Engagement?

What is engagement? Now most of us have gained enough insight to agree that engagement is not just compliance. Our students may be sitting quietly following all our expectations and still not be engaged. I want my students’ brains to be engaged in the learning that is going on not simply sitting there like a robot following the rules. This week my friend and colleague (an instructional coach) came in to observe a lesson. I asked her to look for student engagement and let me know how well she thought my lesson engaged my students. The first question she asked during our debrief was what my thoughts on engagement were. This led to an interesting discussion. Can engagement include watching a video and thinking about it and taking notes? Does engagement mean that students have to be actually doing something? Can we engage their brains and stimulate thinking without them actually doing something (discussion, writing, reading, etc.)? She challenged me (as she always does) to reevaluate my own thinking.

My reflection leads me to believe when students are discussing a topic, solving a problem, writing a reflection, or otherwise “doing” something we know they are engaged. It is hard to determine if they are truly engaged when watching a video or quietly reading unless they produce something that demonstrates their engagement afterwards. Can they participate in a discussion? Do they ask thoughtful questions Can they express their thinking orally or through some other medium? If so, then engagement occurred. If not, then it is time for me to rethink the activity or lesson.What are your thoughts on the matter?

Of course, I can’t let an opportunity to share a new technology tool. We are not a one-to-one school – yet. However, we have some mobile labs that are of course always in demand. Some of our teachers are just taking baby steps into technology integration and then there are others that have jumped right off the cliff into the web cloud. My students may be connected through social networking and texting but few have truly learned how to use many of the incredible resources available. Which means they often need a lot of guidance. One of their problems has been to keep track of the various websites that we access.The favorites tool bar allows them to save urls with names and organize them but Only2Clicks allows a really great visual display and organization for students. I really like this and actually used it for a presentation to other teachers in my district. They loved it.

Only2Clicks allows the students to create a home page with tabs to organize their sites. Instead of a list of addresses or names, the windows are shown with the name beneath it. There is also a bookmarklet that can be added to the toolbar for easily adding sites later and an iPad & iPhone app. There are import and export functions that allow you to incorporate your favorites and to back up your information. The few students that have tried this found it very helpful. Next week, all my students will have the option to create their account and set Only2Clicks as their home page.

By the way, the LiveBinders are going great!

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