- Adopting collaborative edtech tools creates a dynamic classroom environment
- Students often are more engaged when teachers take on a guiding role rather than a purely instructive one
What’s been lacking in education up to now? From secondary schools to master’s degrees, educators often adopt a unidirectional approach, where information flows solely from teacher to student. However, it is imperative for students to actively become part of the teaching process, and teachers must cultivate an environment conducive to peer-to-peer learning.
Edtech tools for teachers made mainstream during the pandemic have undeniably enhanced student collaboration and facilitated the creation of more modern learning classrooms. The projected growth of the edtech industry to $605.8 billion by 2027 is a testament to that.
But I’m not referring to Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, quizzes, or virtual breakout rooms. The discussion extends far beyond these well-known online learning tools. There are some emerging peer-learning and social-learning edtech tools that can further transform every facet of the classroom experience, particularly heightening engagement. Let’s see how.
Student engagement refers to learners’ level of involvement, motivation, and commitment. And high levels of active participation directly correlate with positive academic outcomes.
One common misconception of student engagement today is that it only refers to a student’s behavior in the classroom and willingness to contribute to discussions. In reality, engagement is a multifaceted construct encompassing academic performance as well as social and emotional factors. Therefore, learning experiences and collaboration opportunities outside the classroom are equally important as those within it.
Another misconception is saying that it is solely a student’s responsibility. In reality, both students and teachers share joint accountability. That’s why teachers must offer effective student engagement strategies, adopt the best edtech tools, and have touchpoints with students on a daily basis.
Student engagement strategies: Seamless continuity between material
Teachers frequently overlook bridging classroom teaching and self-directed learning for subsequently improved engagement. Every time a student has to move from one platform to another to complete coursework or collaborate in class, there’s a chance of them disengaging.
For example, a teacher may want to engage students in math lessons. Perhaps they ask their students to read a textbook chapter in an e-book reader, but then complete a problem set on a different platform, or even in a Google doc. These extra steps hinder sustained engagement and mean missed opportunities for students to engage more deeply and collaboratively with course material.
The point is that many edtech tools are not embedded in the learning management experience or toolchain, but rather in separate silos. It is time to make the content more continuous and connected so students can follow their progress more closely. That’s why educators are paying more attention to asynchronous learning and flipped classrooms: Students are first introduced to the content at home, allowing them to engage in discussions with their peers when they come to class.
Social annotation or web annotation can help connect all different aspects of teaching in class and at home across a wide range of course materials. It even enables direct discussions in the margin of a browser about a video shared in class on Youtube.
Smart devices also allow students to access learning resources from anywhere. From receiving real-time notifications and support to various time management tools, mobile learning apps can ensure further student engagement and better learning outcomes.
Teachers try to replicate classroom levels of engagement when students do their own self-study sessions. But students still often find themselves struggling with a course text or exercise on their own and then come to class feeling underprepared or less confident.
Edtech tools like web annotation can help students stay focused and engaged during lectures and also back at their dorms doing independent reading and studying. Having a conversation layer over all course content on the web means students can interact socially with peers and avoid feeling so alone.
In the past, I worked with a digital textbook provider that analyzed a group of students using web annotation and another control group using other popular edtech tools. Their A/B test showed that students engaged with course text for only 10 days when a web annotation tool was not available, whereas engagement increased to 26 days with the annotation feature.
As students and teachers learn how to annotate a website and content, educators will be able to further understand students’ individual needs and adapt their teaching strategies appropriately.
Teaching is on the brink of evolution as edtech tools supporting social-peer and interactive learning gain traction. That’s because the more social the classroom experience, the more students want to learn. Feeling socially connected enhances an individual’s sense of belonging, which can boost their educational success and motivation.
In a recent study based on a large sample size, researchers compared the impact of three types of student relationships (with parents, teachers, and peers) and the effect on academic performance. The quality of student-peer relationships was most closely associated with academic achievement.
Social interactions can allow students to build a shared understanding of course content; sometimes, the easiest way to learn is to see someone in the same position asking questions and struggling, too.
There are many edtech tools and structured collaborative exercises geared toward fostering peer-to-peer learning like Jigsaw, World Café Method, or Minecraft. They promote group problem-solving and building social skills, whether face-to-face, in breakout rooms, or during online forums. Adopting these kinds of edtech tools creates a dynamic classroom environment where teachers take on a guiding role rather than a purely instructive one.
Overall, peer-learning and social-learning edtech tools are taking the world by storm, showcasing the importance of seamless integration between content, web annotation for enhanced self-guided learning, and interactive features to increase student engagement. Now, it is just up to schools and teachers to integrate them.
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