Engaging Learners with New Tools

By: Lori O.

Jan 28 2010

Category: Journal


Weds. , Jan. 27, 2010 @ 9:46 pm  Module Four

Engaging Learners Mind map


The way to bring technological tools which students use outside the classroom into the learning environment is to simply require it.  With younger students, this means to introduce new technologies such as blogs, storytelling media, podcasting, and wikis, and provide ample classroom opportunities to utilize the new technology, then require that students use the technology to complete problem-based projects.  For more advanced students, who are more independent at discovering and exploring new media, the introduction phase may be reduced or eliminated, while requiring that students utilize new technologies to apply concepts to real-world issues and problems.

The research according to Durrington, Berryhill, and Swafford (2006)indicates that distance education is just as effective as face-to-face instruction provided that the technology used is appropriate, the instructor provides timely feedback, and there is a high level of student interactivity.  As a matter of fact, student’s attitudes toward their learning are more positive in distance education, with higher performance levels, when there are high levels of interactivity among peers and instructor. 

Therefore, the tools which should most definitely provide peer interaction would be discussions.  I prefer asynchronous discussions, as they allow sufficient “think time” in before a response is expected.  Discussions focus on content, while nurturing student responses, allowing for various viewpoints to be discussed, providing both acceptance and reinforcement of student comments.  Durrington, Berryhill, and Swafford (2006) recommend student-moderated discussions where the discussion is led, outcomes designed, and levels of response quality determined by students.  The authors urge that student exchanges among themselves is more vital to student engagement and contribute further to student learning.

Other strategies which contribute to student engagement, and interaction among themselves also include a group created wiki, or blog.  The disadvantages to these tools include contributors who drop a course, or fail to meet their obligations.  As these group dynamics develop, time on task together is vital to building the trust in one another as a team, without which the team loses focus, and unwillingness to rely on one another.  One manner the instructor can prevent this downward spiral from developing, is to create groups with sufficient team members to allow for interaction, even if one or two members fail the group.  The instructor should also closely monitor group participation especially in the beginning to ensure that groups are functioning.  Otherwise, the team members should attempt to collaborate according to the syllabus definition, and assignment/group participation rubric.

 Durrington, V. A., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190−193.

 Siemens, G. (2007). Curatorial teaching. [Video podcast]. Available from http://learnonline.wordpress.com/2007/09/20/10-minute-lecture-george-siemens-curatorial-teaching/

 Siemens, G. (2008, January). Learning and knowing in networks: Changing roles for educators and designers. ITForum.


4 comments on “Engaging Learners with New Tools”

  1. Lori,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your graphic organizer and I have to say that there were many things listed that I had forgotten about. You were very organized and detailed – this is something that I will save and refer back to later!


    • Glad you enjoyed it Laine! I tried several new technologies, then when I saw they weren’t very good, but very complicated to learn, I decided to go back to my smart board! This was created on the smart board, saved as a powerpoint, and voila! Thanks!

  2. I definitely agree with your comments in your last paragraph in regards to blogs and wikis. This is actually why I am responding to your blog Lori even though you are not in my group. A few of my group members are AWOL or aren’t keeping current on assignments. Not having that group interaction outside the ‘classroom’ discussion boards makes me feel much less engaged within our community of learners.
    I also prefer asynchronous discussions. The think time it provides is very helpful to me. In F2F classes I did used to ask lots of questions but when in discussions with classmates I always thought of much better response/observations/questions, etc., after class was out. Sometimes ideas would come much later and often it would be difficult to recapture the discussion the next time class convened.
    Of course my experience, this is reflective and going back many years, in F2F was always more focused between professor and student. This is very different than my online experience where discussion is much more between students. I do enjoy this aspect but do feel that we sometimes miss the expert/more experienced point of view a professor can provide.

    • You are welcome any time, Scott! I loved having the feedback!

      The more I look back over multiple intelligences, I am more convinced than ever that there are different kinds of learners. I think Walden’s courses go the extra mile in meeting the needs of all learners. However, it is also true that when smaller communities are developed, a breach in trust, makes it very difficult to “bond” with the group members.

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