Instructional Treats

Today is Halloween, traditional associated with “candy day” or “where’s the treats”. This is also associated with kids (unless you get that awesome neighbor handing out “adult” Jell-O shots during a candy visit). Well, how about some “treats” for teachers? We are all looking for strategies to increase student engagement, so today I thought to have my stop on the trick-or-treat trail be treats for student engagement.  I believe that high levels of student engagement are commonly believed to be critical to learning.  Student engagement implies both effective and behavioral participation in the learning experience (Marks, 2000).  Wang and Holcombe (2010) offer a more complex, yet similar definition of student engagement.  “We operationalize adolescents’ school engagement as school participation (behavioral engagement), school identification (emotional engagement), and use of self-regulation strategies (cognitive engagement)” (p.634).  In each case, the focus of the definition hinges on a level of student participation in the learning process.   The more students are engaged in their schoolwork, the more likely they are to perform well academically, obtaining higher grades in their classes and higher scores on standardized tests. Makes sense…RIGHT?

Some traits I feel are  common factors that impact student engagement are:

  • Teacher and student Relationship and trust
  • Relevance of the content
  • Teacher Planning, Monitoring and Adjustments to Practice

I also do a lot of work focused on “active learning” and believe it is one of the foundations to academic achievement. By integrating technology in the classroom, educators can take learning experiences to the next level and significantly improve student performance.

So, enjoy these engagement treats and share some of your own by tweeting to @MatthewXJoseph

 is a great tool for this. VoiceThread allows learners to speak and record what they have to say. For example, students can make math tutorials for one another explaining mathematical concepts and post them online.

AudioBoo is another tool for student to record their own voice and a tool teachers can record and share audio for students or anyone else.

Bubblr is a tool to create comic strips using photos. Just taking a sequence of pictures where you can add bubbles and create a story. Not actual voice, but voice expression in storytelling

Slidestory allows you to combine picture slide shows with voice narration. Each picture in a slide show has an accompanying voice narrated mp3 audio file, optional tags, and text caption. Isn’t this a very exciting way to make presentations and share them?

Screencast-o-matic is a powerful screen recorder that allows users to capture anything happening on their screen, as well as voice and video from the webcam for up to 15 minutes in the recorder’s free version. Regarding its pedagogical use, students can record their own videos describing how they solved a particular problem step-by-step (e.g. a trigonometry problem) or explaining their thinking process about the structure of an essay.

TopHat is an interactive, cloud-based tool that helps professors increase classroom engagement and create an interactive learning environment while gaining real-time feedback on their students’ understanding. Instructors can prepare lecture slides and enrich them with some really interesting and interactive features, from launching questions to receiving real-time student feedback. The platform offers an easy interface for managing a classroom – you can quickly take attendance, automate your grading process, and poll students, all in one place.

This kind of interactive approach can be used in many contexts. Top Hat works for just about every subject. The functionalities of Top Hat allow you to break your routine of being behind the podium and teach a class right from the app from anywhere in the classroom.

Write About One key to improving student writing is to have students write more often. But paperwork is hard to manage, you are limited in how much feedback you can provide, and students often have trouble thinking of ideas. Write About solves these problems, providing students with an online space to write on high-interest topics and get feedback from their peers.

Periscope With live streaming, a camera records something—a conversation, a demonstration, a performance, a meeting—and that event is broadcast live online, in real time. Until recently, if a school or teacher wanted to live stream something, the process required expensive equipment or subscriptions. But now live streaming is available free to anyone with a smartphone.

As the current front-runner in live-streaming apps, Periscope has gotten a lot of attention this past year. Like Meerkat, its primary competitor, Periscope allows users to broadcast live from their smartphones or tablets, take written comments from viewers, and share broadcasts on Twitter.

PosterMyWall is a fantastic tool for creating artistic, high-quality posters, collages, photo calendars and/or photo cards that can either be shared online or printed out and inexpensively shipped home. PosterMyWall for teaching purposes is to have students create posters as the culmination of a project to demonstrate what they have learned. Another interesting idea would be creating a poster as a means of introducing the students to a specific topic in an innovative way that stimulates discussion.

Today’s learners are experiential learners who learn by discovery rather than being “told.” They like to interact with content to explore and draw their own conclusions. They also like playing different roles in their learning, either as a student, or even as instructor or facilitator or supporter of others, and switch between them. We need to create classrooms where students are the ones who have to defend and explain their ideas as opposed to regurgitate facts.

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph is currently the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in Leicester Public Schools. He has been a school and district leader in many capacities in public education over his 25 years in the field. Experiences such as the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation, elementary school principal, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist. His work and experience focus on supporting teaching and learning. Follow Dr. Joseph on twitter at @MatthewXJoseph or read his blog

Dr. Matthew X. Joseph (@ MatthewXJoseph) is Executive Director of Learning in Providence Public Schools, Rhode Island.