By Teachers, For Teachers
Many teachers are shifting away from a textbook-dependent classroom and moving toward a more student-centered, digital atmosphere driven by technology in the classroom. This is probably because as technology in the classroom accelerates, so does our drive to move into this new digital era. There once was a time, before the Internet, when textbooks were the only means of resources teachers had. However, now that we are living in a more digital world driven by technology in the classroom, there are so many alternative ways to improve student achievement that go beyond the basic textbook. Here are a few tips to help you close the book on the text-dependent classroom while transforming your classroom to go beyond what the textbook has to offer.
Textbooks provide facts, and they have bold-faced headings and vocabulary words, quizzes at the end of the chapters, and assessment tests. If you’re looking to go beyond the textbook and move into a more student-driven classroom, then take the information that you would have taught them from the textbook (the basic facts) and have students learn it from an alternative source. For example, students can learn the basic facts of a specific topic by simply Googling it or going to the library and finding a primary resource about it. They can also earn facts though an app. There are many fun apps that teach and review concepts on the market today, and a lot of them are free. Videos, group work, charts, and field trips are also a few other fun ways to learn the basics of a concept without having to use a textbook.
One can only assume that your students will come to class with some basic prior knowledge of some sort. With that said, you can use this prior knowledge to create a real-world scenario to help students understand a concept better. This is something that a textbook could never provide students. Textbooks provide information, and sometimes stories. But by tapping into your students’ prior knowledge and connecting what they already know to something that is going on in the world around them, you are developing their critical thinking skills, and helping them to understand the content on a higher level.
Textbooks are usually one-sided and only provide readers with one perspective. If you’re looking to move beyond a textbook then you will want to open your students’ minds so that they can come up with their own opinions on a topic. Give them a variety of resources to learn about a concept, not just one. The more perspectives they read about and learn, the better the chance of them forming their own opinion. This is a great way to develop students’ critical thinking skills. They will have to sift through all of the resources they have read to form their own opinion.
Textbooks do not require students to use their critical thinking skills. In order to challenge students, you will need to set up problem-solving situations where they can demonstrate their understanding of a subject. Handouts and worksheets are too close to what textbooks have to offer and usually lack student interest. So alternative classroom resources like the Internet, tablets, and videos, coupled with group work activities, can be powerful educational tools to implement into your teaching practice.
We live in a technological world, and it’s our job as teachers to prepare our students to live in it. Before we know it, our students will be learning from digital devices only, so now is the time to utilize the technology that we have, to better prepare them for the future. Computers, smartboards, tablets, and mobile devices are all wonderful educational tools that can provide our students with the 21st-century skills they will need for the future.
Creating a less textbook-dependent classroom will ensure that your students are using their critical thinking skills and developing other essential skills that a textbook cannot give them. They will be able to form their own opinions about the topics they are learning, and not just learn a one-sided view that the textbook has to offer. With a little forethought and creativity on your part, your students will soar as they develop 21st-century skills that will help lead them into the digital-driven world that we now live in.
How do you teach beyond the textbook? Do you have technology in the classroom strategies that work well for your classroom? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.