The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 19, 2012

The powerful impact of engaging instruction

By Marianne Bright for the SNAP

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 — It’s easy to understand the excitement over e-books: textbooks now can include video, audio and 3-D graphics. Listening to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech or watching the liberation of  a WWII concentration camp, for instance, can have a more powerful impact on students than if they just read about or look at pictures of these events.

Smartphones — smaller, cheaper and “cooler” than laptops — recently have found their way into some classrooms. There are lots of “apps” that encourage learning. For example, older students can record themselves solving problems and then post the videos to a private social networking site where classmates can watch.

Students are using iPads or other tablet devices in the classroom, too. They load e-books on their tablets, watch a movie and write a review, write collaboratively using web-based document software or create a multimedia presentation. Older kids might subscribe to newspapers or periodicals and then, as a class, discuss the current events they have read about.

Other technologies that are making their way into the classroom include: microphone systems that amplify teacher lessons; wireless writing tablets that allow teachers to move about the classroom and check work as they add notes to a screen at the front of the class; and document cameras, which project pages from a book or live handwriting onto a screen.

These tools provide much more than entertainment. There is growing evidence that technology improves student achievement on tests in core subject areas and increases overall GPA.

Research by the National Reading Panel and the Education Development Center Inc. on the use of technology in reading instruction shows positive results for students in reading fluency, vocabulary development and reading comprehension. Students who used interactive electronic readers significantly outperformed those using traditional paper-based readers. Some electronic books provide animations and illustrations so that children can read more independently. When students engage with interactive text, they have a better ability to recount story events.

Technology provides more opportunities for teacher and student collaboration, as well. Students have new ways in which to share their work and create content together. For example, they can use Goggle Docs — a Web-based version of Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point — to create and edit documents online while working in real time with other students.

Teachers also can share what they’re doing in class with peers across town, statewide or even overseas. Web 2.0 tools are popular among teachers. Web 2.0 is different from the Web in that it not only allows students to read information, it lets them produce content, as well, and the majority of the tools are free.

In the next column, we’ll explore how technology levels the academic playing field and allows for “anytime” learning.