As we head into the spring, we may notice a decrease in student engagement. For some students, there have been midterm exams, extended school breaks, or we find ourselves in the middle of standardized testing season. Over the years, I have noticed that student engagement tends to decrease in my classes around this time and I reach out to my personal learning network (PLN) for ideas or tools to boost engagement.
Especially during our experiences over the past two years with hybrid and virtual learning environments, we have worked through transitioning learning spaces, and it was challenging to engage students in learning. When we create learning experiences that meaningfully engage students with the content while also aiming to move them from being simply consumers to creators, we also amplify student achievement. By offering more choices in terms of digital tools for student engagement, we can better meet specific student interests and needs.
When we can take risks by either trying something new or using digital tools for game-based and collaborative learning, we will see students engage more with the content. Students should also be part of the process of deciding on different tools to try. Additionally, it is important that we ask for their feedback so we can continue to provide the best learning opportunities for them.
Digital tools for student engagement no matter the grade level
To engage students, we need tools that work well regardless of where learning is taking place — hybrid, virtual or in-person. For this to happen, teachers can opt for a mix of game-based learning tools, conducting a quick assessment or social and emotional learning (SE)L check-in, or asking students to create and share what they have learned in a way that meets their interests.
Here are seven tools to check out, each of which offers something unique and is versatile for different content areas and grade levels:
Buncee is a multimedia presentation tool that fuels creativity. It has been a favorite for five years in my classroom. Creating lessons through Buncee enables us to include a lot of content and a variety of media formats all within one space. Within one Buncee, you can add animations, 3D objects, audio and video, links and more. There are sample lessons and other templates ready to use in their library.
My older students use it for teaching a lesson or to present their project-based learning (PBL) findings. It has definitely boosted student engagement through the power of choice. Now with Capstone’s Pebble Go, students can bring their stories to life by creating their own Buncee to represent learning!
Through Classkick, teachers can quickly create assessments, check-ins or design an entire lesson. Documents, images, text can be added to each slide in the lesson for students to interact with. Classkick has several options for students to use for their responses including audio, text, video or sharing a link. Teachers can see student work in real-time and provide individual feedback to students. Another nice feature is that students can anonymously ask classmates for help if needed.
Storytelling or creating a quick check-in with students is fun with Figment AR, one of my favorite augmented reality apps over the past few years. More than just AR, it also has portals which transform the experience into virtual reality. We have used it in class to create a quick story that includes animated characters, portals and special effects.
Formative allows teachers to deliver lessons in a more interactive way, that empowers students to respond to different types of questions, draw, record audio or watch embedded videos. Lessons can be done live in class or they can be self-paced. Teachers have real-time data and can provide timely and personalized feedback to students. During virtual learning, Formative was a game-changer for creating asynchronous lessons as well as for assessments that would provide data immediately and in a space where feedback can be given.
Genially is a versatile and interactive platform that can be used to create so many different projects and things you would want for your classroom. Some favorites are to use it for creating a class website, choice boards, flyers, designing interactive images, newsletters, presentations, storybooks and more. Presentations can have sound, hyperlinks, social media buttons and so much more.
Gimkit is one of many game-based learning tools available and it has been a favorite of my students each year. There are more personalized learning experiences because of the repetitive questions which promote increased content retention. My students also like Gimkit Draw, where they have three options and then select one to draw and have their classmates guess the word as the drawing appears on each device. Gimkit also launched a new mode of play called Fishtopia which offers another engaging way to not only practice the content but build strategy, have fun while learning and try out something new in class. There are several modes to play and teachers can access detailed reports with individual student progress and a general overview, to better prepare for the next steps in the lesson.
Spaces can be used to boost class discussion in the “feed,” for creating activities for the class, or by creating spaces for students. We have been exploring new ideas in our Spanish classes and students are really enjoying it. In a group space, students have collaborated to create a fashion show and either write or narrate a description and add an image to their post. Individual spaces are perfect for daily writing prompts, feedback and understanding students and their interests which helps with building those vital teacher-student relationships. A key part of these activities is that they also help students develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and promote more active learning which they enjoy.
Boosting student engagement
For anyone deciding where to begin, you can’t go wrong with any of these. They have multiple benefits and possibilities for using them in your classroom. Students can create, collaborate and interact with one another and do so in any learning space. Bringing in new technologies and learning opportunities will better equip students with the essential skills that they will need moving forward.