Technology in the Classroom: Teach to your talent

Recently, I was listening to a webinar with one of my favorite speakers in education – Sir Ken Robinson.  He gave a famous TED talk in 2006 (4 million downloads!) , and then followed up with a new one in 2010, talking about the role of creativity in our school systems.  Although the talk is really about reforming the broader field of education, it got me thinking about what happens in individual classrooms.  Many of us teach as we were taught, regardless of what might be the best method for our own personal skills.  When it comes to classroom teaching, where is your talent?  How does your classroom create an environment to best utilize your own passions, and those of your students?

If you’re looking to try something new in your classroom, here are a few technologies that might be suited to your particular talent.   Are you a…

Consider ditching your PowerPoint files and trying out Prezi.  Unlike the linear nature of PowerPoint, Prezi allows presenters to move through information in a concept-map-like manner – tying information together when/where it makes the most sense.  You have to see it in action to get a feel for it – give it a try on their website!

Consider using more of your classtime to facilitate conversations between students by recording lectures ahead of time with Camtasia or Echo360 (email and posting them on myWPI.  This model, called the Inverted Classroom, has been used and tested by number of faculty at WPI – more information can be found here.   Alternatively/additionally, the myWPI Discussion Boards are a great place to encourage free-form conversations.  For tips on improving your use of online discussion boards, see this page in the TTL Collaboratory.  

Multimedia can be a great tool to introduce into your classwork, both during lectures and as student projects.  Virtual field trips and simulations add depth to the work already happening in the classroom, allowing the instructor to create context and motivate students visually.  For more information on assigning multimedia projects to your students, see this page in the TTL Collaboratory, and if you decide to try it out, send your students here for some great tips.  

Another great tool for the well-prepared professor is a student response system (aka “Clickers”).  WPI is currently preparing for a Clicker evaluation program this fall – if you’d like to participate and/or test a new system, email me at!

Like to sketch/write/solve as you go?  If you are teaching in one of WPI’s e-Classrooms, you may have a SMART Podium available.  The SMART Podium has a pen that allows you to annotate or draw on files, websites, or just a blank piece of digital paper.  No more chalk dust or time spent erasing, plus a copy of your notes if you need them later.  (Wait, did we cover that last week??)  SMART Podium rooms have a software program called SMART Notebook on the classroom computer – check it out for some great drawing tools.
Or perhaps you’re one of the millions who have happily succumbed to the newest trend in computing – the tablet.  If so, there’s an App for that.  Here are some recommendations:
iPad:  Adobe Ideas can now be projected!  Other WPI faculty use Penultimate.  Still others are a fan of AirSketch – no hookup required!
Motorola Xoom:  Draw! Free for Android is just that – free!  It’s also very easy to use.  

NOTE:  We can help you connect your tablet to the projection system in the classroom – call us!  You may need some extra equipment and we can help you figure out what you need.  

Do you have other tools that are suited to your particular teaching talents?  Let us know!