“What exactly is the digital classroom?,” you might be asking. To put it simply, it’s an initiative put together by a number of tech industry giants to bring digital teaching/instructional tools to the classroom, so that educators can create a rich, more interactive atmosphere for learning. We’ll first take a look at who is behind this initiative. Next, we’ll take a look at what tools are being made available to educators to make the learning experience for their students more fulfilling and rewarding. Finally, we’ll take a look at some examples of Flipped Education in the Cloud.
What Companies are Involved in the Digital Classroom Initiative?
The companies behind the Digital Classroom initiative are the ones you’d expect. This means that Apple, Microsoft, and Google are leading the way. These companies are all providing technology solutions for classroom use. However, there are also companies such as the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose to help schools and schools districts pay for classroom projects. Although there are too many entities involved to list them all, I want to take a quick look at Donors Choose before continuing.
The Donors Choose is a site that allows teachers across the country to post facts about projects they’d liked to try in their classrooms and gets the money these teachers need for these projects from you, the site visitor. It’s like a Kickstarter or Indiegogo for teachers. I highly recommend you go check it out. What’s really cool is that once the money needed is raised, donors for that project will receive updates from the teacher, including pictures of the project in process. Donors giving more than $50 will also get a handwritten thank you note from the kids they’ve helped.
What Tools for Educators Have Been Made Available?
There are more tools for educators that have been made available than there are companies involved at this time. For example, Microsoft has made several videos available using humor and animation to teach students how to create engaging PowerPoint presentations. They’ve also put together a list of tutorials for the rest of office, including in-depth instruction on how to use Excel and create databases. The list of what’s available is constantly updated, so check back often to see what’s been added.
Smartphones and Tablets in the Classroom
Smartphones and tablets are pretty ubiquitous these days. They are a fact of life. More importantly, they can be made into an integral part of the Digital Classroom experience once a well-thought out “Bring Your Own Device” policy is established by school or district administrators. Imagine sitting in a crowded classroom and not being able to properly see the board the teacher is using or maybe even hear well.
Enter the smartphone or tablet and some of the tools and apps that are being made available. One of these is Audioboo. This app allows users to record audio notes. Polltogo allows teachers and students to create interactive polls and share the results. One I really like is Google Voice which allows teachers to create a single phone number to call instead of sharing their personal phone number. Out of all of them, my favorite has to be ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard. This iOS app allows a teacher to use an iPad as a whiteboard and share it with the class instead of using the boards at the front of the room.
The Flipped Digital Classroom
Kids love to watch videos. This fact is it’s the driving force behind what’s known as vodcasts, short lectures that teachers can create and film then distribute online for students to watch at home. Also, using the cloud, teachers can create assignments that students can complete online. Much of this is done using Google Docs and allows students to create and submit assignments online and teachers can give hints and tips in almost real-time. There’s also the provision to create class-specific chatrooms for teachers and students to interact and share ideas.
If you or your kids are involved in any way with the Digital Classroom Initiative, either as students, educators, or with one of the companies/entities participating, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. It’s exciting seeing the new ways that technology can be and is being used to help bring our kids into the 21st Century.
Photo Credit: _torne