3 Ways to Improve Student Engagement with Technology: Guest Post

I am SO excited to feature my first post from a guest blogger! Thanks so much to Jessica Sanders at Learn2Earn for contributing this awesome post!!

Without further adieu…here are “3 Ways to Improve Student Engagement with Technology!”

3 Ways to Improve Student Engagement With Technology
By Jessica Sanders

Peer connections, curiosity and a thirst for learning are all important factors in creating an engaging classroom. But how do you make all of those things happen every day, on top of prepping students for testing and sticking to a curriculum? Technology. 

As with anything new, there’s much debate in the education world about the use of technology in the classroom. About whether or not it’s changing our education system for the better.

In the case of engagement, many believe it is changing education for the better. Teachers now work with students who are growing up in an interactive, instant-gratification culture, and their needs and desires for this is the same, both in and out of school—these are things that engage the 21st century citizens that are sitting in your classroom.

Students are thirsty for technology and these tools will help you harness that thirst to keep them engaged and improve their learning experience.

Connect Students With the Outside World

“Authentic audience” is a phrase that’s been buzzing around in the world of education lately, and for good reason. Using technology to connect students with an audience outside of their classroom improves excitement and engagement by giving the lessons a more applicable purpose—I can’t wait to send this blog post to Uncle John!

“The ability to connect life in school with life outside of school…allows learning to be personally centered,” says Mark Edwards, author of Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement.

He continues, “It helps students feel that school has meaning and purpose, which can make a world of difference in their level of engagement and achievement.”

Technology makes it easier for you to bridge the gap between life inside the classroom and life outside of it. Here are a few tools you can use to bring these two worlds together.

Instagram: Teacher Nicole Long uses Instagram as a way of sharing school information with her students, including homework assignments and classroom reminders. “When you intertwine what they do for fun, with what you do in the classroom, it perpetuates that idea that learning is fun,” she said. You could also create a classroom Instagram account where students could take turns posting a “photo of the day” to give them that authentic audience as well.

Google Maps: Use Google Maps to connect the world in a book, story or lesson with the world around us. Here are three examples for using this tactic with a book’s setting:

Is the setting a real place? Instruct students to find it on Google Maps. Use street view and “walk around” the area.

If the setting isn’t a real place, send students to Google Maps to find a spot in their town that they think looks most like their vision of it.

If the book set in the past, instruct students to look at the region now. Does it look different? What’s changed?

Get Students Talking With Social

An important aspect of engagement is connecting students with their peers, in and out of the classroom, allowing them to explore and discuss lessons and their work together.

“Teens find it most interesting and exciting when there is a little bit of talking involved. Discussions help clear the tense atmosphere in a classroom and allow students to participate in their own learning,” said one of Healther Wolpert-Gawron’s 8th grade students.

These two tech tools make it easy to facilitate these conversations.

Skype (Mystery Skype): This “game” (classes skype with other “mystery” classes and work together to determine where each other is located based on real-time research and asking questions) forces students to be fully engaged, looking through resources and assessing answers from the class they’re skyping with.

“We’re actively experiencing how education and technology can come together to create a truly authentic and engaging learning experience,” said Long about her class’ experience with Mystery Skype. They’ve now skyped with students in five different countries; you can read more about their experience here.

Online Discussion Forums: Keep students engaged in the classroom discussion with an online discussion forum. Ask students to site resources to support their answers. This keeps them engaged in the conversation while practicing a variety of skills, such as research and safe use of the Internet.

Personalize Lessons With Data to Cater to Student Strengths

The idea behind Genius Hour or passion projects in the classroom is simple: if you allow students to do the things that they love and are good at, they’ll excel. “Helping students discover their talents is a great way to boost engagement and confidence,” says Kathy Magnusson, M.Ed., in 5 Ways to Nurture Strengths in Students.

While students should be working with materials that challenge them, you can use technology to discover where they’re excelling, and then encourage them to push themselves to learn and explore that area more.

For example, a student who is at a lower reading level will only be discouraged if he or she is continually forced to read at a level that’s difficult to comprehend. However, that same student may be your top learner during coding lessons in class. Data allows you to:

Discover these strengths and weaknesses

Watch how their skills develop as you begin to personalize their learning   

You can glean important data from a few simple tools, including:

Whooo’s Reading: This free tool provides a variety of data points that you can use to personalize student-reading suggestions and diversify your classroom library. You’ll be able to see how many minutes your class has read as a whole, average scores given for comprehension questions and more. This data will help you understand who’s excelling and who’s falling behind.

Google Forms: Use Google forms to get individual and class-level data in a survey format. For example, you could use this method to gauge student interest in certain tools that are new to the classroom. One question might be: On a scale of 1 to 5, how much did you like the tool we used today?

If you tally the results and find that the class is split, you could use this new tool during activity times, when students can pick and choose what they’re working with.

Other noteworthy tools for data gathering are:




Technology makes the process of improving engagement easier than ever before: “Although these [engaging] learning experiences were available in a more limited way before the advent of technology, digital conversion has taken them to an entirely new level,” Edwards said. Remember this as you plan lessons and bring tools into the classroom.

3 Ways to Improve Student EngagementBio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn, an online fundraising platform that allows students raise money by reading books. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

Thanks for reading!!

Technology Troubleshooting Tips

If I had a dollar for each time I heard these questions….I would be incredibly wealthy :)

“The webpage isn’t loading”

“My screen froze. What do I do?”

“Um, I don’t see the right stuff on this website.”

