Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

10 Budget-friendly Ways to Transform Your Classroom Into a Digital Learning Playground

10 Budget-friendly Ways to Transform Your Classroom Into a Digital Learning Playground

The use of technology in classrooms has become essential in this day and age.  Over 59% of the world’s population is now connected to the internet according to the latest Digital Population Report published by Statista, yet many teachers seem to be introducing educational technology very slowly. 

In a survey conducted by the University of Phoenix, it was found that 7 out of 10 teachers felt that mobile devices only served to distract their students, while 25% said they were intimidated by their students’ knowledge of technology. While these figures give an indication of the possible age-gap and the related tech-empowerment that should be embraced, most educators agreed that it should feature in their curriculums and are looking for ways to bring digital learning into their classrooms. 

Unfortunately, not all schools are created equal and budget restraints are also playing a role in the slow transformation. If you are an educator on a shoestring budget, we’ve got some budget-friendly ideas to get the process going.  

Digital learning offers a blend of visual and contextual content to help students learn (link to image)

Get going with mini-lessons on video

You can boost your lesson plans with podcasts or short videos on certain topics. There’s a wide variety of websites that cater specifically to educators. Teachertube is one of the best examples out there. 

It is basically an education-only version of the popular Youtube platform and it covers almost all core school subjects. It can assist adults in finding ways to manage their reputation online or to find appropriate Twitter slang hashtags. To find a video, you can search for a specific topic or browse through the most popular categories. For example, searching for “math help”, will open a search results page with geometry, algebra and pre-algebra videos. 

You can even make it age or grade-specific to get closer to the results you are looking for. This multimedia element will definitely resonate with the visual learners in your classroom.

Have virtual field trips

If you are planning a field trip, you can use Google Earth to explore the location before your actual visit. Imagine knowing everything about your local zoo’s location, history, points of interest or even the polar bears and their enclosure before you get to the zoo. 

You can similarly use Google Earth when giving a history lesson to look at the area under discussion, any definitive markers and other landmarks. While they are exploring, be sure to give the learners some very important pointers and lessons around the use of the internet and their personal online safety

Most of the popular field trip destinations in your area will also have websites with videos or other visual media that you can incorporate into your lesson plan to boost excitement. All you need is your connected device and a projector or large screen.

Tired of your noisy classroom?

There are some fantastic tools available online to help educators with their presentations and lessons, but one of the best in our opinion is Too Noisy, a noise meter that tracks and displays the noise level in your classroom. 

And it’s very accurate too! If displayed, you will probably find that students quiet down without any instruction to do so when the meter spikes. The learners may even go so far as to shush each other. This means that you can give your lesson or present your lesson plan without too much disruption.

Educators now have fun ways to effectively manage their “crowd-control”  (link to image)

Help your students to set up blogs

Blogging is a creative outlet and can be of great value to students, especially as it relates to writing heavy subjects and language arts classes. If you want to improve your students’ writing, WordPress is one of the best free platforms that come with a variety of themes and safety or privacy settings. 

It also has an app for mobile devices that will allow your students to blog from anywhere. This might also be a great opportunity to teach students basic internet concepts and terms such as the difference between web hosting and a domain name and how to ensure their blog or website’s safety. 

You can also get their creative juices pumping by getting them to think about their perfect domain name and the reasons behind it. With a blog, students can create:

  • Essays
  • Poems
  • Diary entries

Study and review content on webpages

Ready to modernize your note-taking? Look for a web page with content that relates to your lesson and allow learners to make notes directly on the page. Learners can take a screenshot and add their notes in text on any mobile device or on their laptops. 

You can also find free programs that will allow note-taking via a web page’s URL such as Bounce. If learners do not have individual devices you can turn it into group activities. Each group can make notes and provide feedback on how to improve a web page’s information or content. Once they are done you can review edits and think of fun prizes for the winning group.

Set up online activities for learners that finish their tasks early

If you have the means to do so, set up online stations in the back of your class for students to use when they finish their tasks early, with engaging ideas to add to your lesson plan. For example, set up devices with videos, websites or educational games that will allow the students to research any topics relevant to your lessons. 

You can also make use of the opportunity to teach them other cybersecurity tactics such as the dangers of public WiFi spots and how it affects their personal information. By doing so you will not only encourage them to finish their work timeously, but you will also make sure that every minute of lesson time is properly applied.

Engaged students will learn more and better because school forms a connected part of their lives (link to image)

The last ten minutes of class can also be used for exit tickets

Try to save ten minutes at the end of each lesson for exit tickets. These can open the door to digital learning and take the form of:

  • Journal entries or notes – using their mobile devices or laptops, students can summarize the lesson and what they learned
  • Presentation comments – share your presentation or slideshow with the students in order for them to make comments, review and expand on your lesson’s important points
  • Social Media – this may seem counterintuitive at first, but Twitter’s 140 character limit will help your students to summarize what they learned in class. You can even make it more fun by asking students to add an exclusive teacher or class hashtag, giving you the opportunity to review their summaries.

You can gather their feedback

To encourage engagement, response and feedback on content-processing activities, create and circulate surveys. There is a multitude of platforms and apps available such as SurveyMonkey, Google Forms and Poll Everywhere. 

Students can supply their responses via their own personal devices or through classroom devices to give you an instant understanding of their preferences and the activities they enjoy the most. The results will definitely enable you to improve your lessons and possibly, uncover more ways to introduce technology in your classroom.

Provide creative assignments around technology-focused subjects

You will be surprised at the level of the initiative your students will display when they have to use specific technologies, such as certain software or other platforms, to create their assignments. For example, you can ask students to create “how-to” guides on how to use their favorite apps or how to unbox and start up a new smart device. 

If you want to challenge them even more, you can ask them to do research and deliver a report on how certain technologies have impacted wars, politics, education or any other discerning subject. They might hate you for it or they might just develop more awareness and appreciation for the technologies they studied.

Think about introducing a game-based learning platform

You read that correctly, game-based. According to an article in the Journal of Learning, Media and Technology, researchers found that video games stimulated an increase in the release of the hormone dopamine which helps us to store and recall information. 

Most educational game-based platforms are designed to engage students and invigorate harder subjects and topics. These platforms allow teachers to create virtual classrooms where they can track a student’s progress and even create custom assignments, plans and specific questions related to their studies.

A world of possibilities is opening up when it comes to digital learning, but the truth is that it is not ultimately dependent on the tools and skill set, but rather the mindset. 

As the teacher or educator, your role in the digital age is to always be the first to look out for new ideas and methods, do the research and be the first explorer.

By doing this you will not only prepare your students for the future but also ensure engagement and ongoing learning in a generation that is ultimately connected.

Gary Stevens is a full-time front-end developer and part-time blockchain geek. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada with his 2 boys.

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