The use of technology in the classroom is a hot subject right now. Terms such as m-learning, e-learning, blended learning, the flipped classroom, etc. are being used on a daily basis. These buzzwords are tossed around on Twitter and LinkedIn as revolutionary new solutions to education challenges, but in reality what is most likely is that instructors are really interested in what they always have been, which is to improve their students’ understanding and retention of material being taught.
While technology is not traditionally considered the cornerstone of the classic learning environment, the times are changing as schools invest in technology more than ever before. This demand has resulted in the creation of products and services custom-built for classrooms with the end-goal of using technology to enhance the learning environment, rather than distracting from it. So how can teachers leverage technology to serve the age-old challenge to increase student engagement? We’ve come up with a few tips based on internal and external sources.
1. Shorten lesson start time
‘Make the most of class time’ is a nearly universal mantra for educators, and rightly so. In practice this means starting class on time and setting the expectation for students that once the bell rings, it’s time to get to work. But as technology becomes more prevalent in the classroom, getting started quickly takes on a new dimension that can be challenging. In a recent survey, we found that delays due to technical difficulties are a big roadblock to productivity in the workplace, and we suspect the same is true for technology in the classroom. So when evaluating classroom technology, be sure the solution supports quick startup time and ease-of-use in order to grab students’ attention quickly and keep it throughout the class.
2. Leverage all those pesky smartphones & devices
Whether you like it or not, mobile technology is here to stay, and your students are going to bring their mobile devices into the classroom. This can pose a challenge for teachers with a classroom full of digital natives who spend literally hours on their phones and tablets each day. These devices can easily become a distraction – but they don’t have to be. In fact, using mobile devices for studying/collaboration in the classroom can help achieve very positive outcomes. In one study, over 65% of students responded that using their mobile devices for academic purposes increased communication with faculty and other students. The truth is modern students are highly engaged while using their mobile devices, and that fact is unlikely to change. In the classroom, mobile devices can either be a distraction from the lesson content or they can be used to increase student engagement with the lesson material when those devices are used properly. Long story short, don’t fight a losing battle against all those tablets and smartphones; instead leverage them in the classroom as utensils for broader engagement.
3. Flip the classroom
The ‘flipped’ learning model is a relatively new pedagogy that is quickly growing in popularity, mostly due to its documented success rate. The concept of students viewing lectures at home and spending class time collaborating on assignments with instructor guidance is one that aims to maximize class time and resources in order to be effective. This methodology presents yet another opportunity to incorporate technology for even greater efficiency and effectiveness. Classroom collaboration technology, enables information to flow efficiently and naturally between students and the instructor. This allows the focus to stay on the coursework and allows students and instructors to work together as a group in real-time. Effective use of this method has been shown to increase retention of taught material and boost passing rate.
One essential requirement for any effective learning environment is to facilitate student engagement. The reason is that retention of learned material is predicated on students being engaged when the information is delivered. So start your lessons quickly, leverage the digital devices with which they are already familiar, and flip the classroom to facilitate student participation in lessons and activities. All of these things will help to create an interactive learning experience that boosts engagement.