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.
Bio: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!!