12 Ways to Energize Learning [Infographic]

Student engagement is always on the minds of educators, and, while it can feel overwhelming with all the moving parts—student retention, test scores, and more—you must start somewhere!

To help, we’ve pulled together a list of twelve ways you can shake up and energize learning with tried and true instructional strategies.

Ready to dive deeper into one (or all!) of these topics? Atomic Learning is here to help with professional online courses on each:

9 Ways to Foster Collaboration through Cooperative Learning

This article is part of the 12 Days of Learning. Click now to see all articles.

Has the thought of working with a group ever made you cringe? Or have you ever been in a group with someone who just didn’t seem to be interested in contributing OR one person who seemed to take over?

We’ve all been there.

However, being able to collaborate and work effectively in groups is critical to success not only in school, but also in college and the workforce. Luckily there are a variety of cooperative learning strategies that can be applied to foster students’ collaboration skills.

What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative Learning is students working in groups or with partners to put together pieces of a puzzle, achieve a common goal, and learn from one another. It’s a powerful strategy to help students learn, get them out of the box, and get them discussing a topic at another level.

Research has shown that students who work in cooperative groups often perform better on tests, and are better critical thinkers. And, if that alone isn’t enough, it’s also said to improve students’ social skills, enhance oral communications, and even heighten self-esteem.

With cooperative learning, it’s also harder for students to fade to the background, and when their contributions are accepted and acknowledged, they are more engaged in the learning experience.

Putting it Into Practice
While there are a wide variety of approaches for cooperative learning, we’ve gathered together a list of nine popular options that you can quickly introduce in your classroom.

  1. Think-Pair-Share
    One of the most commonly used cooperative learning strategies in education today. First the teacher poses a question to the class, and then gives students time to think about their responses individually before having them pair up with a partner to discuss their response. Based on individuals’ responses and perspectives they could learn something new or be challenged with something they’d not previously considered, and have an opportunity to discuss it with their partner before the teacher calls the class back together for pairs to share what they’ve discussed.

    Think-Pair-Share is very easy to use and can be a powerful tool for learning. If you're interested in trying it yourself, you can learn more in Atomic Learning’s Think-Pair-Share course.
  2. Prairie Fire
    The Prairie Fire approach is designed to get your students talking in groups about more high-level questions. To start, gather students in groups of 3-5 before posing a question, then give the groups time to discuss and formulate a single group response to share. Next each group quickly shares their answer and learns the correct response before being instructed to continue their group discussion on what was shared, what they may have gotten wrong, and why.

    This approach is a great way to help students practice the group processing component of cooperative learning, including incorporating feedback from other groups.
  3. Four Corners
    Start by dividing students into larger groups – say where they stand on an issue, for example, and ultimately directing them to one of the four corners in the room to join a team with similar values, opinions, philosophies, etc.. Then pose a question to answer or assign a task for these groups of like-minded individuals to complete. After allowing time for discussion, have groups share out to the class.  

How are teachers staying up-to-date on changing instructional practices?

When launching a mobile initiative of over 27,000 devices, McAllen ISD needed to prepare teachers for the influx of iPads in their classroom. They turned to Atomic Learning for on-demand professional development and tech integration training to get everyone up-to-speed.

Atomic Learning helps educators to ensure their instructional practices are relevant to today's learning environment, while helping them gain confidence with technology with resources like:

SAMR Training
An Overview of Learning Methodologies
Differentiating Instruction with Technology

Using Skype in the Classroom #skype #edtech #elearning

A recent headline cross-posted on Tech&Learning caught my attention. It's amazing how technology--when used effectively--can create so much opportunity for collaboration in the classroom. WI educator Pernille Ripp sums up how she is effectively using Skype in her classroom with this statement:

What I Learned from my Students - Guest Blog Post #TeacherAppreciationWeek

In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked our team member--and former educator--to reflect on what this week meant to her when she was a teacher.

Guest Post by Heather Slee, eLearning Production Designer, and former educator.

