One of the things I love the most about being in classrooms in my role as tech integrationist is that I still get to see great examples of learning. Those times when students are so engaged in their learning that they even forget that it is time to leave for lunch. Those times when you can tell they are owning their learning and are doing something that means something to themselves. Those times when we get to put a check in the win column.
Engagement in a learning activity does not look the same from one class to another. Sometimes, like today, the students may be diligently working and worrying over what they are creating. Working so hard that they are focused only on the product of their learning and forgetting about all of the other distractions, if only for a few minutes. Other times engagement may be a lot more noisy and seem like chaos, but the students are still focused on their learning. I used to enjoy it when people would enter my class and see chaos where I saw learning, because the students didn’t need to be all doing the same thing at the same time, they could be doing what they needed to do to learn for that day.
Engagement does not need to look the same from class to class but it should be there, everyday if possible. True engagement does not need to sound the same but it will look pretty much the same as students will be focused on the learning and growing as a learner. It is much easier to describe what the lack of engagement looks like, just imagine someone slumped over with their eyes barely moving. I do feel it is our job to make sure that our students are engaged by creating learning experiences that draw them in. We need to stay away from those lessons where all we do is deliver content and hope that the student finds it interesting. When a student is engaged, they are more likely to learn the concepts because they are actively thinking about and working with the concepts internally.
The nice thing is that even if we aren’t currently engaging our students in the learning process, we can always learn from that ourselves and improve as educators. We must have a growth, and some would say innovative, mindset in order to keep growing as a educator and as a learner. One of the biggest resources I would give to someone who feels like they have lost the ability to engage their students is the book by Dave Burgess, “Teach Like a Pirate“. If you still do not feel like you can engage your students after reading that book, then it might be time for a big change.