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Technology is everywhere. There’s no denying that and there’s no ignoring it. Some elementary students have cell phones already, and even preschool classes have computers and tablets in them. Students are more tech-savvy than many teachers nowadays, and they’re almost always better at operating certain technology than their parents. In previous years, teachers have struggled with what to do about the technological distractions in the classrooms. Cell phones, mp3 players, tablets, and more make their way into schools and keep students from focusing on the lessons and really making the most of their time in the classroom. After a few years of trying to ban cell phones and other technological devices from schools, educators began to shift their mindsets and come up with some ways to integrate technology into the classroom in a positive and educational way. Now, there are countless ways to utilize technology to enhance teaching science, English, math, and more. Particularly in the science classroom, technological integration can be key to getting students interested, keeping them engaged, and encouraging participation in activities. It can even be used to administer tests, present lessons, and more. Here are the top ways we’ve found to use technology to enhance teaching science.
Show Educational & Interactive Videos
Even in our technology-saturated world, students still get excited about watching videos in class. Maybe you found a video on YouTube that explains and demonstrates how the planets rotate around the sun, or maybe you found a video that presents the breakdown of a cell in an interesting way. When students are more excited about the platform from which they’re learning, they are far more likely to be engaged in the content. Some videos are even interactive, having you pause to ask the students a question or having students record responses or journal their ideas about a particular concept. If your students each have access to a computer in the classroom, you could have them explore a science-based website with educational videos or engage with scientific movies as a class.
Listen to Podcasts
Sometimes breaking up the norm can help with student engagement as well. If your students are used to listening to you lecture, try having them listen to a podcast on occasion. This will give them a different method for learning information and they may be excited to get a break from your lecturing (you’ll probably enjoy the break more). There are countless science-based podcasts available out there, and they cover everything from the simplest scientific ideas taught in early elementary school to the most complex scientific concepts that even professional scientists will appreciate. Give your students an assignment to find the best science-based podcasts out there and make it a Friday treat to listen to one during class each week, or make them part of your regular in-class activities.
Play Lesson Games
With a TCI subscription, your students have access to interactive lesson games that will help gauge their understanding of the lessons you’ve been teaching. They are fun and entertaining, and they help students see where they are with grasping particular concepts. You can allow your students to work individually on lesson games that our science curriculum provides, or you can create your own lesson games to do a whole class review of a particular unit or concept. Jeopardy, bingo, and other interactive science games can be played using technology to make them more interactive, fun, and reusable.
Use Classroom Management Apps
This one is applicable to just about any class, but it can keep students focused and on task without much effort from you, which is always a plus. Some apps can track the noise in a classroom and will react when it gets too noisy, some will allow your students to check-in or submit exit tickets via technology, and some simply provide timers or other daily things you might need as a science teacher. While you could go the old-school way and do these things without apps, utilizing technology to enhance science teaching is a great way to get your students on board with even the simplest things. Students love the apps that tell them when they’re too loud, and they are extremely effective in minimizing unnecessary noise. You can also have in-depth discussions with your students about how these apps work, what goes into developing them, and any ideas they have for classroom management apps that science teachers would appreciate.
Use Smart Phone & Tablet Apps
While this is in the same field of using apps in the classroom, this one is about having your students utilize their own devices. That can be a scary thought for some science teachers, but it is more likely to get students excited about what they’re doing and keep them more engaged throughout the entirety of a lesson. There are countless educational apps that your students can download onto their own devices and when you set up a virtual classroom or class account, you can see all of their activity on that app. This can be a great way to spend the last five minutes of class, you could use it as an extra credit assignment, or it can be something that’s required of your students each week. You can require that they complete a certain number of lessons or activities, or you can have them spend a certain number of minutes on the app in a given period of time. Obviously, you’ll need to find a way to monitor the use of personal devices in the classroom if you’re allowing students to be on them during class time, but once you establish ground rules, these apps can be incredibly beneficial.
Go on a Virtual Field Trip
Countless places offer virtual field trips for students and individuals who don’t live nearby their establishment. Essentially, these places give you a tour of their facilities, complete with educational information that would be presented by a tour guide should you visit the place in person. While this isn’t quite as exciting as a real field trip, it is an excellent way to integrate new information into your classroom in a fun and interesting way. Students will love seeing new places and learning about new things right from the comfort of their science classroom with access to virtual field trips.
Get Student Feedback with Surveys & Polls
It helps to have your students respond to you during class, but this can be challenging at times. Some students don’t want to respond because they don’t know the correct answer or because they’re afraid of looking silly in front of their peers, while others are too quiet or too disinterested to speak up. Using technology-based surveys or apps that allow polls will require all students to respond, increasing understanding and giving you the opportunity to touch on anything that may be unclear. Most of these apps will allow students to send responses directly to you, meaning you can see who responded in which way but the other students cannot, allowing for some anonymity, which is a big plus. Most survey apps allow you to create questions about absolutely anything, from if they understand the material to what activities they prefer to what they did over the weekend. These apps are incredibly beneficial for the science teacher looking to use technology to enhance teaching science, but they can also provide many advantages for all teachers.