Use know-how to encourage college students: four concepts

contributed by Rachelle Dene Poth

Summer is an opportunity to relax, but it’s also a time to explore new ideas and reflect on the past year. We have to ask ourselves what worked and what didn’t. At the beginning of each school year, teachers begin to establish teaching procedures, get to know the students, and then begin teaching.

Even with the best of plans ahead, things can crop up that limit our time to try something new. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to some of the same teaching strategies and using some of the same tools that were used last year. We all have methods and tools that we use that are beneficial to our students. But summer offers an opportunity to think about some new things to bring to our classroom and students as the new school year begins.

Since time is a factor, trying too many new things at once can seem overwhelming. It’s helpful to reflect on how we used a particular tool or presented a topic over the past year. First, focus on one thing at a time and see how it goes. The most important part is to remember that we want to implement something that will benefit our students. It should be something that has real purpose and expands the learning experiences and potential for our students.

Below are a few ideas I’ve used in my classes that students have enjoyed and had a positive impact on their learning.

4 simple ideas for using technology to engage students

Idea: Use infographics to create an engaging curriculum

Instead of creating your syllabus on paper and handing it to your students, try creating one infographic to post online via your class website or LMS if you have one. It will be easier to read, provide a sense of enthusiasm for your own craft, and separate your classroom from others in the eyes of the students/parents/administration.

With a graphic, you can also print and laminate the infographic to keep it accessible in your classroom. There are many tools to choose from to create one and many options for incorporating it into your course. To create one, simply take the information from your document and paste it into the infographic.

There are many choices for templates, icons, fonts, and more. Instead of having your students complete assignments or projects that are traditionally done on paper or with a Word doc, have them create something creative and visual using one of the infographic tools available. It’s going to be a more engaging, visual way to share information, have a more authentic learning experience, and it can be created fairly quickly.

Some recommendations for infographic creation tools are Canva, Piktochart, Smore, and Visme.

Idea: create interactive lessons

Students must be actively involved in teaching and learning. A great way to do this is through interactive video lessons. There are many digital tools available that allow a teacher to select a video from YouTube or other video source and use it to create a quick interactive lesson with questions or other activities for students to complete. The beauty of the tools available for interactive video courses is that some lessons are publicly available, so you can try them out with your class first before creating your own.

Trying one of these first allows you to see what students think and use their feedback to guide next steps, whether to create one and which tool to use. Offering lessons like this is great for letting students complete assignments outside of the traditional “brick and mortar” classroom, as part of an asynchronous lesson, or in a blended or flipped learning environment. You can quickly rate students, track their progress, and hold them accountable for watching the videos.

Some suggestions for some of the tools available are EDpuzzle, Playposit, Vizia, and even a Google Doc could be used with questions for students to fill out. My suggestion is that you select one of these options, see what’s available, and then Realize how you can use it for the benefit of your class. Tutorials are available on the websites to help you create your first video.

Simply choose a video that you would normally show in class or assign students to watch outside of class and think of the questions you could or would ask to check understanding. It’s easy to insert your video into the lesson editor, add different question styles including true and false, multiple choice or short answer, in addition to other formats. There are also options for self-assessment of tests, so the data is available immediately.

Each tool offers different features that add additional benefits to learning. For example, you can also see how long it took the student to watch the video and if they tried to skip it, depending on which tool you choose.

Idea: Lessons created by students

Instead of the teacher creating the lessons, you could have the students create lessons to share with the class. When I did this with my students, they sent me their completed video lessons and I finished the lesson. It gave them the opportunity to see what teachers are seeing and the opportunity to provide feedback to their ‘student’. In this way, the students learned in a more authentic way because they decided which video to use, created the questions and thereby reinforced the material; it was more personal to her.

Teachers learn by seeing what type of content students select and can use this information to guide next steps in the lesson. The class as a whole learns and benefits from having more resources to practice, and students are better able to master the content. Another great thing besides improved learning is that students can also enjoy making these videos.

And fun is good, yes?

Idea: Use appealing digital quizzes & tools

There are a variety of tools for creating tests and lessons that students can take in and out of class.

In many cases, you can upload your own documents or PowerPoint presentations to the class and organize everything in one place. Using some formative assessment tools like Formative, Kahoot, Nearpod, Quizizz, and Quizlet to name a few is a way to have fun with students and expand the learning resources available to your classes.

Students have fun creating their own quizzes and lessons, choosing between the tool and the types of questions included, while developing their technological skills along the way. These activities are all very beneficial for student growth. By giving students more choices, we empower them in the classroom.

See also Best formative assessment tools


When used with a purpose, there are many ways technology is helping teachers and students. The use of technology saves time, makes feedback readily available, and gives students the opportunity to be creative and have choices. It also encourages learning outside of the traditional classroom, which reserves time in class for other activities to clear up misunderstandings and spend time getting to know students and providing individual feedback.

Once you’ve settled on one of these ideas, give it some time, see how it develops, and then think about the next step. Be sure to include the students in the conversation because their contribution is vital and important. When students feel valued, learning is more meaningful and this leads to many positive outcomes. Teachers and students working together, creating lessons, and providing feedback contribute to a positive classroom culture.

Perhaps one of those areas is the next step you could take to see how your students are responding. It was a nice change of pace in my classroom, my students were creative, engaged and enjoyed the chance to lead. The learning that took place was more meaningful and they remembered the content information much more when they were creating their own product or remembering the work of one of their classmates.

Either way, it was a much more meaningful experience and something I will continue to do this school year to expand my classroom.

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