Why Bother With Interactive Content?

The number of online content creation and content sharing tools available for students and teachers seems to be growing by the day. Wonderful tools like Prezi, Animoto, WallWisher, and Voki fill the pages of some of my favorite ed-tech blogs where educators discuss authentic ways students can use each application to create and share original content.

On the other end of the spectrum is educator or publisher created content in the form of instructional animations, virtual manipulatives, practice activities and games that can be integrated into classroom instruction. (For a discussion of each of these four types of content, please visit this post at The Interactive Content Corner: http://interactivecontentcorner.com/2009/06/05/categorizing-interactive-content)


So, why use this type of content in your classroom? Why not just stick with content creation and sharing tools? And what is wrong with just using books, paper, and pencils to teach basic concepts like we always have?


There are many reasons to use interactive content in the classroom, but I’m going to focus on four specific reasons that motivated me to use interactive content with my students:


1. Research Based


2. Increases Instructional Capabilities


3. Time Saving


4. Engaging and Motivating


1. My research based reason for integrating interactive content into direct classroom instruction is based on a study by Mann, Shakeshaft, Becker and Kottkamp published in the Milken Exchange on Education Technology. Through their research, they found that the manner in which technology is utilized in the classroom is a major determining factor in its ability to influence student achievement. Technology, specifically instructional software, has been proven most effective when integrated into classroom instruction.


Students who experienced teacher-led standards-based instruction with technology showed higher overall gains than students who experienced the same curricula and technology in an isolated lab setting. Teachers have the ability to match computer instruction with the children’s development, the curriculum sequence, and the needs of particular groups of students. Teachers must be involved, orchestrators of technology, rather than quiet observers of students in learning isolation.


I particularly liked the researchers term orchestrator in reference to the teacher’s role in using technology in the classroom. Rather than being the sage on the stage, with interactive content, teachers need to act as guides for students to discover, practice and apply new concepts.


2. Interactive content allowed me to present concepts in ways that simply aren’t possible without technology. With interactive content, I can show my students an instructional animation in which each piece of US currency comes to life to tell the story behind its creation. I can use a virtual manipulative to instantly draw 100 colored balls and then 1000 colored balls from a bag so we can compare the results of the two experiments to discuss the relationship between theoretical and experimental probabilities. We can measure thousands of objects with an online ruler more than I could ever gather for my classroom. I can use a multiplication game that allows my students to practice their facts with students around the globe in a fun environment. Integrating interactive content helped me to take my students beyond what is possible with paper and pencil based tools.


3. Using interactive content in my classroom saved me time. Tons of it! Every year that I taught, something new was added to my growing list of daily responsibilities, and it got to a point where it was impossible to accomplish everything I needed to in a day even though I showed up early and left late.


When feeling overwhelmed by all of the daily work that needed to be accomplished in my classroom, fellow teachers always reminded me, You don’t need to re-invent the wheel for everything you do. This is especially true for teachers using interactive technologies. I see many teachers become overwhelmed at the thought of trying to create original digital lessons for every class they teach every day. There simply isn’t time.


The good news is you don’t have to! There are many educator created lessons already available online in specific IWB software formats, but beyond the power point nature of some of these lessons, there is a whole world of online interactive content that can be accessed with an internet browser. Tech-savvy teachers and tech-reluctant teachers can choose from thousands of interactive content pieces online so they can spend less time creating and more time integrating. (Yes, I realize that finding online interactive content can also be difficult and time consuming, which is why a group of teachers created StarrMatica.com)


4. Interactive content engages students. There are many different ways to define engage. In this instance, I mean it gets the student’s attention and holds it. True, I can provide my students with the same opportunities to practice basic math skills via worksheets as I can via an animated game, but the latter is more enjoyable and motivational. Technology is the language of many of today’s students, and with interactive content we as teachers have the ability grab the attentions of our students and to motivate them by wrapping learning in enjoyable interactive content that holds their interests.

About The Author

Emily Starr started integrating online interactive content in her classroom instruction seven years ago, and teaching with technology has been her passion ever since. Emily left her fourth grade teaching position in 2005 to found StarrMatica Learning Systems. Since then, StarrMatica has grown to be a leading provider of interactive reading and math content and professional development for schools implementing interactive technologies. 

Emily has been awarded Iowa’s Spotlight on Technology in Education Award, The Prometheus Award for Innovation in Education, and the Neal Smith Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She shares her interactive content integration expertise with fellow educators at state ed-tech conferences and workshops, through online articles, during webinars and via two blogs. 

For more information about StarrMatica, visit http://www.starrmatica.com

The author invites you to visit: http://www.starrmatica.com

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