Do you hear these same questions from your students? Are you frustrated with repeating the same instructions day in and day out?

I am!

-3- BEFORE ME (1)Tomorrow, I’m putting this poster in the front of my classroom…in a place that my students will notice the very valuable instructions it includes!

I don’t EVER want to discourage my students from asking me technology or content questions. However, I want to provide them with quick troubleshooting tips for technology problems the encounter.

If you’d like to display this poster in your classroom, please click here for a PDF version of the image.

Thanks for reading :)

How to Create Review Games with Quizizz

Today, I stumbled upon an awesome new tool on Schoology’s public resource page…Quizizz!quizizz is amazing

Quizizz, a gamified student response system, is fun to say and even more fun to play!

Teachers simply access the Quizizz website, make a FREE account, and create their review game.

Quizizz provides the teacher with a split screen during the creation process, which I find extremely helpful. I’m able to create my question and include my response choices on the left of the screen, and see what will be visible to my students on the other side of the screen.

Teachers set time limits on the questions…anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

To play Quizizz, students access join.quizizz.com on ANY web enabled device, and enter the game pin provided by the teacher.

Students earn points by the speed and accuracy of their response.

Two simple features set Quizizz apart from other gamified response systems, like the fun and popular Kahoot!

Quizizz questions, response options, and leaderboard scores display on students’ devices, which means students can “play” against each other even if they’re not in the same room! Think of the out-of-class review competitions that can happen!

Teachers can easily share games with their students and with other educators via link, email, or social media.

An additional feature, totally unrelated to the functionality of the site, are the wonderful MEMES that are displayed when students answer a question.

My students LOVED this feature!

When creating the game, teachers determine privacy settings…public or private.


Teachers can also search for games relevant to their content!

Quizizz is easy to use, fun to play, and FREE!

Click here to play the Quizizz review game I created.

Check it out!

Thanks for reading :)





Review Activity for the Flipped Classroom

My Presidents Unit is rapidly drawing to a close, and my students are preparing to reap one of the benefits of the flipped classroom.

Constant access to lecture material!

To help my students access and manage video resources for this unit, I created a Blendspace board that includes the instructional videos they were assigned. This board is included below.

My students are really appreciative of the Blendspace boards I create, because it prevents them from having to search YouTube or other avenues to locate their lecture videos.

Today, for the first time in forever (you know you’re singing along!), I used Lets Geddit with my students. I need to quickly gauge their understanding of topics discussed in the instructional videos, and determine whether or not the class as a whole was ready for the test.

They are :)

My students were very thankful for an addition I made to the “Geddit” questions today.

What change did I make?

Continue reading

Gamified Government: Keeping Track of Experience Points

GAMIFIEDMy gamified unit is drawing to a close!

I will most definitely continue gamifying my classes next year…most likely as a course long activity.

However, I will admit that, other than having no clue about the gaming world, the thought of keeping track of my students’ experience points was extremely daunting, and nearly deterred me from attempting gamification…simply because I compared it to grading.

I. Despise. Grading.

However, the way I’m keeping track of experience points is NOT grading, at least in my mind.

The “targets” or “objectives” my students were expected to meet simply required them to complete something…a video, their unit module, contemporary issues bonus activities, etc. Therefore, I’m basically just recording points for reaching a target, as opposed to grading for content.

Since I use the wonderful EDpuzzle to assign and track completion of instructional videos (EDpuzzle also allows teachers to set due dates and clearly indicates if students watched the video by the due date, submitted late, or have yet to submit), I can easily award experience points based on whether or not the student reached the target!

Continue reading

Recite: Awesome Online Poster Creator

Happy Friday!

In a late-night Pinterest session, I came across another neat tool for poster creation…Recite!

Recite is an extremely easy to use website that requires NO sign-ups or log-ins…which is great!


Simply access the site, enter your quote (or search for a quote from Recite’s database), choose a template, and voila! Your poster is complete.

Creators can download your poster, share it on social media, or email it to a friend.  It really is that easy!

How can you and your students use this in the classroom? Are you reading a novel? Ask students to choose a meaningful quote and create an image on Recite. Students could locate famous or inspirational quotes and create a poster to encourage classmates before a test, or their peers before a big game or competitive event.


How could you use this tool? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

I’ve included a few of the images I created with Recite on this post. Creating these awesome images literally took less than a minute!

I hope you enjoy this tool!

Thanks for reading :)

Gamified American Government: The Nuts and Bolts

Wow! The response to my last post, How I’m Gamifying my High School Government Class, was AWESOME! Your encouraging comments and Tweets are so reassuring, especially since I have absolutely no idea about the world of online Gamificationgaming!

Some of you expressed some interest in the actual setup of my gamified unit, so here it is!

A quick note about the badges...

I have been researching different websites that offer digital badges for my students. Schoology (my learning management system of choice!) provides teachers with the option of awarding existing badges (electronically) to students, as well as creating their own. After signing up for a free account with another popular tool, Class Badges, teachers can create and award badges to their students electronically. Teachers establish “classes” and provide students with a registration code to access their class…very similar to the sign up process of learning management systems, or other online classroom tools.

After I introduced my students to “their mission,” I asked what they felt would be more meaningful; awarding badges electronically or if they would rather physically have the badges. I made sure to emphasize that the badges would be made from card stock, and would not mimic a Girl or Boy Scout badge :)

I was very surprised at their response. My students feel that physically having the badges would be “cooler” than an electronic version.

I’m so glad I asked!

More to come on the world of “Gamified Government” soon!

Thanks for reading :)