Technology is vitally important in today’s classroom as we need to keep up with the knowledge and interests of our tech savy students. Kids today use twitter and facebook like we used email and home phones. Their cell phones are 10x more powerful then the computers we used in high school. In fact, I remember when cell phones were just starting to make their way in the world, I was in grade 12. Today as educators we need to be on the cutting edge to keep our students engaged and interested. Therefore, I am starting a technology in the classroom series where I will be exploring various uses of tech in the world of academics.
Part 1 – Online simulations.
Some labs are simply not practical or possible to do in the classroom but you still want to get your kids some hands-on experience, what can you do? Well as the name of this segment would suggest, you can employ online simulations were you provide your students with a task and worksheet which walks them through various aspects of the simulation. Two such simulation websites I have used extensively over the years are 1) Explore Learning and 2) PhET which is run by the University of Colorado. Both sites offer a range of interactive activities to really get your students involved and engaged. Furthermore, these simulations can act as excellent teacher demonstrations for things that would otherwise be impossible to show like the number of hydrogen ions in an acid – click here for an example of an excellent teacher demonstration.
Explore Learning requires a subscription which my board provides. Obviously this fact can affect your decision to use or not to use this site but let’s assume you decide to go forward because it really is worth a look. If you are unsure you want to fork out the cash, you can try the activities (they call them Gizmos) for 5 minutes each. Gizmos are filled with quality learning activities which come coupled with a student walkthrough worksheet as well as a teacher answer key. The worksheet allows the student to fully explore the activity and get the most out of it. Each activity also comes with 5 assessment questions at its conclusion. The results of these assessments show up on your administer homepage allowing you to determine your students strengths and weaknesses effectively. Within your admin area you can create classes and manage your students access to certain Gizmos as well as track their progress making Explore Learning an extremely effective leaning and teaching tool. If you are interested please have a look through their selection as they offer simulations in all the sciences as well as mathematics from Grade 3 through 12. One Gizmo that I particularly like is on the Circulatory System, have a look and let me know what you think. Also please let me know if you come across any other Gizmos that you find particularly useful.
PhET is similar to Explore Learning in many ways but does lack some of the functionality and control. Instead of site created walkthroughs, you gain access to a list of activities created and uploaded by fellow teachers. This gives you more choice but they don’t usually come with an answer key and some of the activities may be too specific to a certain teachers goals. With that said, PhET provides a selection of excellent activities that cover a large range of subjects and grade levels, plus it’s FREE and user friendly.
Well there you have it, get your students involved in tech by providing them with online simulations to give them the hands-on experience they require to reach their full potential.
If you have anything to add please feel free to post a comment or send me a message inside the Contact Me section. If you enjoyed this piece please subscribe to receive future post notifications or add me on Twitter as I’ll be posting Part 2 on the use of technology in the Flipped Classroom shortly.