When the Pope has his own Twitter account, you know we’re living in a digital world. On a daily basis, our children are confronted with technology from every direction: smartphones, video games, YouTube … even our televisions are digital now. For our young learners, technology has become a way of life and as a result, the constant exposure has changed the way they learn. Catholic schools not only recognize this change, they embrace it.
Using digital media in the classroom is beneficial in so many ways. Between computer programs and the Internet, there is a remarkable amount of educational resources available — in fact, some of them are so engaging that your child won’t even realize she or he is learning.
Sites like Fun Brain, Brainpop, and Coolmath may look like cartoons and video games, but really they are powerful learning tools that your child can even use at home. Smartphone apps, such as online dictionaries, literally put learning resources right into your child’s hands.
And where do we even start when discussing social media? Students can use Facebook templates for authors or character analysis. Twitter can be used for class discussions, which can be particularly appealing to those kids who aren’t comfortable speaking up in class. Social media is great for projects as well. In one instance a teacher assigned a book report that asked students to create a Twitter account for a character and summarize the story through the perspective of the character’s Tweets. Technology opens the door to success for students of all interests and learning styles. Blogs, podcasts, and Wikispaces are also great tools for the classroom. In fact, here is a Wiki telling you everything you need to know about using social networking in schools.
At the same time, this influx of digital media use presents unique ethical challenges. In the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford, it is our duty to promote the responsible use of technology and guide our students to finding a balance between their on-screen lives and their real-world ones. If we all work together toward this goal, we can send our young learners out into the world as virtuous, productive citizens proficient in 21st-century fluencies.
The digital phenomenon isn’t only about individual computer use. Classroom equipment is also changing to meet the modern student’s needs. Do you remember the days of whiteboards that, no matter how hard you scrubbed them, would never come completely clean? Today, many classes have interactive whiteboards (IWB), which function as touch-screen computer monitors, generating endless possibilities for teaching. We have seen teachers use the IWB to do things such as Skype with famous authors and engage their students in real-time polls.
It’s amazing how many ways digital media can be used in the classrooms to engage students and promote learning. Accordingly, the schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford have stepped it up when it comes to integrating technology throughout the curriculum. For one example, check out St. Paul’s Chromebook Initiative.
What are some ways you’ve seen technology used in the classroom? We invite you to leave a comment and tell us all about it!