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Leveraging Technology to Increase Engagement in the Classroom and Gauge Student Learning

Feb 10, 2017 | by Josie Baudier | Kennesaw State University

“Bring your own device” technologies provide an opportunity for students to communicate with you and their peers in real time about the content and leave a record of the communication (Burke, 2012). They can also support an inclusive environment in the classroom by providing a space for students to share their thoughts and ideas, sometimes anonymously when appropriate. Additionally, some new technology tools can be used to encourage reflection about course activities and content.

Student participation is a critical part of any course. Do you teach a large class where students might feel overwhelmed or reluctant to ask a question? Or do you teach difficult concepts in a smaller classroom setting? No matter what the class size or setting, instructors employ a range of strategies to encourage communication, participation, and engagement during class discussions and to measure resulting student learning.

Through discussions, questions, and answers, we find out how much students understand about the course content. Traditionally low-tech formative assessments such as a minute paper, a think-pair-share activity, or a quiz are established ways to engage students and measure their learning. While these are useful avenues for teaching and evaluation, recent advances make it possible to leverage the technology that students bring into the classroom for increased engagement and as assessment tools.

These “bring your own device” technologies provide an opportunity for students to communicate with you and their peers in real time about the content and leave a record of the communication (Burke, 2012). They can also support an inclusive environment in the classroom by providing a space for students to share their thoughts and ideas, sometimes anonymously when appropriate. Additionally, some new technology tools can be used to encourage reflection about course activities and content. Opportunities for reflection are important to synthesize discussion-based activities, which can positively impact student learning (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Norman, 2010 & Grash, 2014). 

Here are a few technology tools to enhance the interactions and communication between you and your students during class time. Students will need to use their computer or mobile device (e.g. tablets, smartphones). 

  • Padlet (https://padlet.com for Padlet Free) – This is a web-based tool as well as a mobile application. Padlet provides the space for students to post comments or questions on a main board, which you create. Images, videos, documents, or text can be posted to the virtual wall to allow students to share their ideas with the entire class. This tool is useful for any number of communication needs, including collaborative discussion responses or the clarification of content questions. Students can even manipulate and move their responses around on the virtual wall to group items together. This tool can be used anonymously to ensure that students feel comfortable answering, sharing, and collaborating with the entire class.
  • Today’s Meet (https://todaysmeet.com)– This web-based tool allows you to connect with students in a backchannel format through text. Back-channeling is a way for students to ask questions or make comments behind the scenes of a class lecture or activity. You can respond to students in the same manner. After you create the room in Today’s Meet and share the link with your students, they can ask questions or post comments. You can choose to display the discussion to the entire class or keep the information to yourself on your own device. Since this tool is not anonymous, it can become your guide for which students might need additional help. You can see the final chat log and copy and paste it to another document for record keeping, if necessary.
  • Mentimeter (https://www.mentimeter.com) – This is a web-based, real-time polling tool for use during presentations or lectures. Students can respond to questions and their answers can be displayed to the class. You and the students can gauge their learning progress by the responses to the questions. There are many different types of questions that can be created, such as multiple choice, image choice, word clouds, and open-ended questions.
  • Quizziz (https://quizizz.com) – This is a web-based tool, which allows students to take a quiz at their own pace. There are options for question settings and game settings. For example, for a quiz review, you can choose to show the students the correct answers after the quiz. At the end of the quiz, you can review a detailed report for each student, which can be saved for later use.
  • There are other free quizzing tools available that are similar to Quizziz, such as Kahoot (https://getkahoot.com), Poll Everywhere (https://www.polleverywhere.com), or Socrative (https://www.socrative.com). There is an option in Kahoot to make it competitive and game-based, while Poll Everywhere and Socrative are more traditional. Each of these tools has their own strengths and weaknesses. I suggest you spend time finding the one that aligns to your needs for quizzing your students in class.

Notably, all of these “bring your own device” technologies have a free version; however, those packages can be limiting. It would be best to explore how you want to use the tool and then choose the payment package that best suits your needs. For instance, some may require payment if you want to save student data and analytics on the sessions. Others might have enough features with the free version. Take time to experiment with different options to best meet your course goals.

Also, be sure to carefully consider the questions or open-ended statements you pose to your students. You want provide thoughtful prompts or questions that will help your students explicitly demonstrate evidence of their learning. Using these types of tools will encourage students to have a voice in their classrooms. In turn, they will help you gauge the learning processes and progress of your students so you can revise instruction accordingly. Technology-based learning with these student-friendly tools can enhance communication and support learning in your classroom.

 

References:

Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M., Norman, M. (2010). How learning works: 7 Research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Burke, A. (August 2012). Bring your own device movement turns classroom disruption into pedagogy. Retrieved from http://techonomy.com/2012/08/how-a-new-teaching-tool-combats-disruptive-technologies-3/

Girash, J. (2014).  Metacognition and instruction. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php