With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the iCEV curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.
It can be frustrating when your students don’t pay attention in your computer applications courses. After all, the knowledge they gain in your classroom will be the foundation for computer skills they carry with them throughout their lives. But when students don’t engage with course material, they sabotage that foundation in ways they can’t see.
As a computer applications curriculum developer, teachers often approach AES looking for ways to keep their kids engaged in class so they develop a solid baseline of technological knowledge. In response, we’ve developed a list of methods you can use to ensure your kids are getting as much out of your course as you want them to be.
In many ways, the key to getting students invested in your computer applications class is to get them excited about technology in general. But these days, kids are so immersed in technology that you might have to go out of your way to spark that enjoyment.
To that end, if you want to get students excited about your course, try showcasing new and exciting technology that they can use within your classroom.
Why Incorporating New Technology Matters
Let’s face it: laptops and tablets aren’t as impressive today as in the past. Many of your students will have grown up playing games on smartphones, and some probably even own their own laptops or computers at home.
If you want to impart the importance of technology to these kids, you have to use technology that stands out or has immediate benefits in their lives. Show these kids how fun and useful technology can be, and you’ll get them more excited for your class.
How You Can Engage Your Students with New Technology
There are several pieces of new technology you can incorporate into your class to fuel student engagement. Some of them have different costs involved, and different purposes within a computer apps course:
Interactive screens are monitors with touchscreen capabilities often used at the front of a classroom to replace a traditional blackboard or whiteboard. These screens can be very popular among younger students, as they have all the capabilities of a computer when it comes to running programs or showing videos, which makes them an exciting addition to the classroom.
Virtual reality (VR) technology is making its way into more and more classrooms, and for good reason--you’d be hard-pressed to find a student who can frown when wearing a VR headset for the first time. VR is a powerful, immersive way to show students the sheer potential of technology while also educating them with visual lessons on topics like coding or running computer programs.
Cloud computing is a humbler piece of technology to show to your students, but one that will be immediately useful for them. With cloud technology, students will be able to share and collaborate on projects, as well as access all of their school files even when they’re at home. Once you teach them how to use the school’s cloud properly, they’ll likely never want to go back to traditional computing.
It’s important to keep in mind that some of these options will be more expensive than others. Many schools these days have cloud computing, for instance, but fewer will have VR technology.
Consider your school budget before making any decisions on incorporating new technology in your classroom. And if you find that some of this new tech is too pricey, there are other avenues you can take to increase student engagement.
2. Promote Active Learning
Active learning is learning where students interact with and get involved in the learning process. This style of learning places greater responsibility on students to take a more direct role in their education.
This is opposed to passive learning, where students simply sit and listen or watch a video, presentation, or lecture. This style of learning has students rely almost completely on their instructor to teach them the material.
Though both have a place in education, when you promote active learning, you directly involve your students in the lesson at hand, and this naturally leads to further engagement with the course material.
Why Active Learning Matters
Students don’t want to just sit around and watch the teacher talk at them day after day. While traditional lectures are sometimes useful for teachers, it’s also important to allow your students to add something of their own to the class discussion.
Simply put, students know when you want to hear their thoughts on the material. When you use active learning to make your class more conversational and open, it pushes your students to think more about each lesson and come to their own conclusions about it.
How You Can Engage Students Through Active Learning
When it comes to computer applications classes, you can promote active learning through a few teaching styles and classroom activities:
In-class demonstrations are particularly valuable when it comes to teaching students new concepts with active learning. However, students must be actively involved in the demonstration process. For instance, you could perform an in-class demonstration of Google Sheets and cloud computing by having learners type onto a blank Google doc and projecting their writing onto the front of the room for everyone to see.
Critical thinking and decision-making exercises can also be important tools for promoting active learning. Try asking your students more complex questions that force them to put pieces together in their heads or take some sort of decisive action. For instance, when it comes to internet security, try asking students what somebody might have to gain by tricking them into revealing their account passwords.
Opportunities for collaboration and group learning can also push your students to work together and combine their thoughts to answer a question or solve a problem. By having your students collaborate and share their knowledge, they may gain outside perspective on a specific topic or subject. Having them use technology to perform this collaboration would further demonstrate how helpful technology can be for group work.
There are many ways to incorporate active learning in your computer class, but the most important thing to keep in mind when using this method is that your students should be front and center and take an active role in the learning process.
3. Play Educational Games
We get it: digital games can sometimes be a slippery slope to use in your classroom. After all, it’s really easy for students to become so obsessed with winning a game that they stop paying attention to the actual course material.
However, it can’t be denied that games go a long way toward engaging your students in class. If you use them correctly, gaming can be a tremendous boon to engagement in your computer applications course.
Why Incorporating Games Matters
Games have stakes, force students to think quickly and critically about course material, provide an incentive for interacting with the class, and perhaps more than anything else, are exciting and fun!
Games are also one of the simplest ways to gain the attention of middle schoolers, who--with their youth--are perfect candidates for all kinds of gaming. Even students who don’t usually participate in class will probably begin to pay attention if most of the class is playing some kind of game.
Simply put: everybody likes games!
