Five Tools for Teaching Beyond School Walls

While it is easy for advocacy groups to claim that the Internet will be the salvation of the American school system and that online degrees and classes will open up an entire world of possibilities, the realities of integrating technology into the classroom can be complicated and involved. State standard authorization and push-back from major textbook publishers are two of the biggest obstacles to digital content in the classrooms. The desire for more Internet-savvy teaching and learning remains strong, however, and demand for new teaching tools is growing.

Teachers today have more choices than ever before when it comes to Internet tools. No more is simple Internet access the extent of the wired classroom. A number of programs allow teachers to build an education experience that extends well beyond the few hours spent each day behind a desk. Below are five examples that educators can explore and synthesize with current lesson plans.

1. Blackboard
Blackboard is a general teaching platform based on a digital experience. It is one of the most adaptable tools available. Blackboard provides tools to create online lessons that teachers can share with students in real time. The aptly named “Connect and Collaborate” feature allows teachers to create and moderate a student network. This can be especially useful for sharing time-sensitive information or setting reminders for projects, quizzes, and other assignments. Blackboard also has texting, email, and social media applications, and comes with mobile capabilities so that users can manage lessons and discussions on the move.

2. Podcasts
Podcasts are digital audio files that can be easily uploaded and transferred from the Internet to a computer or portable music player. While most teachers do not need to turn every lecture into a podcast, audio clips can make an excellent supplement to classroom teaching. Accessing podcasts enables students to listen to interviews, reports, and in-depth explanations of specific topics. Narratives and dramas in podcast form work well for literature classes, too. Teachers who use podcasts frequently can easily create unique podcast channels for specific students or classes.

3. Interactive Science Participation
Particularly in the elementary grades, the Internet can be harnessed to bring science learning to life. Science projects are much better when they become collaborative activities instead of stay-at-home drawing contests. With the help of a few simple online instruction tools like Molecules and BrainPop, teachers can easily access or create a community science project online. Students can log in to interact with classmates, as well as input their own data results. Like podcasts, there are many ways to create these interactive projects. Pathfinder Science and The Bugscope Project are two examples of places to start, but many options exist.

4. ClassTools
ClassTools is a simple tool application that allows educators to create templates for educational games and activities that are hosted online. While students get personalized and dynamic activities to take home, teachers gain the ability to track progress and watch participation. The application also allows users to store favorite templates.

5. Digital Youth Network (DYN)
The DYN supports a digital learning environment designed to supplement in-the-class lectures for students who are struggling with reading or literacy. It provides social media literacy tools and connects students with network mentors who can help them with homework and extra drills. The DYN focuses on middle school, sixth through eighth grade, studies. It has its own requirements, such as mandatory lessons, but is still a great way for administrators to help students achieve a greater level of education outside of school hours.

It’s obviously correct to state that eTextbooks are an option for enriching your learning curve. They give you the flexibility to take them wherever you may go and study in your own time wherever you are. You should look at the advantage of having this available to you as a huge bonus. Who else can study wherever they like? It’s so simple that when you are done with a chapter just jump online and download the next one.

The possibilities for the future of Internet-integrated education are vast, and are growing. New tools are emerging almost as fast as tech-savvy teachers are creating their own innovations . While there are some setbacks and downsides to online learning, many in today’s schools find that the benefits are more than worth the climb.

Estelle is a writer interested in a wide range of educational methods. Having played several instruments and been exposed to many art forms in her childhood, she finds that solving the education puzzle today requires more than simply a large budget. She currently writes and researches about online education.