Oct 26, 2009

More Multimodal Learning

A couple weeks ago, we talked about a few new ways that student engagement could be improved in the classroom. Rote memorization is falling by the wayside while several new formats and practices take its place, and teachers are forging new methods of integrating technology with curriculum. This week, we’ll cover a few more ways that students can play a role in transforming their education.

Many teachers are falling over themselves in the rush to implement 21st century web-based tools in their courses. The common scenario of having an entire class “switch-off” when they enter the classroom is under scrutiny, and some educators are asking why education has chosen to ignore the reality of life as a modern student to instead fall back on tired practices. But those who choose to explore the potential of applications like Facebook and Twitter have not quite fully grasped just how to use these tools for education. As a student, you can play a role in making class time less boring, more fun, and abundantly more educational.

While some teachers may be more open than others to integrating new practices into their teaching style, it’s important to start small. Try suggesting that your teacher records his or her lectures (or maybe bring in a recording device for them) so that audio files are available for reference later, such as for studying or writing a research paper. This also helps capture anything that you may have missed while you jotted down notes. Then, post the lecture in a place where the entire class can access it. Having some notes to listen to on your iPod before taking a test can really help keep all that information in your head.

Much of the same could be said of PowerPoint presentations. If your teacher is a fan of this method of lecturing, tell them about SlideShare.net. This site is a free place to post files like PowerPoint lectures, and can provide access to anyone in the class with an Internet connection.

The ubiquitous application Facebook can also be useful. Consider creating a Facebook Group for your class. This will provide a great space for discussing homework, organizing study groups, posting useful resources, and just about any other communication need. Plus, as a bonus, it gives teachers and students a place to connect outside the classroom, and lets teachers see how students are handling the material (for example: the kind of questions that may be asked regarding a particular essay topic).

A more extreme example would be running some king of educational ARG, or Alternate Reality Game. ARGs are growing in popularity, and have been used for several purposes (especially marketing). What if a teacher set-up an ARG that taught you something? Imagine an Environmental Science course where students had to collect data in the field, make observations, and answer questions through text messaging to find a downed alien spaceship. Or, how about a History lesson where students had to work together to gather clues in a museum, eventually leading them to a particular location to find the answer to a mystery? Odds are, any teacher that went through the effort of setting up an educational ARG would be giving his or her students something they would never forget.

Remember, talk to your teacher first before trying any of these suggestions (they won’t appreciate you posting their lecture all over the Internet without them knowing!). If you can help your teacher understand and implement the tools that you use everyday for fun, the more fun you’ll have with your own education.

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