Educational Technology

Make Homeschooling Easier with Technology


(Photo Credit: Black Blue Dog)

The best learning experiences are the result of a dedicated educator, a student’s curiosity to learn and a supportive environment that values academics. Using technology as a resource can enhance these learning experiences and academic environments, whether lessons are learned in a school or at home.

You’re not just the parent of a homeschooler; you are also a teacher.  You want to inspire your child to think critically and stay motivated.  Technology can cultivate new ways of thinking and new ideas. Android or Apple tablets can specifically serve as creative tools and interactive textbooks.  Tablet materials and apps can customize the learning experience and tailor materials to suit the learning style(s) and meet the needs of a student.

Online Textbooks & iTunes U in Class

Enrich learning experiences at home with electronic textbooks on a tablet.  Services like iTunes U provide customized, hands-on lessons for homeschooled teens of all levels.  Texts and photos come to life when you use electronic textbooks.  Think back to the days when you turned pages and used a marker or highlighter to note sections in printed textbooks.  The postmodern student can learn by swiping a screen, engaging in interactive animations and even rotating a 3-D object.  Highlight notes with a finger.  Zoom in on a diagram.  Create digital study cards.  The tablet is a space-saving, all-in-one learning device that functions as any type of textbook, a note taker and study partner.  Keeping learning materials on a mobile device can be handy for your student to study anywhere.  Homework can be done on a car trip or at a friend’s house.

As a home educator, you can also use online educational apps to organize lesson plans and learning materials for a course in one central location.  Build courses using the iTunes U Course Manager, and your student can listen to an audio lecture, watch a presentation and organize coursework notes.  Then your student can complete assignments and share what he or she learns using any of the thousands of academic-oriented apps available, tablets and popular smartphones.  Help your teen engender a multimedia presentation using special effects in Keynote or a visual web journal using multi-touch editing.  A tablet-based learning curriculum is a dramatic improvement from the days of overhead projectors and plastic report covers and binders.

Smartphone Social Apps

While tablets enhance learning, reserve the smartphone for socialization and fun.  A blog post by Heather Sanders from The Pioneer Woman writes that as a home educator and mom, she welcomes smartphones as a communication tool that “can help students expand their specific hobbies or areas of interests.”  Her daughter Emelie turns to smartphone app Tumblr as her virtual inspiration board and Feedly as her blog reader.  She uses Instagram and Snapchat to share videos and photos with friends. The Kik instant message app also keeps her in touch with international friends.  Sanders’ other daughter, Meredith, likes Wattpad for writing books and reading stories from other authors.  You can even use the smartphone as a study break or incentive.  For example, if your teen aces an exam let her chat with friends on her phone or stream media from Netflix as a reward for meeting her goal.

With the sophisticated advances in technology, postmodern homeschooling can be a rewarding experience for both the teacher and student.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Multimedia as Part of Your Educational Experience

Multimedia Classroom

(Photo Credit: The Modesto Bee)

Developments in the direction of a more technology-focused and multimedia approach to education demonstrate a correlation between an online learning environment and performance improvement.  How is multimedia as an educational tool trending toward permanence in the academic landscape?

Social Apps

Multimedia devices that have interactive learning and entertainment apps can connect instructors and students outside formal digital academic communities.  Vine, Instagram and other multimedia platforms can give students and teachers the opportunity to interact in fun and interesting ways.  Video platforms provide more dynamic teaching and learning relationships facilitated in ways never before envisioned in the more traditional brick and mortar educational milieu.  The creation of educational apps is a lucrative trend with more mobile choices offered for both students and teachers.  For example, the Oxford Picture Dictionary is a full 4,000-term dictionary you can access anywhere.  School Fuel is another app teachers can use to connect with students remotely to answer student questions and give guidance.

Why Digital Learning?

As online education becomes more prevalent, multimedia and digital concentration will also increase in use in accredited postsecondary programs.  For example, those who pursue an Early Childhood Education degree online at Penn Foster can experience the following advantages:

  1. It’s cheaper—73% less than an average online or traditional institution.
  2. It’s practical.  Knowledge and skills for promoting language and literacy development and activities that are mentally and physically stimulating are applicable for a prosperous educational career.
  3. It’s flexible and convenient.  Learn at your own pace while you fulfill other responsibilities.
  4. It’s a stepping stone. Skills (and credits) are transferrable, which is helpful as you progress.

It’s becoming clearer that your ultimate success is contingent upon your familiarity with the basics of video, multimedia presentation and communication.  With these education programs, you’re just beginning to explore the tip of an ever-expanding monolith in technology, something that you may decide to pursue in more depth in the future.

Joys of Learning

Let’s face it, there’s a significant amount of book learning in any educational program.  It doesn’t have to be dry, boring or fraught with colorless ambiguity.  The multimedia element in education is a way to incorporate your life into your learning process, and then encourage your future students to do the same with their own personal experiences.  It’s a way to put your passion back into education, colorize the frames in all the sessions and engender a more dynamic and diverse atmosphere than you may have ever thought possible.

Teachers who incorporate different platforms in their process will have a better chance of engaging students.  Multimedia classrooms also hold students accountable, keep curriculums organized and offer greater opportunities to learn and apply.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

BYOD in Public Schools? 3 Top Benefits of Implementing a BYOD Program for Teens

Educational Technology

(Photo Credit: Reuters)

Should middle and high school students be allowed to bring their own smartphones or tablets to school?  Until recently, most teachers and parents would have said no.  An increasing number of public schools around the country are implementing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) programs for their students and are finding the educational benefits of such programs to be outstanding, according to Education Week.  This piece offers a list of the top 3 reasons many teachers love BYOD.

1. BYOD Engages Students More than Traditional Teaching

Cite World explained that teachers who have had direct experience with BYOD programs at their schools in Kentucky have divulged that students become more engaged in learning and participate more in class when they can use their own mobile devices.  Today’s students are generally excited about new technologies.  When they own the technology on which they are doing their school work, they become more interested and invested in the material and show a greater desire to do well in class.  Student success rates are high at schools that employ BYOD programs.  BYOD is also a good selling point in attracting top students from outside the district or in getting parents to enroll their children in new charter schools.

2. BYOD Use Can Be Controlled by Teachers and School Administrators

Every school that has a BYOD program can also lay out clear rules for students regarding the use of their devices in class.  Social media sites are almost always banned during class time.  The use of other websites and even apps may also be banned, depending on the particular school and its needs.  Use of devices may be restricted to only certain times during class as well.  Most students have to sign agreements saying they will follow the rules, and may be suspended or barred from the BYOD program if they habitually break those rules.

While the whole concept of BYOD is still relatively new to public schools, those that are using it are adapting well.  Some schools are even taking a page from the BYOD policies governing students as well as staff at colleges and universities and are implementing mobile device management (MDM), according to Alberta Education’s “Bring Your Own Device: A Guide for Schools.”  This allows teachers or school administrators to control what software and apps are installed on students’ devices, block certain websites while on campus, and even delete unauthorized apps remotely.  Some companies like MDM by Blackberry offer this service to schools and give them the ability to control every brand and type of device from one platform. This ensures all students are in compliance with school BYOD rules.

3. BYOD Saves Money that Schools Can Use to Invest in New Teaching Technologies

BYOD saves schools precious dollars.  By allowing students to bring their own devices, schools can avoid the huge expense of having to provide every student with an identical device.  The New York Times disclosed that schools may still set aside funds to supply devices for students whose families can’t afford them, or let students borrow devices.  The money a school saves by implementing BYOD can be used to invest in other teaching technologies, such as innovative software, interactive whiteboards, 3-D printers and more.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison