Engaging students through interactive and collaborative tools

Helping students engage and connect with classroom material is what’s driven me for my entire professional career. It’s what I strive for every single day in my role as a Learning Development Specialist at Compugen, just as it had been all those years I spent in the classroom as an Ontario certified teacher.

Having been both an educator and learning facilitator, I can say with great confidence that I have never been more encouraged about the prospects of engaging students in classroom learning experiences than I am right now. A large part of my enthusiasm stems from my involvement in helping to implement interactive and collaborative tools in the classroom.

Connected North

A great example of how this can work can be found in my recent participation with Connected North. This initiative, in collaboration with Cisco and other partners, helps bring technology into remote areas of Canada. Many students in these remote areas have never seen or experienced things that we take for granted. However, through interactive and collaborative technology, we’re able to immerse students in places and engage with people they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

So, instead of just reading about cultural or historical landmarks in Egypt, we’re able to use Skype or Teams, both Microsoft applications, to give students a virtual tour of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Or explore the archaeological sites where many of the Tunisian National Museum of Bardo antiquities were found. It’s a great way to show students how they can use these tools to help connect to the outside world and, for a moment in time, make this big world feel just a little smaller.

Similarly, Cisco Telepresence has been extremely effective at removing geographic barriers by linking two physically separated rooms. This has allowed for the interactive delivery of curriculum through experts such as scientists at museums around the globe to students in Nunavut. Having the ability to both hear from and ask questions of individuals with expertise in areas of interest can make a world of difference in the level of engagement. Showcasing interconnectedness with the outside world through material that is being studied further demonstrates what is possible, and is key in establishing positive and rich learning experiences.

These learning opportunities help bridge the gap and support student understanding from concrete learning to abstract learning. Being able to provide content that would be otherwise inaccessible is the main objective. More importantly, this accessibility empowers teachers and provides an engaging learning opportunity for students. Parkland School Division in Alberta is a great example of this, see their story here.

Giving students a voice

I’ve seen first-hand that using technology to empower students in the classroom goes well beyond connecting remote communities. These tools can better the student learning continuum in any community regardless of location.

An example of this is how we use technology to give a voice to special education students who are non-verbal. In the past, getting these students to be active in the classroom has been a challenge. However, with the implementation of the Promethean interactive panels in the classroom, we’ve seen tremendous results.

Non-verbal students have access to switches with big buttons of various colours. When they want to give an answer in response to something that is shown on the Promethean Interactive Panel, they will press a button on the switch. In this way, they are both communicating, as well as actively engaging with the group and the lesson in a way that wasn’t previously possible.

We’ve found this particular tool is also great for engaging students in the general education population. It can be of tremendous benefit to students who have social anxiety issues by allowing them to provide answers in a way that is more comfortable for them. Polling is another option to give every student a voice. Teachers can post a poll question on any topic on the Promethean Interactive Panel and students can make their voice heard through a collaborative application such as ClassFlow along with any device that can access a browser.

The Promethean technology allows up to fifteen continuous touchpoints, enabling students to collaborate to solve problems, and then have conversations about which solution is more efficient or effective. Whether students engage in a lesson directly with the Promethean Interactive Panel or through a device via ClassFlow, every student can provide an answer, every student’s answer is validated, and every student has a voice.

Ever since I began my professional career, my mantra has always been to leave a place better than I found it. Whether it’s with the students who feel more engaged or teachers who feel more empowered, as long as I’ve left it better than when I started, that’s how I personally define success.

That’s why I can say with no hesitation that our experiences in helping students learn through interactive and collaborative learning tools has been a great success. We’ve seen the tangible results where both students and teachers feel more engaged and empowered.

If you would like to learn more about how these tools can benefit your learning environment, don’t hesitate to reach out. I would be happy to discuss it with you. For more information visit our website www.compugen.com/education.

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