The past 18 months tested everyone, and few were more tested than teachers. Many educators adjusted to entirely new teaching requirements during the pandemic, while districts rushed to supply tools and technologies to address the need for remote and hybrid learning environments. Now, as we are making our way into a new school year, still more unknowns await. Educators are tasked with the challenge of building a sense of belonging while boosting learning gains, no matter where their classroom turns out to be.
One advantage educators have in 2021 is that the tools purchased to address teaching during COVID-19 remain on-hand and relevant for the upcoming school year. From laptops and tablets to headsets and digital styluses, new tech options open up possibilities that allow all students, regardless of location, age or learning style, to thrive.
As educators, it’s important we harness the power of these essential tools to boost classroom engagement and productivity. Even simple adjustments can yield a big impact on a child’s learning experience and help students focus on their work, encourage collaboration, and ensure engaging educational experiences are always within reach.
Read on for four ways to boost learning and reconnect with students in your classroom this year:
1. Embrace technology for dynamic learning
Schools jumped into action last year to get laptops and tablets into the hands of every student so they could continue to learn from home. As a result, teachers gained tech skills during the pandemic, with nearly half of teachers saying their ability to use technology had “improved a lot” during the 2020-21 school year, according to a survey of 386 teachers by the EdWeek Research Center. With that knowledge and those resources now available to supplement learning taking place in the classroom, teachers can consider integrating new activities, like making digital art or creating podcasts into their lesson plans.
2. Support all kinds of learners
Educators can use technology to create an inclusive classroom environment that supports all students’ abilities and gives them the confidence to fully engage in learning. Research shows, for example, that elementary school students learn best when the lesson is 300 percent louder than background noise.1
When tasking students with individual work within the classroom, such as working with a learning app, support their ability to hear the material and be heard by the app more clearly by providing headsets with microphones. Furthermore, when working in a virtual small group, this peripheral tool can help soft-spoken students gain the confidence to contribute, knowing they will be heard.
3. Focus on student choice
Often, personalized learning strategies focus on what a student knows and how a student learns best. However, another way to consider personalizing learning for students is by evaluating what tools are being used to learn. Technology can become an enabler of personalization by giving students the choice of what tools they use to complete a task. For example, students develop motor skills at different rates, which affects their ability to use technology like laptops and tablets effectively. In order to accommodate a wide range of abilities, combining technology, like a mouse and keyboard combo, can help students navigate computers and tablets for completing online activities with greater comfort and productivity.
4. Make space for creativity
Research shows that creativity is directly linked to a student’s motivation to learn. Technology broadens the possibilities for learning in the classroom by providing more avenues to engage. Instead of typing an essay, give students the option to create a storyboard or concept map. Or encourage the use of styluses on tablets, such as the Logitech Crayon, to take notes by illustrating concepts using diagrams and pictures as opposed to using traditional pen and paper. This tech-enabled creativity can also lead to interest-based learning, as learning starts to occur across different times and settings. Interests launched at school lead to informal learning at home, in summer camps, or in community-based contexts.
By introducing these tips into the classroom, educators can help ease the transition into the new school year while boosting classroom engagement and learning gains throughout the day. Students who are empowered by technology to work in ways that suit them can focus more effectively and engage in their learning. With the right tech tools and strategies, educators can help students succeed by creating a learning environment that prepares them with the skills they’ll need for college, careers, and their lives ahead.
1 Moore, R. E., Ph.D. (n.d.). A Comparison of Acceptable Noise Levels in Children and Adults [PPT]. Mobile: University of South Alabama.
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