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Increasing Engagement with Tech Tools

April 12, 2016

Drop by Wendi Straub’s classroom at Idaho Falls High School and you might find an atmosphere that looks more like trivia night than a school day. As Straub asks biology questions with the quiz program Kahoot!, cheers and groans erupt from the class when their answers get projected on the screen. This may look like a game show, but it’s also changing the way Straub teaches: she can use her students’ quiz results to adjust her lessons and focus on the subjects that need the most review. It’s all part of the digital revolution taking place in Idaho Falls, where teachers and students alike are excited about the possibilities that tech can bring to the classroom.

Idaho Falls Principal Aaron Jarnagin remembers when students first started bringing digital devices – cell phones – to class about ten years ago. Back then, the school tried a strict no-phones policy, but then Jarnagin realized there were ways to “use them to our advantage.” Now, students in Idaho Falls use their phones to time their biology experiments or take photos through a microscope lens, and Straub can break up her lectures by having the class whip out their devices for a quick online quiz. It’s these tools, plus apps like Kahoot!, that enable teachers at Idaho Falls to use different approaches for a variety of learners. “You hit additional learning styles, and therefore increase engagement,” Jarnagin says. “And ultimately, that’s what you’re trying to do as a teacher, increase your student engagement so they walk away knowing as much as they can at the end of the day.”

Along with improved student engagement, these educators know that there’s plenty of responsibility that comes with technology. In order to encourage good digital citizenship, Straub has her students sign a “responsible use” agreement every term, and Jarnagin stresses the importance of mutual respect between teachers and students. And as the school community becomes more comfortable with tech, Straub expects that there will be even more exciting innovations just around the corner. As she put it, “I think in another three to five years we’re going to be blown away.”