Education

8 unusual ways to use a computer in class

Finding creative ways of using technology in the classroom is beneficial for both teachers and students as it enhances engagement levels. From helping with communication, to improving presentations with media and visuals, with technology, there’s virtually no limit to the ways learning can be improved.

But when you have classes to plan, work to mark, parent’s emails to answer and meetings to attend, where are you going to find the time? We’ve put together eight unusual and creative ways for you and your students to use a computer in class.

Go on a Digital Field Trip!

Yes, sounds like a perfect solution to all those soggy days out where half the kids fall over in the mud, Charlie forgets his wellies and half the class need the toilet when the nearest is half an hour away! A really effective (and ever-more-popular) use of technology is to forget all the hassles and do a digital field trip instead. With Google Streetview and other similar apps, you can virtually explore parks, forests and even national and international landmarks, all from the comfort of your classroom. No coats or wellington boots required! Imagine you’re doing a project on the history of the USA – then why not virtually experience the view from the Statue of Liberty? Or fly over the Grand Canyon? It’s a great way to take learning beyond the page. It’s exciting and much more memorable than the whole class trying to look for references in a book!

Digital field trips save you money and also allow you to experience events which are almost impossible to attend. This might be following a world record attempt, or anything which is recorded live. For nature studies this could be using a webcam to watch the hatching of chicks. Events can be recorded so that students can catch up on developments, such as a NASA space launch, for example.

Early finishers

What do students who finish assignments or projects before the rest do to pass the time? Well, why not have a range of online activities ready for them? These ‘learning stations’ encourage and support those working at their own pace and prevent them having to twiddle their thumbs whilst other students catch up. All you need to do is to have a short list of videos and learning-based games ready, or let them explore online activities which relate to projects that are either underway or coming up, and then all their time is put to good use.

Go Professional

As a teacher, you’ll know better than anyone the volumes of work the children produce – but what do you do with it all once it’s marked? Well, a great way of valuing children’s work is to come up with a plan to publish their work. Many schools produce yearbooks these days, similar to those in the USA. Every class could publish their own shared book, featuring either a specific project or a collection of each child’s best work over the term or year. The making of these books could be a project in itself, and it will help students to consider design, layout, book covers and a whole load more skills. Imagine the delight of parents, grandparents and the children themselves. The great thing is that there are lots of easy options to produce books, Lulu.com being one of them. Or, to avoid costs, why not get the children to make their own ebooks? Canva.com is free and easy to use. Their work can be saved as a PDF and downloaded.

Role Reversal

Have you ever been on a school student council? Yeah, that’s when the children decide what THEY would like to do in school. And “be the teacher” is always a popular choice! Just for a second, consider all the apps, devices and programs (on top of regular lesson plans) that need to be mastered to some degree. It can easily be overwhelming. Why not hand a new app or program to a student and ask them to work with it, and once they are proficient, they can teach everyone else, including the teacher. This creates maximum participation for the students and it’s a great way to create inclusivity.

Review Webpages and Websites

What makes a great website? What makes a page so appealing? Getting your students to critique the sources of their information is a great way for them to gain a better understanding of how we communicate and, importantly, what makes the information we source reliable and trustworthy?

Build Vocabulary

Images are continually used to help students build their vocabulary, and by presenting a carefully selected range of images, teachers provide a tangible example of words they are trying to teach. Why not create a series of images and the class work together to extract as many adjectives as they can from the image. It’s simple but very effective. If you want to make this more competitive, you can award points for the students who come up with the most creative descriptions. It’s a fun and stimulating way to learn. Digital images on your computer can easily be used as writing or discussion prompts for project-based learning.

Gamified Learning

The skills which students pick up from typing games and other entertainment activities on a computer cannot be underestimated. They make computing fun, and however mundane or uninspired the games may be, they are all helping children to expand their working knowledge of computers. Gamified learning in the classroom can be as simple as creating a virtual scavenger hunt where you give the class a list of questions that they have to find the answers for using their computers. If you want to emphasise collaboration, then place the students into different teams or duos.

Videoconferencing

In the recent past we’ve all become used to Zooming, Skyping or whatever app you use. But in class these can be used to create exciting lessons. Why not connect with experts, authors, teachers in different countries, or anyone who can help with your projects? Webcams enable two-way communication and also enable those who at home due to illness to participate in class, as if they were there!

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