Spitballs, passing notes, whispering and daydreaming have been replaced by texting, surfing the Internet and listening to music whether on MP3 players or iPods. Students’ heads are down on the desk, sleeping or talking.
Teachers are faced with the daunting task of competing with addictive technologies and are often on the losing end. Microsoft conducted a study that found a person’s average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds and in 2013 the attention span decreased to 8 seconds.
Engagement is the key to overcoming the 8 second-chance that teachers face. One of the key ways to meet the student engagement challenge is to apply the principles of internet marketing, otherwise known as SEO (search engine optimization) to the classroom. In other words, we need a new SEO, Student Engagement Optimization.
Websites with a high SEO rank employ keywords and accessibility, linking and “freshness.” Choosing appropriate keywords and using them in the body of a website frequently increases the website rank as well as linking between websites. Once your keywords match, the user must be able to find exactly what they are looking for on the website and website owners must make sure content is fresh to get traffic leading to a high SEO rank.
It’s Time to Get ‘Fresh’
Teachers must employ and embrace technology in order to attain high levels of student engagement.
We are no longer confined to the four walls of our brick and mortar classrooms for the sole means of communicating with students. When working with students we need to communicate in their language using their tools, just as a fully optimized website would. Extra help no longer requires staying 20 minutes after school—using technology after hours can answer a student’s question and lessen confusion for the next day’s lesson. Innovative teachers can use chat rooms, message boards and screencasts to create more opportunities after school hours for students and teachers to collaborate.
Technology is also a key element in maintaining the “freshness” of methods of instruction. Lecturing in front of a classroom will result in texting and other distracting behaviors. Modeling new methods of instruction based on technology is an effective path to encouraging teachers to use technology in the classroom.
Recently, I took part in a differentiated instruction workshop where teachers were encouraged to take a step toward technology. Some teachers embraced the new methods and found that they easily integrated into the classroom. Differentiated task lists are a part of my weekly lesson plan complete with videos, applets and activities to address the myriad of learning styles in my classroom.
Finally, linking classroom content with real world applications and other disciplines is imperative to student engagement. A website may be chock full of information, but if it stands alone without a connection to other websites, users will not be able to find it or use it to deepen their knowledge. If I teach the quadratic formula and refuse to apply it to the real world the connection will be lost and with it, the interest. As a math teacher, there are so many times that I hear, “When are we ever going to use this?” Giving the canned answer of, “If you become a math teacher or the next course,” is not going to cut it.
Teachers are being challenged to defend their curricula and show its vitality in the real world. If a possible connection can be made, the understanding will be deeper.
We as educators need to release our fear of technology in the classroom and the fear of change. We are failing our students and losing them in the process to boredom.