Losing learners’ attention can lead to in-class anarchy. Ok, anarchy is a pretty strong term, but it certainly feels like chaos when students are not focused on the immediate task, distracted by their technology, or assisting each other to catch up to the lesson. Students can fall behind in a lesson as a result of making a typo when entering a URL in real-time, skipping a step on an instructional worksheet, or missing a teacher’s direction due to some distraction.
To be honest, instructors sometimes move forward through lessons at a hurried pace as they are focused on the lesson plan. My lesson plans are more like a band’s set list. I am sometimes guilty of moving at a steady rate in order to accomplish every item on my list. Teachers often feel that students should be able to keep up with the lesson if they are paying attention. The weather, a student drama, dead batteries, WiFi strength, and more can all contribute to distraction. To combat distraction in the classroom, you can introduce education technology efficiencies. These are listed and detailed below. While not a comprehensive list, they may help you leverage technology in your classroom in the future. If you have any other education technology efficiencies ideas, please feel free to add them to the comments section below.
1. Incorporate QR codes in instructional media. QR codes offer learners a free and fast way to link to online resources and activities. Projected on the projection screen or whiteboard at the front of the classroom, QR codes offer efficient access to collaborative activities such as Kahoot, Quizlet Live and Quizizz. QR codes can also be printed on worksheets, class posters or flashcards. QR codes quickly open online videos, articles, language learning activities, learning management system activities, and more. Students are not obliged to type in long web addresses when using QR codes with their hand-held device’s cameras.
2. Set technology routines with your classes. I have found that it is imperative to set the tone for technology use in the classroom from the first class. Together, students and I establish a behavioural code for the onset of a term. This always involves how smartphones will be used by the instructor and the students. In extreme cases, I use a hanging shoe organizer (the one I use is Stuk, from IKEA, which has 12 compartments) to use as temporary smartphone storage for lessons that do not involve handheld technology. The first time this storage system is introduced, students are in shock, but after a few lessons, when they are asked to retrieve their devices and participate in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) activity, they realize that using phones only for learning activities and storing it the rest of the time actually contributes to their personal learning. Another routine I use is having the students automatically sign into their computer workstations (which line the walls of the classroom) before they sit down at their desks (which are in the centre of the room). They open a PowerPoint and set it to slideshow mode. This prevents the workstation from going into sleep mode and has the added benefit of avoiding a delay of signing into their workstations mid-lesson. Routines lead to a class culture that is supportive and allows opportunities for students to comfortable with technology use.
3. Locate or create “How To” worksheets or online documents that allow learners to get a quick start on the technologies to be used in lessons. Be sure to mix up the technologies used throughout the term. These “How To” assistants can be distributed before each technology is used to enhance a learning activity. Learners become bored working through the same types of activities or using the same apps. By alternating between apps and approaches, student motivation is enhanced, and they are more engaged. For example, vocabulary introduction and practice is an important aspect of language learning. I use Quizlet, Quizlet Live, Kahoot, H5P, Quizziz, WordSift and Hot Potatoes to spice up learning lexis. To facilitate students’ incorporation of the unit vocabulary into creative activities, I use constructivist tools including Canva, Google Poly and WinkSite.
4. Communicate your objectives clearly to your students. Ensure that you communicate the lesson’s learning objectives to the students. This lets the students know precisely what the outcome of the lesson is and why they are using designated resources and completing activities. When students know what the lesson’s objectives are, they can focus on the lesson, possibly predict the lesson’s process, and feel more motivated.
5. Encourage teamwork in the classroom. When working with technology, pair work is a good way to increase efficiency. Students can work with one device, which lowers the chance of a device being bumped from the WiFi. There are also two sets of ears and eyes listening to and taking in the instructions. Students can assist each other through the prescribed process with their combined prior knowledge and expertise with technologies.
6. Collect student feedback after educational technology sessions. Feedback can be formal, but informal methods such as exit tickets, think-pair-share, causal chats or shout outs can lead to improvements in future lessons through adjustments of the technique, technology or outright abandonment of the technology as students suggest alternative technologies.