It’s no secret that 21st century teachers and school administrators are under enormous pressure to differentiate instruction to enhance learning for all students, regardless of ability or their innate interest in the material. The modern classroom is an increasingly diverse place, so it can feel more challenging than ever to reach every student.
Enter classroom learning centers. Although elementary school teachers have long been familiar with learning centers as a way to provide different activities for literacy and math, learning centers are becoming more popular in middle and high schools as a way to differentiate learning and keep students more engaged than they would be with an endless stream of traditional lecture-based lessons.
Instead of orienting a classroom to have all student desks facing a whiteboard at the front of the room, a flexible learning center model often includes modular workstations where students can break into groups as well as quiet spaces for individual study. Large tables and several display areas provide the flexibility to convene large and small groups throughout the day, depending on the goal of the lesson and the needs of individual students.
Technology: The Key Ingredient in Successful Learning Centers
Although the classic literacy or math center takes time to organize physically in the classroom, technology makes it easy for students to get to work quickly. A large screen display or desktop monitor ensures everyone in the group can see the material easily, and individual touch screens allow students to complete assignments at their own pace and submit them to the teacher electronically or for everyone else to see.
Classroom technology also makes it easier than ever to differentiate lessons appropriately. For example, the teacher can divide students into groups based on skill and tailor mini-lessons in centers based on what students need to practice. Software focused on personalized learning can also adapt to individual student needs and allow teachers to track their progress.
With individual devices, students can work at their own paces and always have something to do, ending the boredom of waiting for others to catch up or the frustration of falling behind.
What’s more, integrating technology into the classroom allows schools to meet Common Core standards about technology and digital media literacy. For example, the standards recommend that students be able to use technology independently, a skill they practice in learning centers while they study everything from Shakespeare to geometry.
Because technology is such an integral part of the modern world, the days of spending a few hours in the computer lab are long past: Today’s students need complete access to the internet and the hardware they’ll be expected to use in the real world.
Collaboration technology is quickly becoming an integral part of education, enabling teachers and students to take work created by different groups on multiple devices and share it with the entire class on the classroom’s main display, whether it’s a projector or a large screen display.
(Next page: 5 technologies for engaging learning centers)