• Technology: Inspire Learning and Creative Expression

     I love to learn! I have more “hobbies” and new things I get involved with that I can’t seem to keep up with them all. I enjoy working around the house doing DIY projects. I enjoy finding new books for our pet therapy reading program. I love taking photos and being behind a camera. I love water and being on the water. I love music and even try playing my guitar when I can. I have a great desire to learn and to continuously improve.

    Brain GearsSo what does this have to do with technology? Not only with technology, but what does this have to do with education and learning? Technology has not only introduced me to some of these hobbies, but it has also enhanced them in ways never imaginable. Technology has also allowed me to think and express myself creatively using tools that make sense to me. Technology has this same power for you and your students.

    How can you inspire your students to learn and be more creative? You can enhance their skills with the tools they are already using! Direct them to new and interesting ways to learn concepts in your class. Tie the content you are teaching to the real world and make it relevant!

    Getting new ideas

    Sometimes it just starts with an idea. A kickstart. You see or read something and think, “Hey! I can do that!” Or, “I can make that better!” Anything from recipes, to goodwill projects, to new ways of thinking about a math concept. It might even just be an inspirational quote or encouragement from a friend that pushes us towards learning a new concept or creatively expressing our thoughts and ideas. Here are a few tools that may help spark these new ideas.

    • StumbleUpon – A site that makes personal recommendations of websites for you based on your interests. For example, I told StumbleUpon that I like Woodworking. It allows me to stumble upon other websites that other woodworkers have shared and liked. 
    • Pinterest – A visual cornucopia of others interests pinned on boards for you to feast upon. Ideas galore here. And a great place to collect and organize little treasures on your own boards. 
    • Social: Facebook/Twitter/G+ – Any social media site is a great way to explore what others are thinking, feeling, and doing. Being able to synthesize the endless stream of communication found on these sites and use them as powerful learning tools is a skill all students and teachers will need to succeed. 

    Learn new things

    The way we learn new things is changing. We used to go to a respected adult and/or teacher and ask them to share their un-endless knowledge of a particular topic. Or we would go to the library and research our new interest. These things may still happen, however, if I wanted to know more about sailing, I am more likely to ask an “expert”. We can find an expert in just about any corner of the Internet! (Digital literacy is another topic for another article!) Really! They are out there and they want to teach us! Where might you ask? 

    • YouTube – From learning a new song on the guitar to how to create apps on your iPhone, you can learn just about anything on Youtube!
    • Instructables.com – Claims to be the biggest How To and DIY community where people make and share inspiring, entertaining, and useful projects, recipes, and hacks.
    • WikiHow – Wiki based collaboration site on a quest to build the world’s largest, highest quality how to manual(s).
    • Academic – And the host of solely academic related sites for learning new concepts or solidifying those taught in class.
    • Sophia.org – Social teaching and learning network.
    • Kahn Academy – Mostly focused on math but has other curricular areas as well.
    • Hippocampus – Multimedia instruction to help with homework or study.
    • CK-12 – Free textbooks for your class! And you can organize them how you need for your instruction.

    Express yourself

    Probably the most important part of the whole learning process is being able to share your creativity with others! Students don’t want to do worksheets or assessments that only the teacher will see (if even the teacher) and maybe a few other students. They want to be able to create a story, or create an animation of how gravity affects a pendulum. Or perhaps they want to create a photo slideshow representing their ideas on the topic. Maybe they would like to organize a news show and broadcast classroom topics to others across the internet. Not only will they be able to creatively express themselves but others will be able to give them authentic feedback in real time that will outlive the semester and grow into a force of deep learning and understanding. 

    • Social: Facebook/Twitter/G+ –  Not only are social media sites great for getting ideas, they are also great for sharing! 
    • Blogger.com – Create your very own blog and write about thing things that impassion you! Have others share comments to posts you create.
    • PodBean.com – Create and share an audio podcast.
    • YouTube – Create your very own internet video channel. You could have how-tos, news broadcast for your school, or interviews from folks on a community/national/global initiative. 
    • Picasa Web, Flickr – Share photos and organized albums for comment or create slideshows for your website or other projects.

     Inspire creativity in your students. Go where they are and give them the tools to be engaged and authentic with what they are learning in the classroom. Technology is a game changer for education and you are on the leading edge!

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