1/12/2012

Tech provides more usable time.

One of the reasons teachers use technology is that it saves time and effort. Of course many tools are designed to reduce the time and effort it takes for instructors to produce material. Examples of this include test generators and word processors. Today, though, I want to focus on our students during class time. Unfortunately, students can be left to stare into space as we take time to draw something out on the over head or sketch an equation on the whiteboard.

One of the greatest tools I have found for math teachers is the Desmos online calculator. The power of this application lies in the fact that a teacher can manipulate equations and the students can instantly see how the graph of that equation changes in response. A teacher told me recently how excited he is that he no longer has to sketch graphs out by hand while teaching. "And you know that half the kids start day dreaming when we do that", he added. With Desmos, he can use his time to explain concepts and cut down on the wandering minds.

There are also several interactive science sites that are very good. The Dynamic Periodic Table is excellent, for example. During a lesson, you need only hover over sections of the table to bring up important information. It's great for answering student questions or covering material clearly and quickly. Biology teachers love the Cells Alive online cellular models for the same reason.

For language arts, Google docs is a great time saver. This online suite of programs allows users to create presentations, documents and spreadsheets for free. It also allows users to collaborate on any of those files in real time.  The reason this cuts down on dead air is that no one has to wait around for group members to read over material and make comments. Everything in the document is written simultaneously, so everyone in the group can read everything while it is being typed. You as an instructor can also comment on student writing in real time. This means that an entire class can be writing while you make encouraging comments on each paper. All of this is done simultaneously and all without interrupting anyone's train of thought.

Class time should really be used for learning, not waiting for us to draw or read over material. The technology I've discussed is a great start, but there's so much more. What sorts of tools have you found to get more learning out of the limited time you have in class?