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Before taking Coursera’s online course ‘Emerging Trends and Technologies in the Virtual Classroom’, my idea of virtual education was emailing students documents and getting them to log on to online blackboards – and I thought that was pretty advanced.

Apparently we should now be moving away from electronic documents and engaging our students in more all-encompassing ways. The Millennial Generation or Generation Y (roughly those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) are natural multi-taskers and have been surrounded by technology throughout their lives. The average student now has access to the Internet via tablets, smartphones and laptops at home and school. Subsequently, it is unsurprising that the average attention span of a student is currently between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the task. So the argument for engaging students through as many interactive ways as possible is certainly well founded!

Teachers have long been advised to break up their lessons into different tasks to keep learners engaged and now it seems we need to focus on what content actually keeps us awake. YouTube videos, iTunes or Radiolab podcasts and apps on mobiles and tablets, such as Science House, which depict real life stories or demonstrations, are great for engaging students who, so frequently, use new technologies and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) to share information about themselves with a worldwide audience. It is estimated that 84% of all students have a Facebook account and that 76% of them access it from a mobile device, so promoting educational apps is a great way to encourage students to learn, revise and explore the world around them.

Here is a list of great educational apps to get you going:

Science House

The Elements: A Visual Exploration

Brainpop

Frog Dissection

Evernote

Shakespeare In Bits

Edmodo

Maths Formula Reference Guide

Edexcel Past Papers

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