This guest post was contributed by Jessica Thiefels, the editor of Whooo’s Reading and an education blogger who’s been featured in publications such as PBS.org, EdTech Digest, and Daily Genius.
Taking classroom tech offline can have the same benefits as making classroom activities online. It increases engagement, makes lessons more memorable, and ultimately gets students excited about learning. There’s still value in powering devices down and putting pen to paper, talking as a class, and learning offline.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to combine both online and offline activities, often referred to as blended learning, to create a more effective culture of learning and technology in your classroom. Use these ideas to support teach-based learning and reinforce the lesson offline.
Introduce Students to Social Media Offline
Social media can be a great tool for learning, and there are some awesome ideas out there about how students can use Facebook and Twitter to engage in educational activities. However, not all students are ready for this jump. Parents of younger students may not even be comfortable with their kids using these websites.
Avoid this issue altogether, while still bringing social media into the classroom, by taking the social media part offline. For example, a simple Google search for “Facebook profile templates” will give you a variety to choose from. Find the best one, and print off copies for your students, who will then create the profile of an author, celebrity, or someone else you’re learning about in class, like Abraham Lincoln. They each research their person online and then put what they’ve learned into the “Facebook profile,” including, interests, information, friends, and more. Students will especially love taking historic figures and bringing them into the real world in this fun activity.
Put Coding in the Hands of Students
A valuable skill for students to have, even at a young age, is coding: the process of building video games, apps, websites—basically anything that lives online or on an electronic device. While this learning is done almost entirely online, there are ways to take it offline, helping students truly grasp the tenants of coding.
One fun idea is to have students “write” lines of code on their desk. You tell students, “Build the code for a three paragraph blog post with two images.” Then they use the cards that you’ll make, or the class can make together (see below), to show you what that would look like online.
All you need is paper, cut into small rectangles, a black pen or marker, and scissors. Write coding symbols on the papers, laminate (if possible), and cut them into 2 in. x 1 in. rectangles so that each symbol is now a small card. Do this by yourself, or use it as an activity to help students memorize their coding terminology. If you want to avoid all of the cutting and laminating, give students mini-white boards to use, which will accomplish a similar goal.
Create and Hang Internet Safety Posters
Whether your students are browsing the Internet in class or not, they’re likely talking with one another online, researching, and using other digital tools that could put them at risk for cyber bullying, computer viruses, and more. Support their tech use with important Internet safety rules in the form of posters.
Create these posters as a class and write your list of rules with the help of student suggestions. When the rule list has been created, have students craft a few posters to be placed around the room as friendly reminders. Be sure to put one near the computers or device station if you have one. If you’re in a 1:1 classroom, create mini-posters that students tape to their desks. This makes it easy for them to have access to the rules at all times, without getting up and walking around. Use these fun posters as inspiration for yours.
Bring Games into the Real-World with Non-Fiction Reading
Games are a smart way of engaging students while learning new material. However, games put students in “online mode” where they tend to be more worried about getting points, beating their teammates, and leveling up than what they’re actually learning about. Make the lesson relevant to their lives here on earth, not in cyberspace, with related magazine articles, which serve as great non-fiction texts.
As a teacher, you can get a variety of subscriptions for your classroom for free, including various trade magazines, Computer Graphics World, and more. USA Test Prep offers an exhaustive list. Purchase a few subscriptions and keep them in the classroom to be accessed easily by your young learners. Or talk with your campus librarian to see if you can have a few older magazine issues to have on hand.
When planning your gamified lesson, read through the magazines to find a relevant article, or let students dig through the pile it find it for themselves. They’ll remember the article, and it’s very likely, they’ll remember the lesson that went along with it too.
Invent a Blended, Educational Scavenger Hunt
This is a fun way for students to go from online to offline in a way that’s both engaging and fun. Create all of your clues online, making them as intricate or simple as you want. One fun way to do this would be to create a Google Doc with links to clues. The links could point to videos, articles, images, puzzles, etc. Students have to interpret what the link means and find the clue in the resource, and then head into the classroom, or even school hallways, to find the secret items.
Create your list as a checklist, so students can check each item off as they find it. Break them into teams to gamify the already exciting lesson activity and encourage a little friendly competition. This idea can be used with most young to middle age groups.
Learning online is a fun way to keep students engaged and excited about learning, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value for offline learning as well. Find ways to support learning on devices with offline materials that will make lessons relevant, help students better grasp concepts and much more. What offline lessons work best for your students?