This week's topic for my grad class? Material generators for the classroom. I just got my teaching degree in 2008, and many times I have wondered how educators managed to teach Earth Science without any of the technology that we have today. I mean, I would truly have to be an entertainer, I think, to keep most of my students interested in rocks and weather at a time in their lives when they're really only interested in their social lives. Just having internet access is incredibly useful to me; I can really show some exciting stuff like volcanoes exploding, earthquakes shaking, and extreme weather events, often not long after they've happened. And that's just the beginning.
Here are descriptions of three materials generators that I wouldn't want to be without in my classroom:
1) SmartBoard. I've always had one in my room, and was lucky enough to receive several weeks of training that allowed me to become a certified trainer. I use it just about everyday. It is so much more than just a "whiteboard" or another way to deliver a boring PowerPoint. I do usually provide notes from it, and can draw whatever I need right into the notes (like showing how a fossil forms during sedimentation). I can print those notes just like a PowerPoint program to give to my students who missed class or require a printed copy. But the ability to create games is one of the best features. I try to make it a goal to get my kids out of their chairs at least once a day, and the ability to throw in a game that lets them interact with the board is a great thing. I love the ability to go right to the internet during a discussion or if a student asks a question that I don't know the answer to, or if I need a different way of explaining a concept, usually I can find one within seconds.
2) Test Generator- This is an invaluable time saver. My students are required to take an Earth Science Regents exam comprised of 80 questions in order to pass the class and receive an advanced diploma. The test generator is loaded with previous Regent's exam questions, and I can modify them in any way that I like (choose the font, number of answer choices for multiple choice, change wording in questions, etc). I can have two or more versions of the same test print, and I can easily revise a test after I make it. I cannot imagine having to make tests up without an easy option to change it. It makes it so easy to modify a test for a student with a learning disability, also.
3) Game Makers- One of my favorites is being able to make Bingo cards (my kids *love* Bingo). They love any games, actually. It makes for a great way to review (especially if there are prizes). I can post games on my website like Jeopardy games files. In fact, teachnology has all kinds of material generators for the classroom, for free. I use their site often to create different games and worksheets.
All of these are incredibly helpful in the classroom. Every class is different, and having tools like this at one's fingertips helps to keep students engaged & have their needs met are invaluable time-savers.