illustration of a laptop showing an interactive Easel Activity

Whether you’re supporting distance learning, in-person instruction, or a combination of the two, weaving digital tools into your instruction can help boost student engagement. But how can you use these tools in a way that has the most impact for students? The TpT community is here to help with best practices for driving engagement with online tools. Keep reading to learn what our Teacher-Authors recommend.

How to Engage Students with Digital Tools and Technology

Tips for Using Video to Introduce New Material

If you’re teaching remotely or you support a flipped classroom model, live video calls or recorded video may be a central part of your instruction. Here’s what the TpT Teacher-Author community recommends to keep students engaged in their learning when using video to introduce new material. 

  • Elementary teacher Aris from Sailing Into Second reminds teachers that they can record live video lessons and save them to Google Drive so students can view them later if needed. If you’re supporting distance learning, some students may be sharing a computer or taking on additional family responsibilities, so recording your instruction enables those students to catch up.
  • Elementary teacher Brittany Washburn suggests keeping your videos short. “Think of it as a mini lesson. It is better to send students three short videos than one long video.” she says. Shorter videos are more compatible with student attention spans, and they’re easier for students to rewatch later if needed. 
  • Linda and Rick, the middle and high school educators behind MathLight, share that guided notes can help students stay engaged and pick out the key points of video instruction.
  • In addition to filming yourself, middle and high school teacher Marilyn from Marilyn’s Homework Help recommends using screencasts. This will allow you to show your screen to your students, whether you’re reading directions or demonstrating an activity or concept. “It’s an accommodation that teachers can use for all students, or just students who require that directions be read out loud. Several sites do this type of recording for free, and Screencast-O-Matic is my favorite,” she says.
  • Finally, if you use existing online video content, you’ll free up time to support students in other ways. As Linda and Rick from MathLight recommend, “Use your available time to answer student questions or tutor students in small groups virtually.“

Here are some Video resources currently available on TpT:

Graphing Linear Equations Video Lesson with Guided Notes | Distance Learning by MathLight

Simple Sentences – Grammar Series by Jivey #1 (Distance Learning) by ideas by jivey

Tips for Creating Partner and Group Work

It may seem as if all student work must be completed independently when using technology, especially in a remote environment. However, Teacher-Authors with experience using digital tools emphasize that collaborative work is still possible and is incredibly important for student engagement.

  • Jackie, the middle and high school teacher from Room 213, says that she has students work on collaborative assignments in Google Slides or Google Docs. “For example, if we are reading a novel, I will assign one chapter [per] group. Students will need to decide on what’s important in each chapter and then create a slideshow to share with the rest of the class,” she explains. 
  • Elementary teacher Kathryn, from Make Way For Tech, suggests having students share feedback with one another on Google Docs and Google Slides. After first having students complete an activity individually, she asks them to share their work with one another and use the commenting feature to provide feedback to their peers. 
  • Several Teacher-Authors also mention running small-group discussions using online conference tools, in addition to using them for whole group instruction. As with in-person discussions, students can lead their own learning and understanding of a text or concept. Like Aris from Sailing Into Second previously pointed out, these discussions could be recorded, meaning you could revisit them to check for student understanding.

Here are some online resources you can use to support group work:

Macbeth Character Collages: An Interactive Digital Activity by Room 213

Digital Graphic Organizers (Google Slides™) Distance Learning by Sailing Into Second

Tips for Monitoring Progress

Digital tools can make reviewing and assessing student progress more engaging for students and easier for teachers. Here’s what members of the TpT community are using:

  • For formal, individual assessments, Teacher-Authors recommend Google Forms. Says elementary teacher Dena from Miss Tech Queen, “Google Forms is a great tool where students can fill out virtual exit slips and report their learning for the day.” 
  • To assess student progress in an interactive way, try using Easel by TpT™. With Easel, you can create interactive digital activities that your students can complete on a device. Have students demonstrate their learning using Easel’s annotation tools, such as fill-in-the-blank answer boxes, text and highlighting tools, movable pieces, and more.

Here are some resources you can use to support review and assessment:

1st Grade Word Problems – Add and Subtract (w/ digital option) Distance Learning by Fun and Learning in English and Spanish

George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796) by William Pulgarin

3rd Grade Morning Work – FREE Sample by Math Tech Connections

Distance Learning 5th Grade Standards Based Mini Assessments | Google Forms by Tanya Yero Teaching

Using digital tools in your instruction opens a host of new ways to engage students through distance learning, in-person instruction, or anything in between. As you look for ways to keep your students engaged through online instruction, the TpT community is ready to support you with advice and resources. For even more educator inspiration, be sure to check out the Easel Activities available on TpT.