It is a well researched theory, and dare I say “proven fact,” that children learn best through play. Motor skills, language skills, social skills, critical thinking skills– there are truly no areas of cognitive development that cannot be enhanced and developed through interactivity. More areas of the brain are awakened and strengthened through “doing something” with content, than simply reading it or hearing it. So why are we still “worksheeting” our kids to death in the classroom when the trusted pedagogical research is showing how crucial play/interactivity is to learning?

Allow me to share some insight as to why and how interactive technology in the classroom is not just an effective teaching tool, but our responsibility to provide to 21st-century students…

So why are we still "worksheeting" our kids to death in the classroom when the trusted pedagogical research is showing how crucial play/interactivity is to learning?

Making a lesson interactive doesn’t mean make it flashy, complicated or super-sophisticated.

Simple adaptations and incorporations to what you’re currently doing can make the biggest impact on student learning. You’ve spent time building relevant content–don’t scrap it, enhance it. Have students manipulate a digital map, rather than color one on a worksheet. Allow students to move the stages of frog metamorphosis into order, rather than number the pictures on a piece of paper. Let group presentations be a video they created together rather than a poster that will eventually get thrown in the trash. Collect student responses digitally with Google forms or poll everywhere. Any small effort to engage students–to meet them where they are–is a step in the right direction toward meaningful and memorable teaching.

Adding interactivity to a lesson doesn’t take as much time as you think

Many teachers are operating under the false notion that making interactive lessons is extremely time consuming, when in fact, it is not. Often times, you can adapt content you have already created. Whether you are using software that accompanies an interactive board or an outside web-based app, teacher tools have evolved into simplicity machines. There are also educator communities of pre-made lessons/activities for the taking! Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to.

So why is incorporating interactive elements into classroom instruction a MUST not a maybe?

Because students are already engaged in technology in the palm of their hand, every day.

As “digital natives,” students today already know how to use technology. It’s second nature to them and an integral part of how they interact with information and people. Incorporating interactivity into lessons meets students where they are and engages them by using what they’re familiar with.

Furthermore, students today THINK and LEARN differently than previous generations.

They absorb and retain information by different means. Their brains actually function differently–Thus, they require different methods of content delivery to learn optimally. And if learning styles and careers today look different than they did 50, 20, or even 10 years ago, why would it make sense for our education to look the same?

And lastly, today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce– and the jobs of the future require technology fluency.

A job candidate’s ability to manipulate digital material and adapt to changes in technology tools easily sets them apart. The critical thinking and problem solving skills students attain through interactive technology are crucial to make them essential employees of tomorrow. It’s our responsibility to give our students modern tools– to future proof them.  The future is bright, and if the kids of today want to truly shine in it, they’ve got to start preparing to succeed in it, now.” And it’s our job, as educators, to guide them.