGATOR THAT ALLOWS FOCUSED CONVERSATIONS AND REFLECTION AROUND A SPECIFIC TOPIC.
Lesson idea: Most K–12 students aren’t old enough to vote, but local, state, and national elections always inspire debate as students share individual perspectives. Teachers can create a VoiceThread about the election and have students add their thoughts about why they would vote for one candidate over another. Giving students a voice to talk about which candidates they support and why will stimulate creative thinking and dialogue and deepen the collaborative atmosphere in your classroom.
POWTOON: TOOL FOR CREATING ANIMATED PRESENTATIONS.
Lesson idea: PowToon is a fun and easy-to-use alternative to popular presentation tools like PowerPoint and Prezi. Students can work together to create these short presentation videos to explain math problems or science theories, teach the class about material they’ve learned from their point of view, and predict what a new unit may be about. Teachers can also use PowToon to provide information about their classroom during Open House or Parent Night.
ANIMOTO: TOOL FOR CREATING VIDEOS AND PRESENTATIONS.
Lesson idea: When the work is relevant, students are more motivated because they can see the purpose of learning the skill. Allow students to use Animoto outside of the classroom to explore real-world or community topics. Let students drive the creation. Assign a group project in which students will use Animoto to present the project, findings, and recommendation to the class. This assignment should be developed as a group project.
AUDACITY: CROSS-PLATFORM SOFTWARE FOR RECORDING AND EDITING SOUNDS.
Lesson idea: There are endless possibilities for projects when students have the power to record, listen back, and publish. Teachers can record speeches to provide evidence of learning and have students create podcasts to show retention of work. Foreign language classes can record self-created stories in the languages being learned and share them with younger learners. Simply recording kids reading books and letting them listen to themselves read can promote reading development.
CANVA: ONLINE GRAPHIC DESIGN APPLICATION.
Lesson idea: We’re constantly trying to get students to write more, and we’re also always being asked “what do we do when we’re done?” With Canva, students can create cover pages for reports, poetry collections, ebooks, magazines, or any other project. Students can work in groups to brainstorm ideas, maybe even use Flickr to build storyboards, and create covers for student work.
Students who struggle with narrative writing can use Canva to organize complex information and create colorful, shareable infographics.
Kahoot! Is an easy-to-use, game-based blended learning tool. It enables educators to assess learners in a visual bar graph while students take control of their own learning. The platform is very entertaining and encourages creativity in students.
Lesson idea: Kahoot! is such a popular and exciting tool that you must have great ideas to share. We’ve been talking about collaboration, so why don’t we try sharing lesson ideas? Go to Twitter and tweet your favorite Kahoot! lesson using the hashtag #POUs #KahootLesson
Learning isn’t a spectator sport. Using active learning instructional tools and strategies can be a great way to engage students more fully.
Dr. Matthew X. Joseph (@MatthewXJoseph) is Director of Digital Learning and Innovation for Milford (MA) Public School.