Letting students use technology to create presentations, reports, journals, etc., can be an easy way to introduce technology in a lesson plan or project.
Guest Post by Rebecca Garland
If you’ve been teaching longer than a few years, you already know that it can be tricky to be a “perfect” teacher all the time. While we might play the part of perfect when it comes times for evaluations and such, most of the time we tend to fall back on what we know – which usually isn’t the latest and greatest technology.
Unfortunately the lack of planning time and huge amounts of expectations in the classroom create a challenge when it comes time to work in some technology-based lessons. In many cases, there just isn’t time to learn about the sites or figure out how to use them – no matter how great they looked in the thirty minute meeting you had with the technology specialist last week.
Rather than just blowing off improving technology in the classroom, you should look for ways to use it more simply. The key to this is to let the students create with technology – it’s far less time-consuming for the teacher than having to create a lot of content yourself. Here are a few quick lessons that have a great technology tie-in that shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to plan or organize.
GoAnimate.com – It’s an animation website (wait, don’t panic!) that your students can use to create their own short movies. All you have to do is send students to the website on the library or computer lab computers. Have them set up their own free accounts and explain that there are very limited choices for free accounts when it comes to customization of characters, but they are creative enough to work around that.
Once they are signed in, they should create an animation in one of the available “worlds” to perhaps summarize a book or short story, deliver a speech they have written, teach a lesson on a particular topic or introduce themselves or their ideas to the class. It’s a great way to present student work without having to force students to the front of the room.
Voki.com – Another great, simple website that students can jump right into. Voki creates talking, somewhat animated avatars. Have students write poetry or speeches and then create a Voki to actually read the message aloud. Or make a final deliverable for a formal paper a bit more interesting by having a Voki that the student has created read it aloud to you.
Both Voki and GoAnimate are “cutesy”, but often letting students play with a website gets them much more engaged in what you’re asking them to do. Rather than just the typical ‘write a summary of the article’, tell students to create a Voki to describe it instead. It uses the same principle of summarizing and picking out main points, but it also lets students dabble in the sorts of things that make learning ‘fun’ to the digital mind.
Blogger.com – If your students have access to Blogger, have them use the blogs instead of a journal to outline ideas or create products for your assignments. Since the blogs are visible to the world, you might assign pen names (that you would know, of course) if your students are underage – and be sure to get permission ahead of time. Stress to students that having published work means it must be mindful of the audience and cautious at the same time.
Let the students write journal entries, address prompts you’ve set up, or summarize chapters of the text or novel you’re working on in class. One idea that is a bit more involved and “out of the box” is to have students set up the blog as if they are the main character in a novel or perhaps even a scientific element or historical figure. They must stay “in character” throughout the blog posts and post a minimum number of times exploring concepts, ideas and plot points through their posts. You would need only to go to their posts to view the blogs when the assignment is finished to create a grade. You could even have fun leaving comments for your students to have them respond with deeper thoughts on the posts – much like a more traditional reading response journal.
[Click here to open a brief video tutorial showing how easy it is to get started blogging with Blogger.]
Have you used these, or similar tools, to create lesson plans that incorporate technology? Do you have any experiences to share that can help others? Please comment and share your insights, ideas, or questions! Thanks – KW
Rebecca Garland is a freelance education writer specializing in creating materials to inform, educate and entertain readers. She represents a Minneapolis technical school online as well as creating materials other secondary teachers might be able to use in the classroom to improve student engagement and foster deeper learning.
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