Prior to this gig, I was the writing center coordinator at a technical and community college. It was a fantastic job—I loved the school, the staff, the faculty, and the students. Especially the culinary arts students. You know. Because they gave us food. (I miss you, Omelet Bar Day!)

But, I’ll tell you. After the first day on the job, I went home and cried. It was too much. The “writing center” was an old, musty classroom that they had used for storage. The computers were dusty, humming ancient artifacts with thick, obtrusive monitors. The chairs were mended with duct tape. The rust-colored carpet was stained and smelly. And the students? There were maybe two who came in just to work on homework by themselves and chat with each other. And I had one student worker who just didn’t like me. (I know—impossible!) All I had was a boss that said, “Here you go. I trust you.”

Google Drive View - Guest Blog Post

Guest Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

In Google Drive, remember that you can view your Drive folders and files in list view (default) or in "Grid View" if you prefer.  

One advantage to the Grid View is that you can see a preview of pictures uploaded to your Drive better than in list view.

To change to Grid View, look for the 2 x 2 grid of squares in the upper right corner of your drive screen.  

Classroom Courses Featuring Skype® and Coding Added to Training Library #skypeintheclassroom #codingintheclassroom

Did you hear? Atomic Learning recently added training courses featuring Skype® and Mystery Skype® in the Classroom as well as Coding in the Classroom to its training library.

Mystery Skype® is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype®. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

Webinar: Building Teacher Technology Competencies

You want your teachers to use technology to teach, but how do they learn what to do? Join this webinar to find out how Mineral Wells ISD is transforming their classrooms by challenging teachers with projects that integrate technology at all levels.

You'll hear first hand from Dr. Gail Haterius, Superintendent, Greg Bird, Director of Technology, and Consultant Trish Panknin about the iRam program they've put in place and how it can be replicated in your district.

The Power of Kahoot! in the Classroom - Guest Blog Post

Who better to speak to the power of using Kahoot! in the classroom than the eLearning Contributor who developed the training on Kahoot! himself?

Guest Blog Post by Ron Farrow, eLearning Contributor

Student engagement and motivation seem to be at the top of every teacher’s list when it comes to successfully reaching students. Fighting student apathy can be one of the greatest struggles a teacher can face. Luckily, technology has provided us a world of resources that allow us to engage students like never before.

One of my favorite web tools for adding excitement to my lessons is Kahoot!  Kahoot is a web tool that allows you to create a fun game environment for many of your lesson objectives.  You can use it to start a discussion, survey your students, or even assess and review lesson content. The students' devices become their personal game pads, immersing them in the competitive battle to answer quickly and score the most points. After sharing this with so many teachers, this is the one tool that they will come back to me and report their students are actually requesting to review. If you’re looking for a way to add a little more excitement to your lesson, to engage students on another level, try Kahoot. It's such a powerful tool for reaching students.

Watch the series Ron developed on Kahoot! now!

I started as a music teacher for the Farmington School District in 2002, where I taught 5th and 6th grade music as well as High School Percussion. As a music teacher, I had the opportunity to experiment with many forms of technology in the classroom including smart boards, tablets, recording studio equipment, etc. I took this passion for technology and education to the district-wide level in 2010 as part of a leadership cadre for our district, then, in 2012, I became the Educational Technology Facilitator for the district. I joined the Cape Girardeau School District in the Summer of 2013.

I believe technology is the future of education.  But it's more about the change in instruction than the devices themselves. We are in a very exciting time for education! It can be scary to have such a paradigm shift in teaching. However, students now have tools to access a world of information that was previously inconceivable. Through technology, we can foster more creative learning environments, differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every student, and create productive, responsible, digital citizens for future generations.

New Video: Make a Card Using iPhoto - Just in time for Valentine's Day!

Check out our exclusive Valentine's Gift to you -- we recently added this video on creating a card in iPhoto as part of the iPhoto 9.6 (Yosemite) Training series. In this online training series, you'll learn about how iPhoto® lets you do more than you ever thought possible with your photos. It gives you easy ways to find, sort, and rediscover your favorites. Simple, but powerful, editing tools let you turn good shots into magnificent ones.

