Iowa Public Television


Interactive Learning

posted on May 24, 2012

Interactive Learning

Schools have found an alternative way to equip children with flexible and adaptive skills by allowing them to learn through playing interactives and videogames. In the hands of a skilled teacher, interactives can engage students in ways that a textbook cannot. A great amount of research has gone into the effectiveness of using video games in the classroom. From giving students the ability to deeply analyze and interact with material to providing immediate feedback, video games create learning environments that define clear goals, encourage motivation, and scaffold learning to meet the individual needs of each student. The teacher then provides the interpretation and the ability to help the student plan and move forward in their learning. IPTV offers hundreds of interactives for teachers to use in the classroom. Here are a few that help develop a variety of different 21st century skills:

Non-linear Thinking Patterns

NOVA Elements iPad App: This free app, available now on the App Store, takes the periodic table off the wall and puts it into users' hands, bringing life to the world's elements in colorful and dynamic ways. NOVA Elements, featuring tech guru David Pogue, allows users to explore an interactive periodic table, build elements from their particles, construct 3D rotating molecules, and watch the two-hour NOVA program.

Storyboarding: Students will create a virtual storyboard to learn to plan the scene sequence of a media production. A storyboard is created to help the director set up the shots. In this activity, the student will click and drag the pictures in the grid to create a story. The student is asked to write the action in the text box below each picture and print out their storyboard when they are ready.

Documenting Key Presidential Decisions: Learning history is not always in a linear fashion. Historians must go back and forth, analyze and re-anlyze, and in a sense, become time travelers. In this activity from the National Archives, students explore various documents related to key decisions made by presidents while in office. Instead of ordering everything into a chronological, linear order, students must identify the president associated with each document. This mode of thinking helps show that decisions made in the past affected several things in the future.

Problem Solving Skills

labAnnenberg Interactives: These interactives range from manipulating geometric shapes to analyzing statistics during a fictitious election campaign. The interactives help students in multiple grades and disciplines solve problems in a variety of contexts and situations.

PBS KIDS Lab: PBS has launched over 40 new cross-platform games designed to help children build critical math skills. They include PBS KIDS' largest offering of interactive math content for preschoolers to date. Available for free on the new PBS KIDS Lab website, each suite links a set of games across platforms--accessible through computers, mobile devices, and interactive whiteboards, so that kids engage with the same characters as they move from device to device.

Interactive Whiteboard Games: PBS offers a huge collection of interactive whiteboard games for educators through the PBS KIDS website. These interactives are aligned to curriculum from a variety of PBS KIDS programs including Curious George,Cyberchase, Super Why! and Martha Speaks. Like all public media programs, all of the games are age-appropriate and vetted by educators.

Riverventure Mystery: With this interactive, students engage in a scientific mystery that they solve by exploring panoramic images of a river near a city and finding clues along the way. This module focuses on the estuary—the point where fresh water meets salt water. Students learn how pollution causes problems for creatures in this environment. After students learn about runoff, building booms, point source pollutants, and the dilution solution, they are asked 10 reflective questions to solve the mystery in the River Wrap.

Judgment, Analysis and Strategic Thinking

Media Literacy: With this interactive, students will learn how to be critical viewers of multimedia by applying the key concepts of media literacy to an ad for Camel cigarettes. Students will understand five key concepts of media literacy: all media messages are constructed; each medium has its own codes and conventions; media conveys values and points-of-view; people understand media messages differently; and most media production is a business.

Projectile Motion: Have your students explore the properties of projectile motion—the motion of an object thrown or projected into the air at an angle. Students can try to hit a target by varying conditions such as the direction and location of the launch, the projectile’s mass, shape and size, and the presence of air resistance. The parabolic trajectory of each projectile is plotted along with markers to show changes in position at quarter-second intervals.

Literacy and Communication Skills

Noah Comprende: Learn Spanish as it is put into meaningful context. Have your students learn Spanish more deeply through animated videos with embedded games that help build vocabulary and strengthen comprehension. Each video features opportunities for kids to roll their cursor over objects on the screen to hear the Spanish translation. Three different vocabulary-driven, arcade-style games reinforce learning. Leveling and racing against the clock encourage replayability and repeated exposure to vocabulary. Another game on the website, How Do You Say…?, helps kids learn common expressions in Spanish.

Making Connections Through LiteracyStudents practice making mental connections between the text and things the reader already knows. These connections can include things readers have read (text-to-text), things they have seen or heard (text-to-world), and things they've done (text-to-self). The game is part of a collection of games designed to give elementary school students the strategies needed read successfully.

Improved Creativity and Attention to Detail

mission usCreate a Movie Soundtrack: Watch a scene from the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock movie, Charade, and change the soundtrack to different kinds of music. Students will observe how the music affects the meaning of the scene and understand that the purpose of music is to convey emotion. This is a suspenseful scene without dialogue so students have an opportunity to select clips from various musical genres to observe the change in the mood of the scene.

Mission US: For Crown or Colony: This history game allows students to step into the shoes of a 14-year-old apprentice experiencing the events that led up to the Boston Massacre. Not only does the research show that students were much more engaged with these events when they played the game, but their attention was fixed, helping them better understand the context of this tumultuous time in U.S. history.


Tags: 21st Century Skills 21st Century Teaching computer games computers education educators interactive mobile media students teachers technology video games

Subjects: The ArtsGuidance/CareersLiteracy & LanguagesMathProfessional DevelopmentScience & TechnologySocial Studies


blog comments powered by Disqus

Comment Policy

Iowa Public Television encourages conversation and debate around issues, events and ideas related to program topics.

  • The editorial staff of Iowa Public Television reserves the right to take down comments it deems inappropriate.
  • Profanity, personal attacks, off-topic posts, advertisements and spam will not be tolerated.

Find out more about's privacy policy and terms of use.