How You Can Engage Students Through Games
There are a few different kinds of gaming you can incorporate in your computer applications class:
Computer applications games are some of the easiest and most fun games you can have your students play. These games test your students’ skills and knowledge when it comes to tech-centric concepts. For example, there are dozens of keyboarding games students can play to have fun and practice their typing skills.
Trivia games are another exciting tool computer apps teachers have in their toolbox. Gaming systems like Kahoot! allow teachers to create customized trivia games for any topic they can think of, including computer apps. Playing a trivia game using Kahoot! with laptops and interactive screens can even double as a lesson showing students how versatile technology can be.
Game design apps go in a different direction, allowing students to learn the basic coding fundamentals necessary to design their own simple video games. While this is a more complex way to incorporate gaming in your classroom, it’s a method many students will fall in love with, since learning to design video games is a widespread dream among middle schoolers.
Gaming can be one of the simplest ways to engage your students and keep them interested in the course material. After all, no student will mind entering a classroom where they get to play games for an hour.
4. Create Relatable Situations and Examples
Most teachers--from English to history to computer apps--have at some point heard the following question from students: “But when am I ever going to use this?”
It’s one of the most common things teachers hear. And sure, it’s easy to write off, but there’s a kernel of truth in it. That is, it’s important for engagement that students see a practical use for the course material they’re learning.
To counteract students’ feelings that course material is unimportant to their lives, try using situations and examples they can relate to.
Why Relatability Matters
The truth is, your students are young, diverse individuals growing up in a world that’s constantly shifting and changing. They’re often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they’re exposed to every day, and that means you have to take the extra step to make your course feel pressing and relatable.
Many computer teachers make the mistake of using the same old examples and lesson plans year in and year out. However, if you want your course to grasp your students’ attention, you have to make your lessons feel relevant by connecting them to your students’ lives.
How You Can Make Your Course More Relatable
It’s quite simple to make your course material more relatable for your students. The best way is to think about what’s important to your kids--what they value or what they spend their free time doing. Then take those insights and apply them to your lessons.
For instance, if you teach a unit on internet safety, why not make most of your example situations centered around popular social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok? You could research phishing tactics that hackers use on these platforms, and teach your kids how to protect themselves digitally using a situation they can relate to.
When your students can make connections between your lessons and their own lives and interests, they better own the material and will engage more with it.
5. Try Blended Learning
Blended learning is an education strategy that combines digital and traditional teaching methods to help students learn.
By mixing classic teaching techniques--like lectures or presentations--with the latest in educational technology--like digital curriculum--you can form a “blended” experience that captures the best of both.
Blended learning has several benefits, and when you incorporate it in your classroom, you foster an environment where students can engage most fully with your course material.
Why Blended Learning Matters
In a blended learning environment, traditional instruction introduces students to course material and focuses on hands-on skill and practice. On the other hand, the digital aspect provides additional content that reinforces key concepts in students’ minds.
This multifaceted teaching style presses all of the buttons students need to learn and remember lessons. Roughly 70% of students claim they learn best in a blended learning environment, after all, and eLearning in particular can increase retention of information by up to 60%.
It’s only natural that as technology becomes more and more central to the lives of teachers and students, its importance to the educational process will continue to grow. Blended learning takes that philosophy and runs with it to provide students with a more interesting, engaging learning environment.
How You Can Include Blended Learning in Your Classroom
Luckily, computer applications classes are some of the best environments for using blended learning. Chances are, if you use a combination of traditional lecturing and technology to teach, you’re already using blended learning without even knowing it.
However, there are some specific blended learning strategies you can add to your classroom to ensure you’re optimizing your time with students, including:
Using multiple types of instructional resources ranging from free online resources, to test prep materials, and even to textbooks. Some lessons might be better taught from a video or digital curriculum, while for others, a textbook could do the job. By using the best resource for a lesson--changing it up as you go--you’ll be capturing the essence of blended learning and keeping things fresh for your students to keep them attentive.
Balancing old and new teaching techniques to find that sweet spot between traditional instruction and more experimental styles. Open with a classic lecture to introduce computer concepts to students before moving into a digital module or game to help them hone their skills. After all, blended learning doesn’t mean dumping old methods--just trying new ones! Plus, this will help your students avoid spending too much time staring at screens.
Varying your assessments so that you measure student performance more comprehensively. Many students will check out of a class if they know there is only a single test or essay due at a unit’s end. Instead, intersperse your course with fun projects, presentations, or peer-assessed assignments that go beyond the typical stress-inducing test or essay.
Computer applications courses are natural platforms to use blended learning--you just have to lean into the right strategies to ensure you’re getting the most from the opportunity!
Want More Strategies to Keep Your Students Engaged?
Keeping your students’ attention can be tricky. There are so many distractions nowadays--and technology is evolving so quickly--that you really have to go out of your way to ensure they’re learning these valuable computer skills.
In this article, you’ve learned some of the best ways to keep your computer applications students engaged. If you use even just one or two of these strategies, you’re likely to see a marked improvement in how well your students pay attention in class.
However, when it comes to student disengagement, there are sometimes deeper issues at play. If you want a more in-depth look into what it means to engage your students, check out this free ebook Keeping Students Engaged in CTE.
This handy guide will provide you valuable guidance from teachers--and students--on how to make your class as attention-grabbing as possible: