We are surrounded by technology, no matter where we go. Advancing at a rapid pace, it is becoming a vital element of the society we live in today and it could play an important role in the way that students learn and educators teach. Nowadays you literally can’t take a student apart from his smartphone or tablet. There is always that scintillating notification way more interesting than the likes of Whitman or European geography.
Staying focused is an ongoing struggle for any student, even for the most motivated or child prodigies. Why would the future app developer be sharing your passion for the teachings of Plato or Aristotle? Especially since in today’s world technology literacy is a must. This means the key for teachers is learning how to embrace digital tools and use them to turn distraction into attraction.
Tech revolution is certainly praiseworthy for allowing anyone to attend online lectures and take exams in remote areas where earlier it was not possible to do so. Even free online classes called MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) are gathering larger audiences, making it possible for people everywhere – students, teachers or other types of professionals – to gain new knowledge from the comforts of their home.
There is constant talk of whether technology is helpful or harmful in the educational arena. The same way that a hammer can be used as a tool for fixing things, as well as a means of destroying them, technology has its ups and downs where education is concerned. Let’s focus a bit on the positive.
Constructive ways to leverage digital learning
Don’t be boring
Students will never forget a memorable teacher. So, as an instructor, you must always be on the lookout for out-of-the-box strategies to give a fun touch to your lessons.
Make it real
For example, connect the specific reading material to a story in the news or a TV show that’s popular among your students. New information has a way of adhering to the knowledge that is already present in the brain. Rote memorization or dry theories are made for cramming for the exam and immediately forgotten.
Do not spam the attention span
Modern life has perhaps added some challenges to the pursuit of study, but latest neurological research has answered with ways to make classes more engaging.
Knowing attention span’s MO (modus operandi) can get the most mileage out of your discourse period. Whether it’s lectures, slides, discussions or video, the mind can focus 15 to 20 minutes, even when interest level is relatively high.
Record and conquer
More and more students find reading books less attractive than going for video or audio. Use the digital environment to collect and share/publish online your most valuable lectures, for future reference.
How about engaging students in different classrooms for larger projects? Try connecting to another classroom via video-conference for an innovative way to do group work. In the same way, you can invite an out-of-town teacher to add valuable input to the lesson by inviting them to join online.
By tech means, teachers and supervisors can easily connect also with parents, helping students benefit from extra support and reshaping the manner school “operates” today.
Don’t dethrone the smartphone
Whether it is used for doing research or recording lectures, this small device proves itself handy when it comes to getting students more involved. So don’t dismiss it so easily!
Opt for less stress
Speech anxiety can make a sharp mind go blank. There is no unique way to engage every type of student. So you might think about overcoming the fear of public speaking by encouraging online group chats for those students who shrivel at the idea of classical presentations and debates.
Keep their heads in the Cloud
Teamwork is king in the classroom and beyond it. Ok, so social media might have altered deep communication. But there is no way to dispute the fact that sharing and collaborating through cloud-like tools/classrooms has greatly enhanced the way students learn and work together.
Save the trees
Pencils down, everyone! We live in an increasingly paperless environment. As such, ditching at least partly the old pen & paper homework assignments also teaches students a lesson in ecology.
Get rid of the extra weight
Undoubtedly a relief for many parents is the fact that high schoolers’ and students’ backpacks no longer carry a bunch of books, but rather lighter devices connected to online media.
Sample communication tools to use for better student engagement
Thanks to technology, there are ways for students of every learning style to have more control over the way they learn.
Here are some ideas you can employ for a better teacher-student communication:
At the beginning of the course, break the ice with a Beginning of the Year Student Questionnaire. You can ask students to respond by the first or second class meeting and report back on the trends revealed by the responses. Showing how much you value student satisfaction is one more way to foster student engagement. Use a Stress Management Questionnaire to fight burnouts and determine the factors that feed student anxiety.
Sometimes students are clearly engaged during class time, while between meetings your course falls out of sight and out of mind. That’s especially true for classes that involve big projects or exams instead of daily or weekly assignments. Try some history quizzes or online geography drills to keep the lessons from fading into, well, history.
The professor doesn’t have to be the only one leveraging online tools for learning. Have your students craft their own online questionnaires or surveys regarding the issues being discussed in the course material. They can poll their classmates, or even try to get worldwide feedback via Twitter.
Good Old Email
Sending out a little bulletin midway between classes can be a great way to nudge your students forward. The email could include a little recap of the previous class plus some hints or online resources/bibliography for the current assignment. Your own engagement is linked to that of your students!
If your students express themselves using Twitter, why not #hashtaging for your course? See if that brings routine classes come alive throughout the week! Got a lot of commuter or long-distance students? Meet up in Google Hangouts! Want to limit the discussion to just your students? Do it in style on Padlet, which is also a great place to store your syllabus and other materials to reduce printing.
There is no unique way to convey your teachings across. The only certainty is continuous change. While going to school in the digital era is definitely a challenge, tech tools should be seen not only as a distraction but also as a way to improve the learning process.
123FormBuilder is here to help you engage your students with powerful online forms and surveys. Use any of our available templates to create the form or survey you need, as easy as ABC. Or 1-2-3, as we like to say!
Happy form building!