Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

8 Apps for Testing Student-Created Curriculum

8 Apps for Testing Student-Created Curriculum

By Chawanna Bethany Chambers, PhD

reading too much? Whooos ReadingFor centuries, one of teachers’ primary responsibilities was curriculum development. Their job, among others, was to create content and provide resources for students to use as they built new knowledge.

Over the years, the concept of curriculum development and responsibility expanded and eventually changed hands. As states began to restructure their education programs through local education agencies like districts and schools, curriculum design took on new looks.

Companies sprouted up everywhere and began selling curricula created for mass consumption. Textbook publishers added their input and packaged textbook systems for purchase.

Today, many teachers still create their own lesson plans, activities, and assessments based on curriculum standards and scope and sequences provided by their districts, but a vast number of educators use pre-packaged curricula in the classroom.

Despite the traditional view of education being controlled by adults and acted upon by students, the 21st century brought with it a more radical approach in which students—the focus of education—would have more power over their learning and take a more active role in their experiences. The concept is not new though.

More: 5 Ways to Amplify Student Voice With Technology

In fact, the theoretical framework for student-centered and -created curriculum dates back to the 19th century, with educational philosophers like Maria Montessori, and even into the 20th century, with constructivists such as Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and Jerome Bruner.

Fundamentally, these thinkers argued for student empowerment through education, especially in the social context. Critics of constructivism contend that young learners need more guidance before they can discover and explore higher level concepts on their own, and I agree.

Teachers can implement both ideas successfully if the planning is thorough. We can teach students how to design their own curriculum. We can guide them along the road of self discovery and empower them to use personal interests as kick starts for deeper learning. The best way to do this is to start small and with ample technology integration.

Technology is an amazing tool with endless possibilities, especially in 21st century education. Perhaps you aren’t ready for semester-long student-created curricula. Maybe you’d like to test it out on a couple of individual lessons within a unit.

That’s perfect. The key is to trial and error. Take a gander at the educational apps below and see if you can brainstorm some ways to hand some creative power to your students.

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1. Flipboard

A personal magazine in which users can curate their own content based on topic, publication, or writer. The feed is customized 100% by the student and provides students with an intuitive and fun way to find expository texts for class concepts and skill development. Students can even create a magazine newsletter to share with others. This app is ideal for any discipline.

More: Foster an Authentic Writing Journey With Digital Portfolios

2. Newsela

A student-friendly hub for nonfiction articles, this app/site offers text sets for specific disciplines as well as leveled texts in which the articles are tailored for every reading level. It’s possible to take quizzes and annotate directly on the articles. This app is geared toward English/Language Arts, but any discipline can utilize it effectively.

3. PowToon

Students can use this app to create animated videos for presentations and lessons in which they select the topic and method of delivery. This tool can be used in both formative and summative assessments with any content area.

4. Kahoot

This tool provides free clicker technology allowing students to create their own quizzes, surveys, and discussions for classroom topics and interact on any device (phone, tablet, laptop, etc.).

All students need is the game pin to connect with each other or others worldwide and compete or collaborate to deepen their understanding of various concepts. Like the others, this tool is ideal for any discipline. The versatility is one of its perks.

5. Solve the Outbreak (CDC)

This fun app is a game in which students are presented with a real-life dilemma: minimize a disease outbreak as quickly and efficiently as possible. They’re expected to use clues, analyze data, and create solutions to keep the world safe.

This game can be played in conjunction with a unit study or as an exercise in using the scientific method. It’s ideal for science classes, but students can use it in their curriculum for any discipline with the right guidance and planning—interdisciplinary studies is an effective way to learn.

6. VideoScience

What better way to empower students to design their own lessons than offering an app that allows them to choose from a collection of existing lesson plans? This app, while still growing, houses an assortment of inquiry-based experiments and lesson plans that engage students.

It’s a good way to scaffold curriculum development and amplify student interest in the curriculum.

More: 7 Apps for Combining SAMR and Science

7. Numblr: Math Game

It’s Scrabble for math! Perhaps you want students to create their own study activities and formative assessments. They could potentially use this app as a tech-infused option for both of those. Not only will it sharpen the students’ skills, but it shows them how to effectively incorporate technology into the learning environment.

8. Historia World

Welcome to the world of history. This app is designed to test knowledge on a variety of history subjects. It’s an excellent way to explore research topics and ideas for unit activities. Encourage students to use it for those reasons or for formative assessments on a given theme.

Bonus: Whooo’s Reading

This online reading log allows students to carve their own path towards standards-based proficiency. Students read the books they’re interested in and answer the open-ended, higher-level thinking comprehension questions that appeal most to them.

All questions are standards-aligned, and teachers can track whether students are struggling with one standard or another, while allowing them to make decisions for their own learning.

There are countless ways to incorporate student voice into the curriculum process while still maintaining control over state standards and skills development. You can open students to a new educational experience while facilitating elevated levels of meaningful engagement and student achievement.

Students wielding control over the topics, homework activities, classroom practice, assessments, and other curriculum factors can revolutionize the way we teach and prepare students for life after K-12.

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