Building Engagement Using Technology.

Posted by Laura on May 2, 2016

I wanted to take a look at student engagement within the classroom and some different view on what can be done to improve it, particularly looking at how technology can be used the the classroom to raise engagement among pupils.

I read a paper by Anne Maddox entitled “Technology’s Impact on Student Engagement” which journaled her experience using a variety of different technologies within her classroom to raise engagement among students. I found it interesting how the engagement among students was higher with technology, but also the discussions about how different learning styles could benefit from information being presented in different ways. When speaking about the use of video clips within her lessons to teach about mythology, Maddox recounts how many of the students not only seemed to enjoy the material more than text alone, but seemed to be able to understand it easier when presented in video format.

I can see that this would be very effective in an English lesson, as in Maddox’s case, but I think that to apply this theory in a maths classroom as an alternative method that students may find easier to understand may be more difficult within a mathematical setting. I think that turning a written text into visual format can help students see much of the material from the text that is open to interpretation or in the sub text. There is however usually little of this in mathematics teaching, with a lot of the content needing to be taught already visually represented.

Maddox looks at several different kinds of technology within the class and after surveying her students, comes to the conclusion that the technology had a positive impact within the class and brought greater enjoyment to her particular lessons. She notes that students preferred different technologies and this raises another question, how to decide which of the many technologies around is the right fit for out classrooms and learners.

There are many technologies available for use in the mathematics classroom, ranging from scientific calculators to advanced mathematical programs, but not all are appropriate in every classroom and bad use of these technologies can be just as detrimental to engagement among students as it can be beneficial.

In a TED talk by Ramsay Musallam about how to create a spark among learners when teaching he says “flipping a boring lecture from the classroom to the screen of a mobile device might save instructional time, but if it is the focus of our students’ experience, it’s the same dehumanizing chatter just wrapped up in fancy clothing.” I think this is an important point. I have seen many “mathematical games” used in classrooms to entice students to perform calculations under the guise of it being a game however, the maths in these games is so poorly disguised as anything other than textbook questions on a computer screen, that using technology becomes just as much of a chore as wading through textbooks.

I think technology is a useful tool and used in the right way can be part of a collection of devices we use to build engagement among the students in our classrooms, rather than the fulcrum upon which everything else balances.

Musallam, R. (2013) ‘3 rules to spark learning’. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning/transcript?language=en (Accessed: 2 May 2016).

Maddox, A. (no date) Technology’s Impact on Student Engagement. Available at: https://ed.psu.edu/englishpds/inquiry/projects/papers08/maddox.pdf (Accessed: 2 May 2016).

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