“Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged.” Greg McKeown, founder and CEO of THIS, Inc.
Close your eyes for a minute. Now, think back through your years as a kid in school. What were your best years? Which teachers do you remember most fondly? Chances are, the teachers who come to mind are the ones who made learning come alive for you, who made learning fun. Do you remember her fascinating voices and accents she used when reading aloud? Maybe he took you on an exciting field trip that made you fall in love with botany. Did she seem to find a way to turn every lesson into a fun game for you and your classmates?
Brain research demonstrates the importance of fun and play in the classroom. Even the ancient Romans recognized and appreciated this truth—their words for play (ludere) and school (ludus) have the same root. When learning is fun, students are more relaxed and engaged, and information is more likely to make its way into the long-term memory. Lightening the learning environment can also make students more likely to try new things and tackle more difficult challenges, because they become less afraid of failing.
How EdTech Makes Learning Fun
As educational technology advances at lightning speed, teachers are gaining more opportunities to up the fun factor. Whether using interactive panels to introduce game-based learning or engaging students from the moment they walk in the door with digital bellringers, EdTech makes it easy for teachers to set the right tone in their classroom.
Here are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Use technology to spice up lectures
We’ve all done it—caught ourselves nodding off during a lecture (hoping nobody noticed that little puddle of drool on our desk). Let’s face it, lectures are not the most exciting things in the world. And yet, they remain a necessary and helpful tool in the classroom. But teachers can limit their time in lecture mode at the front of the class (“sage on the stage”) and breathe new life into lessons by incorporating some of the many wonderful EdTech resources at their fingertips.
Clear Touch Interactive® panels feature wireless connectivity. This allows you to come out from behind your laptop, walk around the classroom with ease, and engage with students. The crystal-clear, HD display means that you can present high quality, enlarged images. Using the full suite of intuitive, educational software included with your interactive panel, as well as other web-based resources, can transform any lecture into an exciting, engaging lesson.
Enhance your lecture on bower birds with a YouTube video about the remarkable male nest building. Treat your third graders to a poetry reading from Shel Silverstein. Download digital books for primary students and never worry that kids in the back can’t see the pictures during circle time again. Clear Touch™ panels also let you include interactive maps and other graphics with your lessons. Both instructor and students can participate in the lecture lesson by interacting with the panel’s multi-touch capabilities. Thanks to the rapid-growth of online lessons and collaborative teaching communities, your options are practically limitless.
Facilitate collaboration with EdTech
Kids love working together. It’s way more engaging and fun—and it distributes the workload. Teachers understand that collaborative lessons foster student-directed learning and helps address multiple learning styles. Letting students collaborate also encourages students to develop their own perspectives and appreciate those of their peers. Collaboration is an important skill valued and expected by the employers students are preparing to work for in the future. EdTech facilitates collaboration both inside and outside of the classroom, allowing students to create multimedia presentations that cater to individual strengths within a group.
In the classroom, students can use personal or shared devices to work on group projects, creating presentations through sites like Visme and Piktochart. With multi touch capabilities and the split-quadrant feature, Clear Touch Interactive® panels allow multiple students to collaborate while working on the same device. This is particularly helpful when used in its table-top position. These same sites can be accessed by individual students outside the classroom for continued work on a group project, extending the learning experience.
EdTech also makes presenting and interacting more fun. While it is important to engage students in discussion and to solicit their thoughts and feedback, many become nervous when put on the spot in from of their teachers and peers. Online discussion tools like Flipgrid and GoSoapBox allow students to post audio and/or video responses to questions posted by the teacher. Students can also engage with each other and offer feedback for continued development of a discussion. An added benefit to all of these types of programs is the teacher’s ability to track student engagement. This is very helpful in group projects where the weight of a project can often fall to one hyper-responsible student. Educational technology allows the teacher to see exactly who contributed to a project and how much.
Use technology to make a game of learning
The value of teaching through games is compelling. Games are not only a lot of fun, but they increase motivation in students. Games draw students into the learning process, foster a healthy sense of competition among students, and encourage students to reframe failures as stepping stones to greater success. When students experience learning through gaming, they grow more confident and independent in their thinking.
Programs like Google G Suite and Chrome browser offer plenty of low-cost and free games to incorporate into your lessons. Since Clear Touch Interactive® panels are software agnostic, you can easily open these games as well as popular educational programs like Starfall directly from the touch screen. In addition, our built-in educational software suite includes many customizable games for your lessons.
The best educational games nurture higher thinking skills and allow for create-your-own-adventure type experiences. When including game-based learning in your classroom, try to avoid games that offer arbitrary rewards, but rather games that challenge students to make difficult choices that lead to interesting and meaningful outcomes.
Host guest speakers—from anywhere
Why be the only instructor in your classroom? Mix it up with an occasional guest speaker. Someone who is a specialist on that genetics study in your science class. Or the Southern Gothic author who will make Faulkner come alive for your literature students. Guest lecturers offer fresh perspectives and can connect students’ academic learning to real-world scenarios and issues. They can give students a vision for where their education can take them.
Can’t afford to fly in an expert? No worries. Advanced teleconferencing software has created a shrinking planet. You can invite anyone from anywhere in the world to speak to your class live, often at no cost and with very few logistical hurdles. Bring speakers in through the magic of Google Hangouts Meet, Skype, or FaceTime. Skype even offers a list of guest speakers willing to volunteer to visit your students. Clear Touch™ panels are compatible with all video conferencing software—not need to set up any additional equipment. Students can see and hear the guest lecturer clearly on a large, HD display with rich audio, while the built-in camera allows the speaker to see the audience.
From the perspective of the teachers, what’s the greatest thing about making learning fun? Dopamine. That’s right. That critical little neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, in the brain that aids in transmission of signals. But more than that, it’s our brain’s pleasure signal, our internal reward system. When we do things we enjoy, our brains reward us with a little shot of feel-good dopamine. And what does that mean for the classroom learner? Two things. First, we tend to continue to do things that make us feel good. When we have fun learning, we want to keep learning more. And secondly, the presence of dopamine during the learning process heightens the transfer of information to our long-term memory.
So go ahead—let the fun begin. Make your classroom the place to be. Incorporate EdTech to make your job easier and more enjoyable, and watch your students fall in love with learning. Take a little advice from The Cat in the Hat: “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”