Tech Trends for Education FETC 2015

Tech Tools to Liven Up Your Classroom: 5 Trends from FETC

Hekademia attended FETC in Orlando a few weeks ago and left inspired to try some new tools in our online courses. As teachers in blended classrooms emphasized at the conference, even if you don’t have computers or tablets available in your classroom, most high school students have smartphones. It’s easier than ever to incorporate technology into your lessons and assessments to create engaging activities that students enjoy working on. Here’s some ideas for leveraging technology to promote higher-order learning:

1. Let Students Create

The key to second order knowledge is to have students build something themselves. Below are some articles and resources that share different tools and ideas for creating digital content – presentations, interactive digital posters, eBooks, videos, and more. FETC had two spotlight sessions on the “Makerspace Movement” in education, as well as many sessions on how to get started with creating these types of projects for your students.

2. Have Students Collaborate

Collaborative work can be fun, and now it’s possible to collaborate with students across the world thanks to many of today’s technologies. Here are a number of tools and techniques for classroom collaborations:

  • Share writing and encourage feedback with NewsActivist: NewsActivist is a free tool that lets students write about selected subjects in a private area. You can enable them to share what they write with just their classmates, or with the larger audience of students from across the world using NewsActivist. Students can then provide feedback on other students’ writings. Learn more in this brief article.
  • Collaborative Document Edited with Google Drive: Google Drive was the talk of the conference. It lets you share and collaboratively edit Google Docs with anyone else who has a Google account, for free.
  • With the power of video conferencing apps like Skype and Google Hangouts, our ability to connect with people all across the world has never been easier.  Teachers can use Skype and similar tools to bring guest lecturers and experts into the classroom. Find a Teacher or Other Expert to Skype with.

3. Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning was another trendy topic at FETC—and rightfully so; PBL has proven to be a terrific way to spark intrinsic motivation and higher-order learning.  When students apply what they are learning to projects that they undertake, the topics they are studying take on a much deeper meaning. Not only does the activity and the increased sensory exposure of the project work help to stimulate the mind, the process and extended time often required of the project further reinforces learning.

Here are some excellent resources for further exploration of PBL from the FETC conference and beyond:

4. Gamify and Simulate

Using gaming mechanics to make learning more fun is easier than you think.  Any time you bring competition or levels of achievement to a classroom exercise, you’re gamifying your classroom.  For example, create a Google scavenger hunt with facts that students will need to know in order to complete a major assignment. The first team to complete the scavenger hunt wins that round.  Students complete the necessary first-order knowledge exercise, get more efficient at using search tools, and then get to move on to the next phase of the project.

Here’s a variety of resources and ideas for using gaming and simulations in the classroom:

5. Incorporate Student Input & Gather Feedback

There are many applications that allow students to provide live feedback, and most can be used from smartphones. For example, you can gather feedback by creating a “back channel” using Twitter, which is great for giving teachers feedback in a fully online course.

  • Polling Applications: PollDaddy makes it easy to gather feedback from students and determine if they are struggling with a topic.
  • Twitter:  Simply create a unique hashtag and have students post feedback to Twitter using that hashtag. Students will need a Twitter account to do this.

These are just some of the exciting trends happening in online and blended learning.  Have other resources you’d like to share?  Please post to comments below!

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