Student engagement and participation is a key indicator of an effective teacher. Participating in classroom discussions allows students to:
- Increase their confidence
- Practice conveying their thoughts and opinions
- Work collaboratively as part of a group with a common goal
This is a lofty goal in education now as students thrive more on a screen than in face-to-face interactions. How, then, can we as educators integrate technology in a way that will encourage student participation and increase student engagement? A tricky question, indeed. If you were to search something to the effect of “technology for student engagement”, there are over 13 million results. Not to say I sat here and went through each and every one of those, but I did comb through a few dozen as I have been on a search for this myself.
In order for students to participate and engage in discussions, they must feel their opinion matters and that they are in a safe, judgement-free environment. This is where technology can really help! The 1:1 initiative is taking the education world by storm. This new take on education has brought about a plethora of websites and apps that allow students to relay information, give answers, and discuss in a format where they feel more comfortable: technology.
Here are four avenues you can explore for encouraging classroom collaboration and discussions.
- To a lot of you, this is not a new thing if you have been using any Google platform in your classroom. The ones that I have found to be most effective are Google Docs for collaborating group projects and papers. If you are unfamiliar with how this works, multiple people can be logged in and editing the same document at the same time while also utilizing the chat window to have conversations if they are not in the same room. You can also use google drive for giving students feedback. Here is a great video about using google docs for classroom collaboration.
- Another great resource for classroom collaboration is Google Classroom‘s discussion board. In my classroom, students are assigned a video to watch and follow along with their notes the night before a lesson. They are encouraged to comment any questions, concerns, or confusions they may have pertaining to the assignment or lesson and their peers can then comment back if they feel they can help. If not, I can comment to answer questions or even wait until class to do so in person.
- Nearpod is another great way to engage students in lessons. With Nearpod, you can create or search for interactive lessons which students can follow along with using a device (multiple formats supported). Students can answer real-time assessment questions. The results are only visible on your dashboard. This allows students to feel safe in answering because they know that their peers cannot see their answers.
- For group projects, Explain Everything is a screen capturing app which animates presentations. Each group member can create screenshots and then upload them to Google Drive to share their project or part of the project with the rest of thier group or the class. These files can then be imported and collated into one project.
When students are given technology and a structured way in which to use it for educational purposes, classroom engagement, collaboration, and learning can soar to a whole new level. This is a very exciting and somewhat scary proposition for any classroom. Whichever route you choose to take for your classroom, be sure to educate yourself to the uses, tools, and safety of the technology before introducing it to your students. After all, education and student safety should always come first!