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How Can Students Best Synthesizing Learning Online
In my own late high school years, I was an English major, studying one of the most important subjects in life. But I found myself procrastinating for most of my college years until after graduation. Then, I became a Major in English Literature—this time as a teacher, a profession I grew up working in as a classroom reader. And as the newly minted curriculum specialist in my school district, I found that my students were far more technologically savvy than they had been in previous years.
Many of them were also learning how to use edutainment apps that they’d never heard of. In some of our introductory science classes, we heard from students, some barely old enough to drive, who were being asked to play massively multiplayer games, study for hours, and write an essay all at the same time. This was unbelievable!
At the time, I quickly realized that the students were learning and interacting through educational video games—playfully walking through some of their experiments and playing in a video game like Pokemon Go. Meanwhile, I’d heard them complain that in most of our courses, they “were being asked to sit there and read long passages.” This led me to explore how educators can bring edutainment into our classrooms—and ultimately end up incorporating technology into the course material.
One of the main purposes of a STEM or computing major is to provide training for STEM job-seeking professions. To succeed at those endeavors, STEM graduates need to connect their creativity and problem-solving skills to technologies that are already in use in technology, media, and communications. If we, as educators, can gain their skills in these areas, why not leverage these skills in technology? Because there’s a reason to do so: the computer science field is currently facing more than a 700,000 job openings within the next five years, and more than 40% of all workers in technology have predicted job growth over the next 10 years.
In the same time frame, the demand for educational technology jobs is also projected to continue to grow, due to fast growing technologies—such as artificial intelligence—that have only recently been acquired by employers. These edutainment-centered careers would therefore make sense for students to pursue in order to get into this growing field.
How Should Schools Integrate Edutainment?
Edutainment is a multifaceted concept, each of which has distinct education technology applications. Tools like these can help teachers show how content can be learned, as well as deepen students’ technical knowledge. Although teachers can use these resources to augment regular lessons in class, the most useful will integrate them more subtly into how classes are taught.
We’ve experimented with this at my district—and have seen a dramatic rise in interest from students, as well as from parents who recognize the impact technology can have in the classroom. It’s easy to explain how e-boards work to students; it’s not so clear when they can actually use a very interactive version. With this in mind, we’ve developed a variety of current or future apps—including portals, hubs, apps, and other interactive tools—with over 1,100 approved educational techs.
Although we’ve made great progress in introducing educational technology into the classroom, there’s still a long way to go, particularly when dealing with language and math content. I know from my own pedagogical work in curriculum development that students often excel when it comes to science, technology, engineering, and math—but students can struggle with computer science content when they’re not immersed in an abstract framework.
Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to help students make sense of what they’re learning, through any form of technology, and then help them better connect and communicate what they’re learning with the people and the skills they’ll need to thrive in a future career.