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Turning the curriculum into interactive learning – Top 10 tips to save time & be effective

Renaldo Lawrence works at Chiswick School where he teaches and works with staff creating and developing interactive e-learning materials for students. Read his advice about creating content for students.

I truly believe that the teachers’ ability to allow students access to their interactive learning materials 24 hours a day is so critical to the students’ learning and success. By creating these interactive materials, we can have our teachers in front of our students both in and out of the classroom, allowing the students to learn whenever and wherever they wish.

This also allow parents to see what their children are learning at school, giving them a feel of what is happening inside of the classroom. Just imagine how engaging parents evenings can be with this in place? Instead of the parents being unsure about what their child is learning, they can already access the learning content through the use of the interactive materials. Ultimately, this means they can contribute more to helping better their child’s learning.

We believe that learning can be so much more efficient when parents, guardians, teachers and students all work together in order to create a learning environment that supports the students.

So, what I would like to do is give you my top ten tips for creating interactive e-Learning material outlining:

  • how you can get started using interactive multimedia content in the classroom
  • how teachers can advance their knowledge and go to the next level of content creation

1. Create the vision

Before you do anything, write down your goals and objectives and make it very clear to yourself and the team, if you have one, what those goals are. When I am working with teachers the first thing we do is decide on what interactive product they are trying to deliver to their students, the time frame, and what type of interactivity they require.

When I say interactive product, I mean items such as iBooks, websites, digital magazines or interactive PowerPoints which can include audio and/or video. Included in this vision is a storyboard which shows what the final interactive product will look like, including the links, images, video, audio and the placement of those items on each of the pages. Not only will it help you stay focused on the task, but also if you are working with a team it gives the team a clear and collective vision of where they are going and trying to get to.

2. Choosing the curriculum

“Of course I want to use my current curriculum when creating my materials”, I hear you screaming? Well, let’s think about this for a moment. There is a good chance that if you are a teacher you will have a lot of curriculum. Are you going to create content for all your curriculum? Well, I can think of nothing that will put you off more than trying to create content for all of your curriculum materials. This would take forever. My suggestion is to start with one lesson and develop the content for that one lesson only to begin with. There is a good chance that you already have the PowerPoint or Microsoft Word documents and that is a great way to start. Always try to keep thing as simple as possible.

3. Know your audience

Before you start your project, it is a great idea to make sure that your plan (storyboard) caters for all of your students, from your SEN students to your Gifted and Talented students. It is important that the content is created and presented at a level which all students can comprehend and access. For this to occur, you may need to record different sets of audio files for your different groups of students, especially if they are working on different tasks.

4. Find the suitable tools

One of the most important factors you will have to deal with is deciding on what software is suitable for you to use to create and complete your project.  There are a lot of free and paid tools available for you to choose from. A few examples are:

  • iBook Author (free) –  a wonderful tool for developing interactive digital books http://www.apple.com/uk/ibooks-author/
  • Adobe Creative Cloud (paid) – a suite of cloud based tools that allows you to create and develop anything your mind can conceive in terms of e-learning resources.
  • Camtasia Studio (paid) + Fuse (free) – a great suite of tools that makes video editing a breeze www.techsmith.com. Fuse allows you to connect your ipad to Camtasia wirelessly.
  • Apple products (free with a Mac) –  some wonderful tools which include Garageband and KeyNote.

I believe that creating a vision will help you decide what software you are going to use. It is only when you know where you are going, can you get there. A few questions you may want to ask yourself are:

  • Is this going to be a video only project?
  • Is this going to be an audio only project?
  • Where am I going to store (what platform) the audio? video? Am I going to use YouTube, Vimeo or my school network? If you use your school network, then will your students have access to the school network outside of school?
  • Do you have access to any software inside of school that can be helpful?

5. Organisation

I cannot stress to you enough just how important it is to organise both yourself and your materials when you are creating interactive learning materials. By materials, I am referring to items such as images, videos, audio and any other items which you want to include in your project.

The first thing I advise that you do is to create a main folder with the project’s name. Then inside the main folder,  create individual folders with either the page names or the names of the sections of the curriculum. This way when you need to access something specific, you know exactly where it is when it is required.

