An annual study conducted by the research arm of Educause (ECAR – Educause Center for Applied Research) found that more students than ever gave the thumbs up to a teacher’s use of technology in the classroom. 70% of students report that they learn best in a blended learning environment and more than 50% of students responded that they are more actively engaged in classes that use technology, but they wish their instructors used more open educational resources, simulations, and games. Why not use the students’ interest in technology to inspire learning after the school day is over? Some ideas like take home programs, tech study hall, and technology-centric clubs can be advantageous for infusing technology into student’s life outside of the classroom and providing resources for continued education.
Take Home Programs
Not every school can implement a 1:1 iPad program and for some schools not every student can be issued an iPad for the year. Whether infrastructure improvements are too costly or the budget can’t accommodate purchasing the tablets, it just isn’t an option in some environments. A much more feasible option is purchasing a few devices for the school for students and teachers to make use of. The allows schools the opportunity to extend the learning outside of the classroom with a Take Home program. As an example, your school might purchase ten tablet devices and 5 laptops that can be checked out in the library for a short lending period. This allows students that might otherwise not have computer access to work on projects from home. Another option might involve your school instating a revolving schedule. Rotating devices through the school, each class would have the opportunity to take the devices home for a week per quarter or semester. Teachers can then plan special technology-related projects for that week. Take Home programs, though not quite as beneficial as 1:1, allow students to work in and out of the classroom even when the funds aren’t there for a larger scale program.
A great budget-friendly program to extend learning beyond the classroom is offering an after-school study hall. A study hall would give students guided access to your school’s existing computer lab or tablet carts to do research and work on school projects after school hours and on weekends. By creating a regular schedule of open-learning lab hours, students without consistent computer access at home gain the opportunity to learn with technology. Even students with technology access can use the after-hours lab time to do group projects or study in a quiet environment. If that weren’t purpose enough to extend computer lab hours, more students will be privileged to access deeper education resouces about technology and its use in their education.
Tech clubs can focus on learning anything from the basics of Power Point to designing a full-scale mobile application. Depending on the level of technology proficiency and student interest, the club can certainly extend the reach of learning beyond regular school hours. Club members can compete in technology-related competitions, or attend technology conferences; the learning opportunities are endless.
Providing opportunities outside of the classroom for students to learn about and from technology is invaluable. Inspiring kids to voluntarily continue their education after school hours should be the aim of every school and technology is the key to that endeavor.