Better Teaching Thru Tech

5 quick tech tricks to present content and keep your students engaged

Student engagement is easier than you think if you know the right tricks

If you’ve read anything by me in the last few months, you know I’m all about engagement. I can have the most info-rich class and send out tons of great data, research, and theory like a buffet of knowledge I put before my students, but if they’re not into it they are not going to learn it.

Just being able to regurgitate it back on a quiz is meaningless to me. I teach people who want to be educators—I have a responsibility to them and the children they will teach. It’s my job to get the message out about how to teach in a constructivist framework, differentiate instruction, and integrate multicultural literature.

Here are 5 things I do that keep my students active and engaged.

1. Add a twist to slide shows

As much as I want all my classes to be a celebration of group activities, student conversation, and hands-on discovery, I find that sometimes I have to tell ’em stuff—sometimes I have to lecture. One of my favorite tools for creating an engaging lecture is to project my presentation using Mirror 360. Similar to Apple TV, it lets me easily project from my iPad, phone, or laptop from anywhere in the room.

2. Hand over the reigns

When I’m projecting a slide, I often ask my students to look at what’s on the slide, talk to their shoulder partner (the student sitting next to them) about what they see, and then hand the iPad to a student and ask him or her to explain the slide. I tell them they have the power to take us back in the presentation if they need to discuss something I’ve just shared. My students know that this is something I do and they like being able to guide the discussion. Most of all, they like not having to get up in front of the class—they can do it from their seat.

Related: 5 terrific edtech tools for creating a highly engaging online (or hybrid) course

3. Integrate audio

Most of us are comfortable with using video but I also like to encourage my students to start listening to podcasts that directly address our subject area. Some of my favorite education-focused podcasts are 10 Minute Teacher, Google Teacher Tribe, and TED Talks Daily. I usually pick a portion of the podcast to listen to—maybe 5-10 minutes—to illustrate my point and break up the lecture.

4. Embed assessments

A quick check of where students are at or what they’re questioning is super easy with tools like Poll Everywhere or Kahoot. I find that Poll Everywhere works best for a quick assessment during a lecture and I especially like to create a word cloud of questions. I ask my students to tell me one thing that needs clarity and one “Wowza! That was interesting!” Kahoot is great for assessments where I can download data; I tend to do that following a presentation.

5. Use learning stations or the in-class flip

Sometimes I don’t lecture. Instead, I set up areas in the classroom for students to work on different components of the topic. I break students up into groups and have them work together. They move from station to station and I’m there to answer questions, solve tech problems, and review their work. Here’s a sample:

  • Station 1: listen to a podcast
  • Station 2: Watch a quick Screencast-O-Matic of my slide lecture
  • Station 3: Read online resources
  • Station 4: Take a Kahoot to assess learning

Try one of these or all of these and let me know how it works for you. As always, I’m available at

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