Using interactivity to engage a digital generation.

A study published by Nobel Prize winning physics professor Carl Wieman suggests that teaching methods using interactive technology can be far more effective than traditional lectures. The study confirms what many teachers know intuitively – although the question remains, what kinds of interactive technology are most effective in the classroom?

Wieman found that students who were taught physics using interactive methods at the University of British Columbia scored about twice as high when tested as those attending traditional lectures on the same material. That was true even if the lectures were delivered by far more experienced teachers.

The interactive method he used involved short, small-group discussions, demonstrations, question-answer sessions and electronic quizzes that gave instructors real-time graphic feedback on what students had and had not learned successfully.

There are six key technologies that you could use to enhance the use of your IWB…..

1. Voice amplification

University professors have been using wireless mic systems in lecture halls for many years, but research indicates that voice reinforcement can be very valuable in standard classrooms as well.

Special education teachers began the trend, finding that students with learning disabilities did a lot better in class when teachers used sound systems to moderately increase their voice levels. Further research suggests that almost anyone can benefit, whether children or adults, gifted or learning disabled, when the instructor’s voice is reinforced.

2. Unified Classroom Communications

The influx of tablets highlights a trend toward unified technologies that combine collaboration, streaming and other educational applications into single or closely-related systems.

For example, the Promethean ActivClassroom, ties learner response systems and voice reinforcement to interactive whiteboards and an open source library of educational software and activities.

3. Student response systems.

An important advantage for Weiman’s instructors was the student response system he used, in essence each gives an instructor the ability to ask a multiple choice or true/false question during class and get immediate feedback on pupil comprehension. If the percentage of  who answered correctly is high, it’s time to move on to new material. If it’s low, the instructor can spend more time on the topic. It’s a simple idea, but as the Weiman research shows, it can be extremely powerful.

4. Collaborative learning.

Weiman also put an emphasis on small-group discussion during class time. One trend we’re seeing is the use of collaborative learning systems to enhance group activities.

For example, students working on laptops plugged into the network can each take over a shared machine with a large-screen display, collaborating on documents, opening websites, sharing files or making presentations to the full class. This also means pupils can work together from different locations in a distance learning environment. An example of this is SMART’s Bridgit software to provide similar capabilities. Bridgit allows students to share screens, voice and video and work on shared documents, whether together in a classroom or across a distance learning connection. The great power of collaborative systems is engagement. Used thoughtfully, they can help students pay more attention in class and take ownership of the material they are asked to learn.

5.  E-books and tablet PCs

As the price of e-book readers and some tablets have fallen dramatically, along with the move of written classroom materials to an electronic format pupils will use e-readers to access webcasts, input answers into response systems, and collaborate in many ways. As we progress towards the utopia of one device per pupil

6. Recording and streaming

More and more teachers are adding cameras and microphones to classrooms to record or even stream video to pupils. Recording classes for students who can’t be present or those who would like to review difficult material they have covered that day.

Traditional teaching methods aren’t dead but interactivity offers teachers the opportunity to enhance their teaching and engage a digital generation, there’s much to gain from thoughtful use of these six core technologies.