16 technology tools for engaging students in higher education

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A brief look at some of the best technology tools available to college instructors.


  • 1. 16 Technology Toolsfor Engaging Studentsin Higher Education
  • 2. FEW THINGS ARE AS FRUSTRATING to teachers andstudents as disinterest. Creating interest andengaging students, however, is one of the mostdifficult things to do in a modern classroom.Students often perceive class material as irrelevantand teachers are discouraged by the ensuingdisengagement.Fortunately, technology can help bridge the gapbetween students and teachers. By managing,creating and sharing content with the help oftechnology, teachers can engage students in waysthat students are familiar and comfortable with.This e-Booklet describes 16 technologies that arecurrently being used to manage, create and sharecontent that is engaging students in collegiateclassrooms across the world.While there are countless tools available toinstructors, weve selected applications proven toincrease student engagement with minimal planningand training.
  • 3. MANAGING CONTENTBefore diving into tons of new technology it isimportant to have a way to manage all of yourcourse material including syllabi, assignments, tests,audio and video. Without a central hub forobtaining this information students will be easilyconfused and lose interest faster than they didbefore. The following four tools are great formanaging your class.
  • 4. 1 Blackboard LearnBlackboard Learn provides a comprehensive set of tools for coursecommunication, document exchange, grade tracking, assessments,surveys and much more. These features allow instructors to takegreater advantage of class time by deferring administrative duties totime spent outside of class. This can regularly save ten to twentyminutes a lecture. Additionally, Blackboard provides a wide variety ofplug-ins that can enhance the functionality of Blackboard to fit theunique needs of your class. Unfortunately, Blackboard is costprohibitive for individual instructors to purchase. If your school doesnot provide it for you this is probably not an option for your class.2 MoodleLike Blackboard, Moodle provides a comprehensive set of tools forcourse communication, document exchange, grade tracking,assessments, surveys and much more. Of course, Moodles biggeststrength is its free price tag. Moodle is modular as well, meaning youcan use as little or as much of its academic suite as you want.Additionally, Moodle has a large community of developers,administrators, teachers and students that can provide support toyour classroom. Moodle has many of the same features as Blackboardand supports other features such as blogs and wikis. Be carefulthough if no one is providing dedicated support for Moodle you maybe left out to dry.
  • 5. 3 WikisWhile wikis may not be as comprehensive as content managementsoftware (CMS) like Blackboard or Moodle, they still can provide muchof the functionality that CMS provides. Wikis can be used to organizegroup projects, post class assignments, aggregate resources, facilitatepeer reviews, answer frequently asked questions and publishnewspapers or blogs. Wikis are living and breathing documents thatcan be edited by any number of people making them especiallybeneficial for instructors that desire a large amount of collaboration intheir classroom. Additionally, wikis are available to educators foreither free or low costs. PBworks.com and Wikispaces.com arepopular sites for building full website wikis.4 BlogsBlogs are the least comprehensive of the tools listed here, but are themost readily available. Blogs also allow instructors to do many of thesame things CMSs and wikis do. Blogs provide a place for sharingopinions and giving students a global voice which allows students tosee the importance of writing and motivates them to take ownershipof their own writing. Archiving also allows students to see how theirthoughts have progressed over time. Teachers can use blogs todisseminate their syllabi, announcements and assignments. Bloggingservices are provided by WordPress, Blogger, and TypePad.
  • 6. CREATING CONTENTAfter obtaining a place to manage content its timeto start creating the content that will go on yourcourse hub. In some cases this material is alreadycreated (like syllabi), but may need to be altered insome way. These six tools will help you create greatcontent for your course.
  • 7. 5 Wiki PagesAs described before, wikis are a great place for creating content.Content can be edited collaboratively and previous versions can bearchived. Additionally, wikis allow uploading of documents and linkingto other valuable resources.6 Blog PostsThe true power of a blog is in blog posts. Blog posts are the contentplaced on a blog and can be anything you, as an instructor, want themto be. When comments are allowed, the blog can become a place foradditional content where students can share thoughts and ideas onthe post and create an environment for thoughtful discussion.7 Office ToolsOffice tools are vital to creating a variety of different types ofdocuments especially if a word processor isnt your only need. Mostoffice suites provide a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation,and a database application. Being able to present content in the rightformat can greatly enhance the quality of the document. Large tablesdont belong in a word processor and lots of text doesnt belong in aslide show. Microsofts office suite is the current standard indocument creation, but what many arent aware of is the breadth ofweb based office tools available for collaborative documents. BothGoogles Documents application and Zohos office suite provide thesame tools as Microsoft with the added benefit of being web based.
  • 8. Because they are web based, Google Docs and Zoho provide an easymeans for collaborating on documents that is not available withMicrosoft. However, if your main concern is a comprehensive set offeatures then Microsoft Office Suite is tough to beat.8 WhiteboardsWhiteboards are collaborative documents that can be created by anyperson and reused or edited by another person with access to theweb. As with wikis, previous versions can be stored with archivingmaking it easy to reference earlier versions. Popular whiteboardsinclude SMART Board, Ether Pad and Writeboard. Interactivedocuments allow for easy editing of student writing as well as makingcollaborative student documents easier. No more sending back andforth new versions of a document.9 PodcastsWhile written word is used most often to create content, in certaincircumstances, it might make sense to use audio. With the prevalenceof iPods and mp3 players it is now easier than ever to make anddistribute audio to your students. One method for doing this ispodcasts. Podcasts are simply published audio that allow education tobecome portable. Teachers are able to reach students outside of theclassroom. You may consider having students listen to the assortmentof podcasts already available on the web or creating your own fordistribution. However, recording your lectures may not be the best
  • 9. use of a podcast. Podcasts are best for presenting material that canbe covered in about 20 minutes. Also, podcasts shouldnt be likelectures but more like a radio show - even if they are not. Podcastsshould be planned, but not scripted. That last thing a student wants tohear is you reading a script. Also consider having students createpodcasts. Lastly, if you plan on using music make sure to abide bycopyright laws. Podcasts can be created using software like Audacity,Adobe Audition, or Garageband.10 Video PodcastsThe video podcast is a video version of a podcast. Where podcasts arelimited by audio, video podcasts include both audio and video, makingthem more versatile than the podcast. Video podcasts can be used forpublishing your own lectures or having students view lectures of othercontent experts.
  • 10. SHARING CONTENTOnce you have a method to manage and createcontent it is vital that you find outlets for sharingwith your students and peers. While publishing thematerial to your course management software,wikis, or blogs is certainly appropriate, there areother methods that are available to help you reach abroader audience.
  • 11. 11 RSSRSS which stands for Really Simple Syndication (formerly called RichSite Summary) allows users to aggregate updates to websites acrossthe web into one single feed reader. Using RSS on your blogs, wikis orwebsites will let students know when new content is available.Additionally, by using a feed reader such as Google Reader, you cansubscribe to any number of web feeds from your field to help youkeep up to date on current education trends.12 Social BookmarkingSocial bookmarking is another common tool for storing and organizinglinks to web pages. While bookmarking has been around for sometime social bookmarking allows you to share the sites you find usefulwith your students. Additionally, with RSS feeds students can knowwhen you have updated your bookmarks. Because there is muchvaluable information on the web, it is important for you to be able tofind and store it so that your students can be able to see the materialas well. Sites such as Delicious, Diigo and