Elementary classrooms across the nation are in a state of reorganization and change as a result of the development of educational technology. Hundreds of teachers are revamping the way in which they teach their students in order to both keep them engaged and encourage creative critical thinking skills. In doing so, modern educators are preparing students to live successfully in a technological world.
But not only that, they are teaching students to use their seemingly natural technology skills to obtain high level positions in whatever career they decide to pursue.
Here are a couple ways in which this is happening.
GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS
A geographic information system (GIS) is a form of powerful mapping software that enables users to view both quantitative and qualitative data linked to a geographical location. It has been used extensively in many fields ranging from crime mapping in cities to tracking diseases such as Ebola. The program is designed in a way that allows users to compare data sets spatially and draw predictive conclusions about changes in the world in which we live in.
In the classroom, it has been incorporated as a way that teaches students a great deal about the intricacies of the project they are working on. For instance, at Washington-Lee high school students in GIS courses, such as Albert Marquez, choose a project (in his case wetlands) and learn about it as they create a map that is a benefit in the real world. In this example, Albert learned a lot about how wetlands function and why they are important, but he also learned a lot about computer programs, land identification, and areal mapping.
Recently, teachers across the US have been adding something a little unconventional to their classrooms – video games.
Creative teachers have been able to implement video games into lesson plans in a number of ways and have, in general, felt as though they were reaching their students in an engaging, yet educational, manner. And of course they received outstanding feedback from students.
Many of these game have been developed to make it fun for students to learn about topics and how they interconnect in a way they may not have picked up from a textbook. For instance, the game SimCityEDU allows teachers to design lesson plans based around a particular topic such as citywide pollution, but links it to real problems cities face such as the cost of waste removal and the indirect costs of closing companies causing pollution.
Furthermore, the back end access teachers have to the game enable them to monitor students’ progress through the assigned tasks and better understand how individuals are doing. Rather than simply a paper test assessing how students learn, they can determine how they each attack problems differently, view how long they spend solving certain problems, and identify how students are making connections between cause and effect in their city.
Another video game that is changing the way in which teachers educate their students in the game Minecraft. In a similar way to SimCityEDU, the game incorporates a number of different topics and shows students the indirect connections of the real world. One goal of the game is develop a civilization from the ground up, which can be used to drive home the importance of resources such as food. In this way, the game can link topics such as history and the struggle for survival that many early civilizations faced to situations the students are dealing with in their own civilizations.
In today’s world, a broad education and understanding of the ways in which the world works is key, however, the use of technology is almost essential to becoming a successful adult. Creative educators that are able to encourage learning through technology are equipping their students with the tools they need to make indirect connections. Furthermore, they are engaging their students in new and interesting ways that typically appeals to them and teaches critical thinking and life skills.
Author Bio: Brittni Brown is a recent graduate of The College of Idaho with a degree in environmental studies. In her free time she loves biking, hiking, camping, and reading.
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