The classroom as I knew it doesn’t exist anymore. Desks lined up in rows, chalkboards, and independent work have been exchanged for interactive technologies, movable desks and unconventional learning spaces. Today’s learners collaborate with each other and share knowledge and resources. Passionate educators are no different. They share their experiences and learn from peers. They’re always on the lookout for learning strategies and pedagogically sound practices to best help their students succeed.
Technology has certainly been central to successful learning strategies. It fosters collaboration – where groups of students share a mutual understanding of learning; negotiate new ideas through social interactions; co-construct answers to problems; and engage in active participation.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of working with one of our newest advocacy groups — SMART amp Champs, which is comprised of a subset of our SMART Exemplary Educators (SEEs) community. SMART amp champs are our local experts who use SMART amp collaborative learning software in their own classrooms. They are leading the way in using SMART amp to engage students and improve learning outcomes and support other educators. As educators, we know that every child develops their own way of naturally learning and engaging with the world. But not all classrooms are equipped to accommodate the ways children naturally learn. This puts students at a disadvantage when they need to change their natural learning behaviors to fit the classroom’s technology or environment. Think how much more your students could succeed if the classroom could change to fit them – this is where SMART amp is a perfect solution!
Amy Yonashiro, one of our SMART amp Champs, knows this firsthand. She’s taught algebra and calculus for more than 20 years at ’Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii. As a veteran teacher, Amy has come up with list of ways that technology in the classroom can help foster collaborative learning. For instance, she recommends that teachers:
- Have students list problems they need help with.
- Have them share their thought processes with their teachers and with the class.
- Ask students what they learned today.
When there’s an easy way to share these answers – all the better. Technological tools like SMART amp give teachers a lens into kids’ learning. Even more than that, it gives kids a lens into what each other is learning.
Amy explains, “Students love this method of discussing homework because it’s more efficient: they aren’t sitting around waiting to ask their question because all questions are asked at the same time and all solutions are shared simultaneously.”
For educators who use a tool like SMART amp, she says, “The discussion in the room will probably be ‘music to your ears’ as you hear students ask each other where they got the step or how did you come to this point. Responses reflect a good understanding of the material as students discuss the mathematical concepts by using the proper terminology.”
I’d also add that I’ve seen success when students have the chance to have virtual conversations. It doesn’t mean that kids sit in isolation working on their own device and never engage in any conversations. On the contrary, a tool like SMART amp is more like a scaffold for a deeper level of interaction. It raises the confidence of students, provides a space to start the conversation and deepens the level of understanding. When we say “natural learning behaviors,” we mean the ways that children instinctively explore their world and acquire knowledge. And of course, every child is an individual and has their own natural learning behaviors. So it’s important that classrooms be flexible enough to accommodate the different ways each child naturally engages.
Looking for successful learning strategies for your students? Hear what out what other teachers have to say about SMART amp.
- Students Take Charge of Their Learning Through Collaboration: Danesa Menge on SMART amp Software and Google - October 6, 2015
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- Learning Strategies for the Classroom - June 29, 2015