6 Ways to Avoid Death by PowerPoint

While we highly doubt that a bad slidedeck and a monotone speaker has ever resulted in an actual death, the phrase 'Death by PowerPoint' has only grown in popularity as presentation software use becomes a daily part of life, not only for professionals, but students. Take a moment, if you will, to think of one of those large lecture hall courses where students are so busy scrambling to take down every word displayed on the screen that they can't actually listen to what their professor is saying.

It has spawned both internet memes and cartoons (including the hilarious take shown to the right by Tom Fishburne), as well as some incredible resources on how to not only ensure your audience survives, but is engaged with your content.

A recent Forbes article by author and leadership development consultant Kristi Hedges is one such resource, and outlines six tips to help resuscitate your presentation, including:

  1. Mix up your media.
    An easy way to ensure your audience is engaged is with variety. Rather than relying solely on text or clip art (please, don't), consider using photos, video clips, or even adding music. Hedges also points out that studies have shown that adding a social media component and encouraging posting during a presentation can drive engagement. If this is something you're interested in trying, she also recommends creating a relevant hashtag and including tweetable tidbits of 140 characters or less.

Digital Sticky Notes - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

For many years now, I've been a big fan of the Post-It Note.  Big, little, bright, or that familiar dull yellow, I just love to use sticky notes to help remind me (and others around me) what's going on.  

Sometimes, though, a physical sticky note doesn't work.  With my laptop, they can fall off or I just plain run out of room to put them...

The Hour of Code is Coming - Join in December 8-14

Guest Blog Post: It’s All About the Experience!

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Billie McConnell, President of Connected Consulting

As I work with teachers, I am reminded of my childhood experiences and how things have changed. My childhood was different from my children’s and today’s kids are even more different. Many of the experiences that I had have been lost to today’s children. But, I do admit that they also have some that I never had. (I will save the ones that I never had for another article.)

I played organized sports as a kid, but most of my sports were played on the playground, the street, or the front yard. No adults, just us kids. What happened if we had a conflict? We resolved it. No adults! If we wanted to keep playing, then we had to come up with a solution. We learned early how to resolve conflicts. We didn’t always resolve them using the best method, but that was a learning experience as well. Today, however, many of our students are involved in organized activities run by an adult. What happens when there is a conflict? The adult solves it. Children learn that someone else will solve the problem and they don’t get the chance to learn to deal with conflicts. (Hmm. That reminds me of many parent meetings that I had when I was a teacher and administrator.)

Meeting Standards & Developing 21st Century Skills: Can We Do Both? (Part 1) - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Billie McConnell, President of Connected Consulting
As I work with teachers to create new learning environments, I always get excitement and pushback. The teachers get very excited about creating a learning environment where their students learn to think. But, then they tell me that if they teach that way their students will never pass the state test.
My experience is that we can do both. I believe the key is four-fold:
  1. Create a learner-centered environment by using instructional practices that follow a cyclical approach to Bloom’s Taxonomy, or to put it another way, a backwards approach. Instead of starting with Knowledge, we are going to start with Creating. In the graph below, I have combined terms from the original Bloom’s Taxonomy and the Revised version. (Anderson et al, 2000; Bloom et al, 1956)

Teacher Appreciation Week: Lisa’s Story

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked the Atomic Learning staff to share their stories about the teachers who helped them become the individuals they are today. Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing several stories. Today’s post features Lisa Barnett, Chief Executive Officer of Atomic Learning and SIIA Board Member.
Guest blog post by Lisa Barnett, CEO of Atomic Learning
There were two teachers who probably had the greatest influence on what I chose to do in my career and who I am today.

Spotlights Provide Structured Training Path

We recently introduced Training Spotlight pages which showcase a collection of existing training specifically related to emerging topics. Each Spotlight organizes training initiatives for users to best achieve results to impact student achievement and professional development efforts.