This post was originally published on Medium.
Something hit me recently: we need to let students know that it’s okay to engage.
Then another thing hit me: how do we do this while getting ahead of the tendency to add tech to classrooms without creating an environment for this tech to (truly) serve students?
“Engagement” has been a buzzword in the industry. I can tell you that at Chalkup we push for engagement all the time. I just want to make sure that we’re pushing students to engage in a way that helps them develop opinions, find answers, and sharpen skills. Because when I say “engage,” I mean “engage meaningfully.” To me, that means a student is doing more than participating in class life; he or she is achieving actual learning goals.
But really, how do we do that?
First, I think we need to make an agreement that we can’t throw devices at classes and believe that we’re done. We can't just post assignments online and have that be the end of the conversation. We can’t keep teaching as we always have even though the game is fundamentally changing. I think most of us can get on board with that.
I’m inspired by the instructors using our platform to run discussion-based classes where the norm is commenting, working together, asking questions, and using peers to find answers. It seems like these classes are using technology not just because they can, but because they’re more powerful with tech on their side. That’s pretty cool.
Further, it’s clear that these classes have found a way to let students know that sharing is okay - it’s the standard. Asking for help when you need it is the right thing to do. When everyone shares awesome resources - rich media, scholarly articles, a class poll - everyone has more to learn from.
When classes are online but they aren’t interacting - when it’s just an electronic way to assign and collect work - students get the impression that it’s up to their instructor to do all the engaging. That’s a huge missed opportunity. That’s when your tech isn’t doing you any better than a paper-based system; you could write today’s assignment on the blackboard and have the same effect. I’d be curious to know how many classrooms are using digital platforms right now as glorified assignment and grading systems.
I’d like to see the edtech community rally around an evolution in classroom culture that trends toward embracing digital learning as a vehicle to meaningful engagement. Let’s find the educators who are doing it already - the ones who have established a culture of sharing. I want to find the classrooms in which students are starting the conversations and are using their devices to ask questions and share ideas without prompting. Let’s find them and replicate that success across classrooms everywhere.
Technology in classrooms isn’t the next step; collaborative class culture is.