Tech Talk: Engaged Learning

In recent years, researchers have noted the importance of engaged learning. This type of instruction encourages a learner to construct and produce knowledge in meaningful ways. Students teach by interacting with one another. Inexpensive technology tools can enhance this process:

  • Electronic document camera

    A document camera, also known as a “visualizer,” is a great tool for engaged learning. The high-resolution camera enables teachers to display a full-screen image of small items. A switching mechanism allows easy switching between the classroom computer and the document camera.

    In one case, a teacher used such a camera to teach her first-grade students how to tie a shoe; another teacher used the visualizer to help second-graders learn to tell time. By placing her wristwatch under the visualizer, an 8-foot diagonal image of the watch was projected on the screen.

    With an adapter, a microscope can be attached to a visualizer, and students can see amoebas on the screen instead of having to look into the microscope.

  • Interactive slate

    The interactive slate has the same functionality as interactive whiteboards, but with significant advantages. For the same functionality, interactive slates are a fraction of the cost of interactive whiteboards and require no installation, other than a Bluetooth receiver connected to the computer USB port and installed software. The slates enable teachers to walk around the room and still be able to annotate on the screen via software.

  • Electronic student-response system

    If you ever have watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” then you understand the concept of an electronic student-response system. These systems are usually RF systems used by students to respond to questions. The software can grade responses and record the grades.

Each student has a remote device with six to 10 buttons. A teacher asks a question in a lecture or via software, and students press a button on the remote that corresponds with their answers.

Electronic student-response systems engage student involvement and provide teachers instant feedback. The projection screen instantly displays a breakdown of the responses and shows the teacher the percentage of the class that understands the topic.

Teachers can use the immediate feedback to tailor their teaching to concentrate on concepts with which students are having difficulties and to avoid wasting additional time on concepts they already understand. This is valuable information a teacher cannot develop as quickly from paper quizzes.

Emerging technologies such as these will continue to bring about engaged learning in classrooms.

Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in educational facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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