You hear it all the time: “Technology is shrinking our attention spans - help!” Though not untrue, it also paints an incomplete picture.
Sure, teaching a generation of phone-focused, internet-obsessed students has its challenges. But the upside of educating digital nomads with technology is the potential to help them evolve into engaged digital citizens, “a person who has the knowledge and skills to effectively use digital technologies to communicate with others, participate in society, and create and consume digital content.”
Ahead, we’ll unpack how modern classrooms are unlocking new levels of student engagement by leveraging tech tools and activities.
Active Learning and Engagement
Active learning and engagement strategies are particularly important in the ongoing COVID-19 environment. Research indicates student motivation and morale are down by at least 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels, with teachers suggesting they may be dramatically lower.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, the key to fully engaging students in the learning process may revolve around the very devices that often cause distraction.
Part of what makes technology so alluring is its ability to center the student experience and make those experiences more meaningful. Used in a learning context, familiar technology can deepen focus and encourage critical thinking at the highest levels. It should come as no surprise that instructors who create the most engaged, meaningful learning experiences reliably see higher levels of comprehension.
When the mind is presently and deliberately engaged in a lesson or concept, it’s known as active learning. This state, “allows students the opportunity to connect their prior learning with new learning and make new meaning for themselves. When students make their own meaning out of new learning, they are more likely to remember the knowledge and apply it to new scenarios,” according to UNT Teaching Commons.
It’s the emotional connections that come during active learning that make it so effective at improving student performance.
Technology for Engaging Learning
Boosting student engagement can be a big job. Fortunately technology takes some of the pressure off.
ACC College suggests using these tech-based learning options to help capture students’ attention:
1) Virtual Reality: Augmented reality, virtual reality, and other immersive learning technologies provide an unparalleled learning experience. With multiple senses engaged, students can bend the laws of time, space, and physics to master new material like never before.
2) Learning Videos: “Kids ages 4 to 15 now spend an average of 85 minutes per day watching YouTube videos,” based on research reported by TechCrunch. Teachers can use this momentum to disseminate educational content in a format that youth have demonstrated they find irresistible.
3) Flipped Classrooms: Flipping the classroom gives entirely new meaning to the concept of homework. To help make effective use of class time, students are introduced to new concepts via e-books or other online study material and prepare for lessons at home. School hours are reserved for things like questions and discussions, hands-on applications, and group work.
4) Online Quizzes: Whether students want to compete against their classmates or test their knowledge in a more interactive way, online quizzes are an instant tool learners can use to practice and commit what they’ve learned to memory.
5) Educational Apps: According to a 2019 SellCell survey, 16.1% of children in the United States first used a cell phone when they were between three and four years old. That means by the time they start school they’re primed to use educational apps. Teachers can share app recommendations on everything from time management to white board participation.
6) Multimedia Assessments: Recording a podcast or designing an interactive infographic are just a couple of examples students have used to creatively demonstrate what they’ve learned. Sure beats a 10-page research report.
7) Gamification: The gamification of educational tasks has been shown to aid in cognitive development, increase classroom engagement, and improve accessibility. Since games are like second nature to children, they’re likely to retain information without even realizing it!
Lectures and slides will always have their place in the classroom. However, if you really want to see engagement rates jump, it may be time to get technological.