Panel: Evolving technology has great classroom potential

One approach is to apply this concept to a playground and imagine that as children play on the playground, they generate electricity used to power things, such as lights, around the playground.

Using a combination of the Dance Dance Revolution video game, an interactive whiteboard (IWB), and a computer system, Walsh and his team designed a game in which students generate energy to power a virtual house. The IWB displays an image of a house with various electronics, including a television and a computer. Children dance along to the video game and their constant motion creates energy to power the various household items. One or two dancing children create enough energy to power the home’s computer, while three or four children can generate enough energy to turn on the home’s television.

Teaching opportunities appear throughout such a lesson, Walsh said. Not only are students excited, engaged, and eager to participate, but teachers can ask students what objects in the home require more energy, why students think this is so, and how energy can be conserved.

Creating authentic learning environments helps teachers make topics such as science relevant to students. Connecting culture—such as powering home computers and televisions—to student learning also engages students, Walsh noted.

For instance, a science lesson on river clean-up and water quality can become instantly relevant to students if they test school water quality from school water fountains or visit local streams or rivers. Bringing a local flavor to larger lessons prompts students to realize that water quality concerns might impact rivers or lakes where they swim or fish. This heightens their awareness of the lesson and makes them more eager to discuss it with friends and ask important questions in class.

Incorporating technology effectively whenever possible gives learning a huge boost, Walsh said, because teachers are further engaging students with the tools students naturally use.

Walsh also worked with the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), a massive collection of free children’s literature, on a recent “ICDL for iPad” app. The app not only makes it easier for kids to see words clearly, but it also lets young readers generate original stories, edit public domain books, and edit certain pre-existing stories via home licensing rights from select publishers.

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Laura Ascione

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