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Integrating Technology: Fun Classroom Activities

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Jennifer L.W. Fink, who covers education for Parents, Home Education Magazine, Scholastic Instructor and She also writes a blog about boys and education.

Educational technology is everywhere. The trick is integrating it into the classroom in a way that's meaningful and fun. Here are some entertaining and unexpected ways to inspire your students with educational technology tools.

Make book trailers

It's time to banish the traditional book report. Instead, work with students to create vibrant book trailers that capture the essence of a book.

Start by watching some professional-grade book trailers on YouTube, such as "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever" by Jeff Kinney and "Hero" by Mike Lupica. Compare and contrast the book trailers to movie trailers. (Most students will be more familiar with movie trailers.) Discuss common elements of book (and movie) trailers. Then hop back online and watch some student-made book trailers, like the one a middle school student did for another Mike Lupica book, "Million Dollar Throw."

Have students work individually or in groups to create book trailers. Almost any movie-making software can be used to make a book trailer, including Window's Movie Maker and Apple's iMovie. Your students also may wish to share their personal knowledge of movie-making software. Detailed, step-by-step instructions can be found at Book Trailers for Readers.

Talk about TED

You may already be familiar with TED talks, presentations from a non-profit organization devoted to "ideas worth spreading," but have you thought about using TED talks in your classroom? You can find a talk to complement virtually any subject. If you need some help getting started, check out 25 TED Talks Perfect for the Classroom. Use the talks as a jumping-off point for other discussions and assignments. For example, scroll down to number 9 in the list of 25 TED talks for the classroom--after hearing William Kamkwamba talk about how he designed a windmill to generate electricity for his village, challenge your students to create their own inventions. Or embark on a study of wind power throughout history.

Journaling, 21st century-style

Journaling is a great way to practice and improve writing skills. So why not experiment with some up-to-date journaling apps? iDiary for Kids, available for iPad and iPhone, is a free, fun journaling platform that may entice some reluctant writers. Other students may prefer a blog-style journal. But don't just stop at blog posts; encourage students to find and follow other blogs. A student who is passionate about cooking, for instance, might enjoy Order Up! With Logan, a blog written by a nine-year-old chef. Reading and commenting on others' blogs will give students additional reading practice and inspire future learning and blog posts.

Virtual field trips

Use Google Earth to take your students on virtual field trips. Whenever you're studying another part of the world (or country), fire up Google World and let your students zoom in -- closer, closer, CLOSER! Your students will be able to see for themselves what buildings and cities look like in other parts of the world. They'll be able to see the topography of the land firsthand, and they'll be able to manipulate the app to travel virtually up and down the streets of their destination. So instead of having students simply name notable landmarks in a city or state, have them go online and identify the landmarks in near real-time.

Journey North

Journey North may bill itself as a "global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change," but it's much more than that. It's a powerful online learning tool that allows students to use their observation skills to contribute directly to the body of scientific data. It also stimulates students' curiosity and teaches students about animals, climate and culture while honing their academic skills.

Students (and classes) can track migrations of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, grey whales and a variety of other animals. Weekly newsletters include lots of interactive learning suggestions, while the live cam allows students to observe animals and environment in real-time. A Journey North iPad app is also available; an Android version should be coming soon.

The best education technology transforms learning from a passive activity into an interactive one. Embrace the power of tech to inspire your students.


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