Engaging Students With
Their Technology

Engaging Students With Their Technology

We all know what an unengaged, uninterested classroom looks like. High school students slumped in their chairs, covertly flipping through Facebook photos and texting friends from their smartphones. Some students daydreaming, doodling in their notebooks or napping on their seatbacks. “Bueller… Bueller?”


It can be hard keeping students’ attention, especially since teenagers have the World Wide Web in their pockets, capable of connecting with friends, playing games or updating their social media pages. How can teachers compete with these kind of distractions? The answer lies in engaging students with more compelling classroom strategies.

Below are a few tips to recapture students’ attention and rejuvenate young minds:

Icebreaker Questions

One way teachers can engage and involve students is to start off class with an icebreaker question. These can change through the year. Maybe on the first day of class, you can ask something introductory to get everyone acquainted; and at the end of the semester, ask what was most memorable.

Student response systems, like Poll Everywhere, allow teachers to share poll questions with their students. Poll questions can be written and answered in real time from the devices your students already use and love, including text massage, mobile app, web URL or Twitter. This can be useful in gathering class attendance and participation, or launching pop quizzes. Student response systems like this are ideal because they eschew pricey polling hardware for sleeker, easier device compatibility. Plus, teens are already glued to their phones, so you may as well use what’s a regular distraction toward learning.

Group Discussions

Something to recognize about today’s youth is that they are always sharing. Whether they’re texting friends, sharing photos or updating their status, teens today love sharing. Why not bring that same kind of energy into your classroom? Invite students to bring their chairs into a circle and present a topic, such as last night’s reading assignment. Get a conversation going between the students, but be as hands off as possible, only redirecting their discussion if it veers off course or come to a dead end. Students are bound to get more animated when they know their opinions are heard and accounted for. They may surprise you by discussing aspects about the subject matter you never considered before.

Choice Your Own Adventure

Despite the vast amount of research done on diverse learning styles, most classrooms still assign the same types of projects for every student. While this is much easier to grade, it’s not the best tactic for driving student engagement. Not to mention that if you assign 30 poster board presentations to 30 students, you are likely to get 30 near identical presentations.

Let your students choose their own adventure and digest the materials their own way. Aside from a set of guidelines to demonstrate their proficiency, students should be encouraged to explore different mediums. Perhaps he or she wants to produce a video presentation or a mock gameshow. Or perhaps you have a student that is more analytical and would rather write a paper than stand in front of the class. Embrace the diversity of personalities and learning styles in your classroom.

Use Real Life Examples

I’m sure every teacher on the planet is tired of hearing: “When will we ever use this?”, but it’s a relevant question if you divorce it from the snarkiness. After all, educators and parents always tell children that their education is preparing them for the future, so it’s only natural to wonder how. If you’re discussing math problems, steer away from abstract or odd examples in favor of real world applications. When introducing a new topic, talk about the careers that use it or the history behind it. In short, make your lesson plan relevant to your audience.

Appear Human

At best, students are only as engaged as the people that teach them. Which leads to our final tip: Be human. Pupils sometimes see their educators as stiff or stuffy. Don’t be afraid to add a little of your own personality to your lessons. Use humor, describe your own experience regarding the subject, encourage students to share their difficulties or frustrations by discussing your own when you were in school. Students often feel lost or confused when learning difficult subjects. Show them that this is okay, and a natural part of the learning process.

Something New

Of course, each class and each teacher will want to experiment with their own ways of revitalizing their students. So whether you use student response systems or promote more in class discussions, it will take a little trial and error to get exactly right. We’re all constantly learning after all.