Technology can increase student engagement at the elementary, middle, high school, and college levels when teachers intentionally provide students the opportunity to use tech tools in a blended learning environment. Lesson plans and PLCs must address how to successfully plan and implement technology to meet the needs of all students. Blended learning includes a combination of print and tech tools for students to learn and explore new academic content or extend learning about existing content.
Technology can also be used to front load new content prior to teaching synchronous lessons. As teachers compete with social media, they must learn to effectively use technology to increase student engagement in a productive way. Engaging students in the learning environment with technology provides opportunities for a sense of community, accessibility, support, motivation, interest learning, and self-regulation (Bond & Bedenlier, 2019).
All students learn at different levels and need scaffolded supports to master subject content, which can include technology as a key source of instructional delivery. Educators can implement learning stations using iPads or laptops in their daily lessons. Aside from learning stations, teachers can use software apps to help students to solve math problems, read complex text, or explore real-life simulations in science and social studies.
Technology has made it easy for educators to simply search a topic and platform that you want students to explore such as roller coaster simulations, inference PowerPoints, audible books on particular subjects, and Wikipedia resources for research projects. Many topics can be googled for a plethora of resources to provide students with instant access to information. However, educators also have to teach students how to ensure information is authentic.
As students work at their pace and skill level, it is important for teachers to assign students technology sites that they can navigate at their various learning levels to ensure students stay purposefully engaged with content. School districts may also have a list of databases for teachers to access such as RAZ Kids, Education Galaxy, IXL, Myon, Prodigy, Edusmart, Mentoring Minds, Khan Academy, Brainpop, Starfall, etc. Many technology vendors with a variety of products at different learning levels are available for educators to use.
Address Different Learning Styles
Students should be afforded the opportunity to explore content in a variety of ways. Teachers can use technology to address the auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles of students. Devices coupled with headphones can help students who may need text-to-speech services, graphics organizers, and additional visual supports such as highlighted and bold text of difficult words.
Interactive whiteboards are also helpful for engaging students needing visual and tactile supports (Beeland, 2002). For kinesthetic learners, there are websites that get kids moving. Students can learn their alphabets and vocabulary using YouTube dance videos and work out videos such as GoNoodle for break time.
Support Students of Special Populations
Technology supports have evolved to assist our most sensitive populations such as special education students, ESL learners, and at-risk students. Special education students can use assistive technology to help them if they have sight, auditory, and physical disabilities (Hasselbring & Glaser, 2000). Software platforms and robotic tools have given students the opportunity to explore content at the same pace and level of their general education peers. Special education students have access to digital tools to create new products, explore content at a deeper level, and can enrich their learning by providing feedback to teachers about their learning experiences.
English language learners are required to explore content in two languages in many dual language programs. Technology can help them explore cognates and understand the context of print in various languages using auditory devices.
Last but not least, technology can help at-risk students explore parts of the world they may not be able to travel to or experience based upon their economic means. They are able to take virtual field trips to make connections to content beyond their current opportunities within their communities. Educators must maximize the use of technology in the classroom to give all students the opportunity to equitably learn content.
Increase Social and Emotional Supports
Many students hold on to their anxieties, family problems, and insecurities with them in school and need ongoing social and emotional support to focus on academic content. Technology can be used to encourage play via content video games such as Coolmath, Funbrain, ABCmouse, etc. Students can have fun while learning content and mentally escape obstacles they may be facing outside of school.
Video software or applications can be used as an introduction to social circle conversations to help students and their peers solve issues they are currently facing. Students can also create media albums and recordings as they present topics that may be pressing or helpful to others. As educators consider nonpunitive ways to help students cope with behavior and personal problems creatively, using technology can help to fill the voids that students may experience in their personal lives.
Manage Classroom Operations
Now that teachers have access to many facets of technology, students can assist with the daily operations of the classroom to help teachers manage daily classroom tasks. QR codes can be used for students to record their daily attendance, take lunch, and report concerns or bullying. Media portfolios can be used to track student progress overtime.
Teachers can also have students track and monitor their daily and weekly data to take ownership of their learning. Using technology to manage classroom operations allows the teacher to focus more on academics than daily housekeeping tasks.
“Today’s generation of students is growing up in the information age. Access to a variety of technology and the internet is not only accessible, but necessary” (Francis, 2017, p. 24). Overall, increasing student engagement using technology is beneficial to students and educators. Students’ academic performance can improve and educators can be more productive.
Every child deserves to become highly engaged in technology as they prepare for the workforce. Our world is embodied with social media, digital processes, robotics, machines, and software apps to increase productivity and business management processes. Technology not only increases student engagement, but it also enhances students’ opportunities to be successful and productive citizens.