6. Assessment

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand and know how your students are progressing in their studies.  So naturally you need to have a system which allows you to check both the students’ progress and their understanding of the curriculum content.

This needs to give us the ability to add all the data to an easy to read spreadsheet, use graphs to help you understand and compare students progress, and allows you to add comments for students to read and review their progress themselves.

There are many different types of software which can help you to ascertain this information, but one interactive tool for collecting this information that is really effective is Google forms. Google forms allows you to do the things mentioned above and more. To find out more about just how Google forms can help you gather and assess your students see:

7. Share your ideas

Sharing your ideas is not only one of the best ways to help others, but also a great way for you to get feedback based on what you have created. Publishing your work gives you the opportunity to feel good about what you are doing and see directly how you are helping other learners succeed.

8. Getting connected

Getting connected with others on social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn etc. can be a really beneficial way of communicating with people who may be facing/have faced the same challenges. On these platforms you can get some really good advice from those in a similar position to yourself. Both Twitter and LinkedIn have been tremendously beneficial to me personally in helping me find answers to questions, knowing what is coming up in technology, and just for simply connecting with other people around the world. Also, I would recommend following blogs which offer information on new resources, new trends and tips about technology being used in and out of the classrooms, as this is extremely beneficial too. Examples of these blogs are:

By following different blogs such as these, you can help yourself  stay up to date on new trends and products being used in classrooms worldwide.

9. Using Lynda.com/LinkedIn (advancing your knowledge)

One of the ways I am trying hard to help educators improve is through creating courses at www.Lynda.com/renaldolawrence in order to inform and educate them about technology. Not only technology as a broad subject, but specific technology in the teacher’s individual classrooms and subject area. There are three courses I have created all based around using technology in the classroom.

10. Embrace mobile learning

In our society today, students start using interactive devices such as smartphones and tablet devices from a very young age. There are very few students at my school, especially at Key Stage 3, who don’t have a mobile device and I know this as a fact because we have a 1:1 iPad program.

I personally think that as teachers we need to stop asking students to put these devices away and start creating personalized learning content to help our students learn using them instead. Adobe, Google, Techsmith and Apple, DropBox and Microsoft are among some of the fantastic companies creating and developing free applications which will help us create interactive materials for these devices. These will help our students learn in a way that is appropriate for their 21st century lives.  Of course though, this can only occur through the presence of set boundaries and rules regarding their usage of these devices in the classroom.

(Bonus) Create an audio dictionary

Whatever curriculum you have which your students are studying, it has its own vocabulary. It has been my experience that regardless of the subject area, students may forget or not properly learn the vocabulary associated with the curriculum. However, in order for the students to fully understand the subject, they need to know at least the main keywords. All of us learn differently and regardless of what content you are creating, I believe that it is essential that we cater for all three learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthetic.

So in order to help us to help our students progress, we can create an audio dictionary built into our digital publications. This immediately solves two potential issues:

  • Stops students from asking the same question enquiring what a key term means
  • Helps students better connect to the curriculum

Finally

As a teacher, you have an amazing opportunity to use the free tools available such as Google Docs, Dropbox and Microsoft Office mobile tools. The only way you will ever succeed is to try and experiment with different stuff. No one is an expert and the sooner you realise that the better you will be. There is nobody who understands your students the way you do so you already have a  tremendous advantage in helping them succeed.

So, TRY STUFF and DON’T WORRY about getting it wrong. As long as you can get your students the information they require that is all that matters. But please remember that if you do not get started it will never happen.

I feel so fortunate to be able to share my knowledge with you in the hope that all the time it has taken me to study and learn, will enable you to cut your learning and development time.

Renaldo Lawrence is a Lynda.com/LinkedIn author, Adobe Educational Leader,  Apple Distinguished Educator, Microsoft Innovator and Teacher Developer, Advanced Skills Teacher. He is also a Senior Associate of the Academy for Innovation, London, an Accredited Lecturer both with the Academy and the Claude Littner Business School, University of West London.

Renaldo Lawrence

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