Technology holds the potential to engage and empower students, but only if supported by a fundamental shift in teaching strategy and an adequate IT support structure.
For many years, student engagement has been the benchmark of formal instruction. When children are truly invested in what they learn, the result is greater resiliency, happier students, and higher attendance and graduation rates. Student empowerment is the furthest step of engagement, reflecting a more fundamental shift in pedagogy that encourages self-direction, creativity, and ownership. Educational technology is fundamental to supporting this shift.
“‘Engagement’ is more about what you can do for your students. ‘Empowerment’ is about helping students figure out what they can do for themselves.” – George Couros, Author of The Innovator’s Mindset
The Evolution of Student Engagement
Student engagement is defined as “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught.” Traditional teaching methods evolved to encourage greater engagement through real-life connections with the curriculum, to allow for self-expression in how projects are completed, and toward more small group work. Of course, this shift in teaching strategy has been a progression, as has the introduction of technology to assist in that evolution.
At first, new technology such as laptops or tablets were being used in ‘old’ ways, replacing pen, paper, or textbook. Fast forward to today where digital classrooms embrace technology to create collaborative, individualized, immersive learning environments.
Here we have a true chicken and egg scenario: did technology change the way we learn, or did the way we learn encourage the use of technology?
EdTech Supports the Spectrum of Student Engagement
There is no question that technology has revolutionized the way we teach and learn. While there is no tried and true measurement of student engagement, school districts are tracking attendance rates, GPA scores, truancy, and even output levels associated with edtech. More than 50% of teachers report 1-to-1 programs in their classrooms, with many school districts expanding edtech investments to include new technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and STEM tools, from robotics to circuits.
1-to-1 programs offer the opportunity to boost engagement and to support personalized learning, promoting greater self-reliance, critical thinking skills, and creativity. When used to its fullest potential, educators can leverage technology for student empowerment. Educators can use a variety of digital tools to offer explorative, hands-on learning to support every student on their individual learning path.
Despite the great promise of edtech, many investments fail to deliver a solid return due to a lack of a strong pedagogical foundation. If the laptop is still being used as a pen and paper, you’re unlikely to move toward true student engagement. To support the shift, it’s important to combine leadership with the right tools to manage the shift toward student engagement:
- Have a clear vision – Districts require clear vision and leadership on how teaching and learning are supposed to change, and how best to support that vision at both the IT and classroom level.
- Get teachers on board – Teachers must first believe in the technology, and its potential to improve outcomes. Leadership is critical here. Second, they must be well-trained on how to leverage the new tools.
- Tools for engagement – To support the pillars of engagement and empowerment, classroom management tools should focus on collaboration, inclusion, class participation, self-assessment, and choice.
- Simplify management – With more than 75% of IT time spent responding to technical problems, little time is left to integrate and support technology in the classrooms. With the number of devices and applications expanding exponentially, the onus is on school districts to reduce the complexity of managing edtech. A unified endpoint management platform makes it easy for IT to deploy and manage devices and applications while a self-serve kiosk provides teachers with the flexibility they need to push applications to classes or individual students. For teachers, IT can provide a unified classroom management solution that ensures all students and devices are supported.
Student Empowerment with a Student-Led Tech Team
At Lafayette Catholic Schools, students are given the opportunity to be a part of a student-led technology team that provides tier 1 support to student peers. While this alone is valuable work experience for students, students are empowered to pursue additional work projects with checklists to monitor their own progress.
“FileWave gives us an incredible amount of flexibility for the permissions that we give kids because we can self-correct so quickly.” – Jeff Botteron, Director of Learning Design and Technology, Lafayette Catholic School System
Packed with expert insights from the front lines of this innovative approach, read our eBook on Implementing a Student-Led Tech Team.