Low Cost Educational Tools Can Be Useful, Too
contributed by Catherine Wilson
At the beginning of every school year, teachers and administrators are often faced with a significant task: Do more with less.
Few areas demonstrate that better than financials. Every year is a new time to carefully balance a classroom budget and potentially even dip into their own funds to cover the costs of necessary supplies and tools. In fact, Forbes cites that the average expenditure for a teacher during the 2013-2014 school year was $513 on “classroom supplies, instructional materials, books for their classrooms, and professional development.”
It’s a given that teachers and professors want to provide the highest level of learning for their pupils, so it can be extra frustrating when the financial realities of acquiring classroom gear present a real challenge to facilitating the cutting-edge lesson plans they have in mind.
Educators looking for effective educational tools that don’t require a lofty budget to implement in the classroom shouldn’t fret, though. Read on to learn more about three different educational practices that provide teachers bang for their buck when they’re planning their upcoming lessons.
Video Conferencing Capabilities
There’s something memorable about a school day that includes a well-done presentation of some kind, whether it’s a career day presentation in high school, show and tell in middle school, or a guest lecturer in higher education. The same exciting feeling comes from corresponding with a pen pal in a classroom halfway across the world. Mixing up an educational curriculum often sparks a new wave of curiosity in students’ brains, and provides a valuable outside perspective.
However, it’s not always financially or physically feasible to connect a classroom with the outside world. A video conferencing system like Skype for in the Classroom is a cost-effective, smooth way to facilitate these memorable learning experiences. Whether it involves collaboration with another class in a different country or communicating with a guest speaker in their natural environment, utilizing a video chat system can add another dimension to any curriculum.
Quality Classroom Response System
Implementing polls and interactive quizzes in the classroom is a great way to keep engagement levels high while gauging where students stand on a variety of questions. One blocker to collecting this data is the high overhead cost of buying response clickers that work with the software, not to mention the accompanying risk of broken, lost, or outdated clickers that would invalidate the entire investment.
A wise alternative is making use of a classroom response system like Poll Everywhere that harnesses the power of technology that many students already have with them at all times: cell phones. For a reasonable monthly subscription fee, educators can then collect poll responses through text messages or via the Internet and display them in real time to maximize student engagement in any subject in a way that doesn’t blow their budget.
Low-Tech Communication Materials
In our digital age, it’s important to keep sight of the fact that humans have different experiences reading information on paper versus on a screen, so educators should be sure to incorporate both technology-based educational tools as well as non-technological. Whether educators have to work around a lack of access to technology or simply want to ingratiate more tried-and-true methods, coming up with writing, reading, teamwork, and editing exercises can go a long way in boosting creativity without breaking the bank.
According to educational hub Noodle, “there is value in experiencing quiet, in creating, in having space to think without multitasking, in collaborating, and in dialing down technology to focus on learning.” There are a wide variety of low-tech educational practices that require physical materials—like paper, publishing materials, and art supplies—that cost much less than many tech items while opening up a whole new world of possibilities for meaningful education.
By keeping overhead costs low and strategically implementing these ideas, educators can spend more time and energy crafting lesson plans and interacting with students, which is where their focus and passion is in the first place.
Low Cost Educational Tools Can Be Useful, Too; image attribution flickr user ginnerobot