There is no denying the premise that increasing student engagement can translate into greater learning. Easier said than done! With larger class sizes and greater diversity of learners in our rooms, how do we keep students thoroughly engaged?
This Asics commercial is a great example of how interactivity can turn passive people from slightly interested into active participants that are fully engaged. Have a look:
So, what lessons/inspiration can we take from the clever Asics marketing team that designed this interactive advertisement?
1. Use technology to generate and harness the power of interactivity. Often technology can generate individual experiences which allow everyone to participate, instead of large group experiences when only a few are part of the action. For example, equipment might not be readily available for every student to conduct math or science type experiments. However, there are simulations sites like www.explorelearning.com and http://phet.colorado.edu/, which enable students to interact with material in a one-one-one situation, creating a much more engaging experience. Ipads, Ipods and computers have many apps that can help generate a more engaging and interactive experience for every learner. Here is a great place to start to investigate more about using apps in education http://cybraryman.com/apps.html.
2. Differentiate with Learning Centers. When it is time to address content, teachers of older grades (8-12) often address the whole class to explain new concepts and review old ones. Why not explain content in small groups or with individual students? As a husband of a grade 1 teacher, I often marvel at how elementary teachers design "center based learning". Learning Centers are designed so that students can explore and learn instructional material alone or in small groups. Teachers in the older grades could use a similar strategy. The room could be filled with various small group learning centers and one of the centers could be meeting with you in a small interactive and engaging discussion of new content. Here is a great place to start to think about modifying learning centers for older grades http://www.cybraryman.com/learningcenters.html.
3. Use Games and Role Play to learn. Games are often interactive, fun and therefore engaging. Kinesthetic games whereby students have to get up and become active are a great way to learning concepts. Once such game, I designed as a project for my Masters of Education was called, The Hypnotic Game. At the start of class students would be given "hypnotic cards", which outlined that if the student heard a specific word during class they would pretend to do something, like get up and erase the whiteboard or read an excerpt out of a book. Then, after every student was given a card, I would pretend to hypnotize the audience/class with a stop watch. Once all students were "hypnotized", I would snap my fingers and begin the lesson. As the lesson evolved, certain key words would trigger student responses, interactivity and engagement. This type of role play was based on humor, personalization and the premise that is better to be active. It was well received by most students.
Here are two links related to learning games; http://www.cybraryman.com/learninggames.html, http://www.nova.edu/~spahn/games_for_learning.html.