Teachers and their students now have access to a large variety of online tools and websites that they can use to enhance the learning experience. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this is truly changing the educational landscape as we know it. Here are 6 ways in which this is happening right now.
1. Children Are Picking up Coding Skills at a Younger Age
Coding is huge right now. Not only do kids who understand coding have a potentially marketable skill, they also have an understanding of logic and cause and effect. Even better, these skills aren’t only being taught at the upper primary and high school levels.
Children as young as preschoolers can now learn the basic skills that will turn them into amazing coders as the grow older. One tool, Scratchjr allows kids to create animations and games well before they are able to read.
2. Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality Are Altering The Classroom
Imaging reading a textbook lesson on the Revolutionary War. You’re learning about the Boston Tea Party and other events that lead up to the first battle. All in all, it’s pretty dry stuff, then you turn the page to find a QR code. You scan the code using your smart device, and suddenly you are watching a video reenactment of the Tea Party.
In another book, scanning a QR code gives you access to some online learning games that will help you to better understand a math lesson. These things and more are possible thanks to augmented reality technology.
It would be a wonderful thing if students in all classrooms were able to enjoy the benefits of field trips to museums, aquariums, and other educational spaces. Unfortunately, many students aren’t so fortunate. Distance, safety concerns, and budget issues make this unattainable.
Fortunately, virtual reality can be a very useful substitute. Picture this. You have a classroom of students in an alternative learning environment. They are at risk, and getting them engaged in the learning process is difficult to say the least. Sending them out on field trips is likely to be a disaster due to behavioral and other concerns.
One way to keep students like this interested and involved in the learning process is through virtual reality. Getting on a bus and going to the museum may not be possible, but donning a pair of VR goggles and ‘touring’ the museum certainly is.
3. Learning is Becoming More Active Less Passive
Although many schools remain dogmatic about keeping devices out of the hands of children in the classroom, the truth is BYOD gets students engaged in the learning process. Rather than continuing the traditional ‘lecture model’ where students are expected, and often fail, to pay rapt attention to the teacher delivering the lesson, bringing devices into the classroom allows students to become engaged in the lesson as it happens.
Students can submit questions as the lesson is being taught, take small mini quizzes. In a flipped classroom, students could even use their devices before class to watch videos or read the material and then spend their class time engaging in discussions and working on projects.
4. Collaboration is Becoming The Norm
The once dreaded group project is becoming more common, and it’s also become easier for everybody involved to navigate. In the past, collaborative projects didn’t happen very often in or outside of the classroom. In the classroom, completing these projects often meant having students crowd around single workstations as they struggled to work together with limited resources.
Outside of the classroom, students had to figure out how to get together, pass floppy disks and flash drives from one person to another or email documents back and forth. The process was messy, frustrating, and ripe for conflict.
Today, cloud storage, BYOD, and the existence of a variety of online tools that allow for real-time collaboration and communication has changed things significantly. Students can work on documents and presentations together from their own homes, and they can access shared documents so that each team member is guaranteed that they are working with the correct ones.
5. Education is Becoming More Tailored
Online tools give teachers options when it comes to tailoring lessons for each student’s learning needs. This means that rather than taking a one size fits all approach to a particular lesson, teachers can take into consideration each student’s abilities, learning style, and learning preferences into consideration. For example, students in a science classroom learning about plant and animal classification might all have the same learning objectives.
However, they don’t all have the ability to learn the material at the same pace, they don’t respond well to the same instructional styles, and they don’t find the same activities and approaches to be engaging. Good online learning tools can assess students knowledge, suggest a variety of activities for students to choose from, and then recommend further activities based on the knowledge the student has acquired.
6. Learning Games Are More Relevant to Students Than Ever
If you were a student in the eighties or nineties, chances are you went back to the computer lab once or twice a week to spend time playing learning games. This was always a fun break from the norm, but the games were a bit lackluster. After all, the games certainly didn’t resemble what was in the arcades, or what students were playing on their home consoles. This is certainly not the case today.
Online learning games now have amazing graphics, avatars, engaging characters, well thought out story lines, and have interfaces that work just like the games students play on social media and on their game consoles. Games like Citizen Science, Econauts, and Progenitor X are all games that teach students valuable information about science, using technology and gaming design that results in games that students actually look forward to playing.
If the goal is to make education work for everybody, it seems as if the best approach is to embrace online learning tools. When this happens, the classroom becomes a place where more students can find success.