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Helping Students Become Independent Learners with Interactive Lessons

By Aili Olichney

In the past, most of the teachers I know--myself included--have focused their efforts on making class time engaging and fun. We’ve backed up our lessons with homework made to get students ready for those great classes and as reinforcement so that they don’t forget what they’ve learned. In these uncertain times, this model isn’t working like it used to, and some would argue that it wasn’t really working before either. We can do better, and this is the time to grow as educators.

If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that we need to make some big changes in the ways we teach and communicate with our students. The world is shifting towards distance learning models, and even brick and mortar schools are changing to keep up with the times. The question for me as an educator becomes: 

How can I support my students in becoming more independent learners so that they can learn in and beyond the classroom?

Introducing... Interactive Lessons!

Interactive lessons encourage students to engage with the learning material and practice important critical thinking and problem solving skills.  According to Stanford University’s School of Medicine, “Interactive learning actively engages the students in wrestling with the material. It reinvigorates the classroom for both students and faculty. Lectures are changed into discussions, and students and teachers become partners in the journey of knowledge acquisition.”

Miraculously, this idea of turning lectures into discussions can also be applied to distance learning. Interactive lessons and assignments are my way of introducing students to a world of learning where they are the true protagonist. Instead of handing students a textbook or presenting from a Powerpoint, I can hide information for them to find online with a scavenger hunt or have them engage with material to complete a digital escape room.

Now, my students have to decide where to look for the information they need and what they want to discover. No more passive learning. Best yet, interactive lessons work in and out of the classroom and offer an exciting alternative to traditional class lectures and homework assignments. Sounds pretty good, right? 

5 Simple Steps To Transforming Your Lessons

Convinced? Here are 5 simple steps that will guide you in making your own lessons interactive.

The Tool I Use To Create All My Interactive Material

Genially is my go-to tool for creating interactive lessons. Why? It’s free, comes with over 1000 templates for creations of all kinds--games, presentations, infographics, interactive images, quizzes and more--and Genially creations can easily be added to most digital platforms. Genially works seamlessly with Microsoft and Google platforms, and it allows me to make just about anything. The tool also allows me to easily insert videos, audio, images, gifs and other activities into my creations.

Plus, it comes with excellent support, from their Help Center to an entire website called the Genially Academy which offers free, full courses on the tool itself and how to use it in the classroom.

These are examples of class material I’ve made using the interactive image option. Here’s the tutorial I used when making my first interactive image:

Another option is to hide buttons filled with information for your students to find. Take a look, and try it out for yourself. You may need to refresh the page to see the animations that appear at the beginning.

Because my students love opportunities to be the teacher and show me and their classmates what they know, I ask them to use Genially to create their own interactive lessons. Their work has left me speechless. 

Our students are the future, and when we offer them opportunities to engage with what they’re learning, they become active participants in the classroom. Interactive lessons are one of the ways that I show students that their actions are the most important factor in their learning. It’s also my way of showing students that I make an effort to keep classes fun and relevant to them.

Let’s keep growing as educators to model growth for our students. If interactive lessons are new to you, I encourage you to try them. I promise that your students will notice the difference.

Aili Olichney is an English Language Arts teacher who is always on the lookout for new ways to make learning more exciting. She writes about ways to use edtech discerningly to expand the number of possibilities in the classroom. She loves to travel and spends her spare time singing and trying not to kill plants in her garden.