Using digital content in the classroom

Digital education content is material that you access from a digital device. This content could be stored online on a website or downloaded to the device as an e-book or app. It can even be distributed offline via a USB disk or CD-ROM. Some of this content is freely available for re-use and adaptation and is called Open Educational Resources (OERs). Other content has been developed by commercial publishers and is available for purchase similar to a print book. 

Digital content can take many forms that could include videos, animations, interactive diagrams or widgets, audio clips, assessment content, images and text. Some types of content work better on a laptop or PC but all should be able to be accessed on a smartphone or tablet.

A teacher with learners using tablets in a lesson

Examples of digital content and how they could be used in the classroom:

  • Videos: a Social Studies teacher could use an archival video clip of an African leader talking to start a class discussion on the struggle for independence. The same video clip could be used by a teacher in a lesson on life skills as the basis of an assignment on forgiveness. A video clip of a curriculum required science experiment would be useful for a Science class at a school that is missing equipment or supplies or has no Science laboratory.
  • Animations: a Life Sciences teacher could use an animation of the water cycle to illustrate how water evaporates from standing bodies of water before condensing and forming clouds, creating rain that falls back to Earth. While this could be shown as a static diagram, the dynamic nature of this concept is best explained using animation. In calculus, a Mathematics teacher could demonstrate the involution of a circle and an elipse using a short animation.
  • Interactive diagrams or widgets: these rely on input from a learner or teacher and would best be used on an interactive whiteboard (as part of a lesson led by a teacher) or a tablet (self-study by learners). In a primary English class, a ‘click and drag’ widget could show an illustration that has no labels. The teacher could lead the class in deciding what word to ‘click and drag’ into the label space on the illustration. The widget gives instant feedback on whether the selection is correct or not.
  • Audio clips: audio recordings of required readings could allow a teacher to test learners’ listening skills. Furthermore, these recordings can be used to show correct pronunciation. This is particularly useful when learners are learning in a second-language or indigenous language.
  • Assessment: assessment of content can be displayed as one-word, multiple-choice, and/or true/false answers. Additional practice like this is useful as it allows learners to confirm whether they have understood a topic. Teachers can also check if all learners in the class have a basic understanding before moving forward with the next topic. The interactive assessment is automatically marked, providing instant feedback to learners. This assessment data can also be captured by the system and outputted as a class mark, which can be stored for reference or used for reporting purposes.
  • Images: while static images are an important component of a print textbook, digital images can present information in new ways. For example, a group of images can be turned into a slideshow, allowing learners to scroll through them and digital images can also be magnified, allowing learners to see details they would not normally notice.
  • Text: digital text allows for more manipulation by teachers and learners. Text can be copied and pasted into a Microsoft Word document (correctly referenced) for use in an assignment. In an e-book or app, text can be highlighted and notes or bookmarks attached to it. When teachers make a book or document digital, learners can easily search for words or terms.

Extract from Integrating ICT in Education. 2017. Cambridge University Press

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