7 Education Disruptors that Are Making Learning More Fun

With each presidency come new reforms and initiatives aimed at enhancing education.

The new policies, programs, and funding lay the foundation for various innovations and trends to build momentum and transform the way we teach and learn. Before you go back to school, get the skinny on seven big disruptors in education.

These seven transformative tools are part of the growing movement to get students creating and problem-solving with technology, which has been supported by the Obama administration’s Educate to Innovate initiative.

1. Minecraft Education

Students everywhere are learning geography, history, English, math, science, and more by using digital building blocks to create imaginative new worlds in the popular game, Minecraft.

The MinecraftEdu site offers lesson plans, licensing, and more to get your students engaged in learning through play. You can also follow the hashtag #MinecraftEdu to find inspiration from teachers and students who have been learning with Minecraft.

2. Maker Movement

The increase in students building and creating virtually has revived the interest in making generally. Makerspaces, places where learners are provided materials and parts to transform them into objects or technologies, have been established in schools worldwide. At makerspaces, students are building robots, creating their own computers, or making art with recyclables. Find makespace examples and resources by following the hashtag #MakerEd.

3. Coding

Even very young children are learning computer programming and languages to play with robots, toys, lego, and drones. Code.org offers a list of games and apps to help students learn simple computer languages so they can develop their own video games. Advanced learners are programming inexpensive mini-computers like Raspberry Pi and Arduinos.

You can try coding for a day by taking part in the international Hour of Code event taking place in over 100 countries in December.

4. 3D Printers

In schools worldwide, students can see the physical manifestation of what they design or code digitally using a 3D printer. Students are able to produce parts to fix machines or see their inventions come to life!

5. Google Cardboard

Google has provided a cheap way for students anywhere to experience the world with a piece of cardboard and their mobile devices. Students slide their mobile device through the cardboard viewer and put it up to their eyes like they would a viewfinder. They can download a variety of free apps to travel to different countries, explore space, or go on underwater adventures. Some units cost as little as $15.

6. Video Creation

One of the biggest trends in education is teachers flipping their classrooms. Students watch videos at home that explain the content of a lesson, and return to class to complete tasks or create projects based on what they learned at home. Many new apps are helping students and teachers create quick, short videos.

Periscope and Meerkat allow teachers to livestream and broadcast to their Twitter stream and receive feedback from their audience. Other apps, like BeMe and Vine are social networks that enable people to create short video clips and share their reactions. Other platforms, like Instagram, Voxer, and Thinglink have recently integrated video creation.

Teachers too are coming together online to share their videos and lesson ideas. I recommend tools like WeVideo, TouchCast, and Educreations for testing the potential of getting students to produce their own learning videos.

7. Digital Badges

How do we recognize and credential student innovation, invention, creativity, and leadership? Schools and organizations are now providing learners with digital tokens, similar to Girl Scout/ Boy Scout patches, to validate and recognize when a child develops her own game or learns a programming language. Students can attach evidence in the form of a link or submission to earn these tokens and display them on a digital portfolio or badging platform, such as Credly, Mozilla Backpack, or MakeWa.ves. These tokens stay with students throughout their learning journey and provide a quick way for organizations to see what skills learners have gained.

Different learning management systems (LMS), such as Edmodo and Canvas have libraries of badges that instructors can choose from to give students to supplement grades. Schools can also create badges with OpenBadges, which is open source and integrated throughout various platforms.

Looking for more ways to revolutionize your education? Check out: The 32 Most Innovative Online Educational Tools to Use in 2015.