Virtual learning has taken a major leap in the past year. As students return to the classrooms, they expect a new level of engagement through visual and interactive tools that make learning fun and creative.
What elements can you incorporate into your classroom that would take your students to the next level? Here’re some pointers:
Create a Place to Work Together
Any creative project that you offer to your class will need a place where it can live virtually. If your school doesn’t have an institutional-level learning management system like Moodle or Canvas, you can build your own space that’s easy to manage.
For example, PosterMyWall offers a free classroom account for schools where you can let students create their own designs and upload them to a secure environment. Students don’t need any special design knowledge: they can use the easy-to-understand drag and drop design tools to create presentations, posters, digital media posts and even book covers.
Once they’re done, they can share their projects with their instructors and their classmates in a secure, ad-free space that’s only visible to your class.
Dr. Quentin Lee, a principal at the Childersburg High School, uses this approach to inspire visual learning and creativity in his classrooms.
“Visual learning helps those students that may struggle with reading,” he said. “It also encompasses more than just visual elements, it relies on the strengths of other styles of learning to best support the student.”
As an educator, you might also find teaching aid templates useful: from worksheets to timetables to event posters, there’re a lot of professionally designed visuals here to brighten up your classroom.
Let Creativity Bloom in Real Time
If you’re promoting collaborative learning, you might want to consider Padlet, a virtual notepad -slash-graffiti wall. It is also free and it allows your student to place notes on a virtual wall in real time. It can be used for project work as well as collaborative storytelling, or as a way to curate information in a visual way. Some educators choose to use it as a discussion space too: for example, share their thoughts on a video or a book chapter.
Engage Through Live Questions
Just as you see the attention waver off, why not get your students to participate in a live poll or a Q&A? Mentimeter, for example, lets you build different types of questions – from word clouds to multiple choice to quizzes. Students submit their answers using a code on the screen and can see the results in real time. It also helps you as an educator track progress and identify the gaps in understanding and retention that need your attention.
Go on Virtual Field Trips
Real-life field trips might be coming back to your schedule but you don’t have to be limited to actually getting on the bus. Besides, you might not be missing the stress of managing your students in an unfamiliar environment. Virtual field trips, on the other hand, offer engaging experiences, and although they’ll never replace the real trips, can serve as a wonderful supplement to your social studies and science curriculum.
Students can get inspired by some of the most famous artists at the Museum of Modern Art in New York or learn about the subway systems at the New York Transit Museum, explore history at the Smithsonian collection of museums, and learn about the struggle for equal rights at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
San Diego Zoo will get them up close and personal with koalas and penguins, among other creatures, through the live cams. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re watching pandas munching on bamboo shoots or an orangutan make faces at the visitors.
Credit: San Diego Zoo
Travel Through Space and Time
You probably already use Google Earth for more far-flung “virtual trips” to exploring various corners of the Earth. In 2021, Google introduced Timelapse in Google Earth, which uses 24 million satellite photos from the past 37 years to produce an interactive 4D experience. You and your students can watch time unfold and our planet change over time.
A fascinating interactive tool, it brings a different dimension to your climate change and social studies curriculum as students follow the growth of megacities, track deforestations or watch coastlines change.
With the right technology now more accessible than ever, there’re lots of ways to make any classroom activity inspire and engage students, foster creativity and encourage discovery. The best part is that most of them are free and require little experience. Just as your students will enjoy learning through engaging, you too just might re-discover why you love teaching.