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Survival Guide to Teaching the 21st Century Learner (Part 1)

From the desk of Alicia Swedberg

Long past are the days where teachers lecture from the chalkboard. The clumsy unforgiving tools of overhead projector transparencies and rote worksheets have been replaced by more intelligent, interactive devices and applications that previous generations never imagined. At their fingertips, teachers have access to multiple classroom computers, web cams, interactive whiteboards, student response systems and so much more. In the ultra competitive world we live in, teachers are not only expected to embrace the new and improved technology hardware, but seamlessly integrate it into their curriculum in order to motivate 21st Century learners. All of the technological options may seem like a daunting world to an overwhelmed teacher fresh out of college or a veteran teacher stuck in her ways, but technology can be integrated well. Accepting and adopting a few key technology survival tips can change a teacher forever.

Time invested now is time saved later.

Integrating technology into the 21st Century classroom can not only save you a significant amount of time, but most importantly, it can also save your sanity. Technology in the classroom should not be viewed as another time-consuming subject to teach but rather as a way to enhance the curriculum already being taught. For instance, creating a free interactive online poster at www.glogster.com, called a Glog is more enticing to a student than making a poster with markers. Animated, interactive projects allow students to be actively engaged and to love learning. In turn, classroom management and comprehension of required skills becomes a breeze.

Another proven timesaver is putting your classroom resources and interactive activities in an online learning environment such as Moodle, a free open source tool, to help organize your lessons and provide your students with an environment they can access anywhere, anytime. Not only will having an understanding of available technology make your classroom instruction easier, but being familiar with available productivity and collaboration tools such as Google Edu Apps will make your time spent on other teaching duties such as grades and lesson plans more efficient. Being more productive with your time means you have more time for the important things.

Technology is a tool to help inform, inspire, and create.

Technology comes in all shapes, sizes, uses, and life expectancies. However, not all technology is created equal and overloading your lessons with the wrong tools could leave you stranded. For starters, creating worksheets in a Microsoft Word document does not enhance learning. Technology tools need to engage students. As we all know, students can seek out and gain a significant understanding of any given topic from a number of reliable online sources. In addition, they can be inspired by their peers’ explorations of the online catacombs of information. Learners perform best when they are actively engaged and know their opinion is being heard, so allow students to publish their own work online. Validation can come through using online community tools such as blogs, nings, wikis and other discussion forums. These technological tools provide vast collaborative audiences, but make sure you find tools that have a portal geared for education like Edmodo, Voicethread, and Wikispaces so you can have the safest environment possible for you students.

Take a few days to play with these Web 2.0 tools and start thinking about how you can incorporate them in your instructional philosophy. Tune in next time for three more survival tips you can’t teach without!

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