Technology-Based Educational Resources
Regardless of your age or profession, you will be asked to learn new material and apply it in various contexts. The world is changing in many ways to include digital platforms that facilitate learning both with and without interaction with other individuals. Interestingly, 58% of the world’s population reports playing video games, with the average player approximately thirty years old (Alsawaier, 2018). Armed with this information, it is easy to understand why educators and content developers are interested riding the coattails of technology. If it is something people already enjoy doing, why not use it to optimize learning outcomes? Alsawaier (2018) suggests motivation and engagement increase when an activity is preferred, siting the positive connections between attitude toward and participation in school activities. Further, Tetourova, Hannemann, Javora, Volna, Sisler, & Broom (2020) found students were more likely to select the treatment condition involving interactivity and game-based learning to develop problem-solving skills in the classroom as opposed to the traditional teaching style. The authors suggested this selection was due to the students’ preference for engagement with others and digital technology.
The use of technology in education settings requires careful ongoing evaluation of these technology platforms that support learning to identify advantages and disadvantages. For example, Kalleny (2019) found high rates of student satisfaction and engagement in learning histology and cell biology content with 2nd year undergraduate medical students using Kahoot! The author noted the mean students’ fun score was 4.65 out of 5 and engagement was 100%. It is not expected every application or game-based learning platform will achieve this level of engagement, but it is important to recognize some platforms may be better suited to particular groups of learners than others. Additionally, in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, technology has attempted to bridge the gap between students and teachers by allowing for distance learning. These platforms have given educators the ability to screen-share and provide immediate feedback contingent on student responding, which shapes learning outcomes (Kalleny, 2019).
Yet, technology in the educational environment is not without disadvantages. Hrastinski (2019) notes it is likely educators have not had formal training in how to design and use technology platforms to achieve student learning. This is a large barrier to skill acquisition as the technology itself is not responsible for learning independent of the educator. Likewise, students need to be able to engage with the technology platform in a meaningful way to benefit from it. However, individuals with disabilities may experience frustration if the technology platform experiences issues or the internet connection is disrupted, leading to disengagement quicker than neurotypically developing peers (Johansson, Gulliksen, & Gustavsson, 2021). Specialized intervention may be indicated to bridge this type of digital divide, and the educator may or may not be fluent enough in technology to accomplish this task.
That said, each educator will need to consider the needs of their learners, their personal technology competencies, and the available platforms to make the most appropriate selection for their needs. What follows are three easy to use technology platforms intend for use with a variety of ages for teaching skills with and without interaction with others.
Quizlet is a robust platform used by students and teachers alike to organize content and study information using digital flashcards. Digital flashcards remove the mess of making hundreds of paper flashcards by hand, allowing students to study with fewer distractions. Additionally, Quizlet has pre-made digital flashcards ready for use across more than 100 subjects. Users can search for flashcards by subject or grade level and further refine their search by selecting relevant sub-domain categories. With a multitude of pre-made flashcards, students will have more time to engage in studying their content rather than loading unique terms. Quizlet has expanded its platform to include a class feature where teachers can create sets of flashcards for their students and test their knowledge virtually. Quizlet logs their students’ performance, so they can monitor student progress over time. Students will be motivated by the progress they make, have an opportunity to compete against other students in their group, and earn badges and a spot on the leaderboard as their fluency increases. Best of all, users can access these flashcards for free using the downloaded application or through their favorite web browser. Users will need a solid internet connection and email to set up their account. Once they have downloaded their content, they can use the Quizlet app to study on the go.
ThingLink is a platform maximizing learner interactions through visual media. Using images, teachers can use ThingLink to create links intended to facilitate higher-order thinking processes like analysis and evaluation. Teachers can add text labels, media, poll questions, or create a tour of their content, among other features, to challenge students to evaluate the material they are engaging through the ThingLink platform. ThingLink collects information about individual student interactions within the link, providing valuable data like clicks, hovers, seconds spent viewing particular content, and completion rate. While this may sound time consuming to create, it can be done in a matter of minutes. While paid options for this level of supported learning are expected, ThingLink provides its users with a free trial to see if ThingLink will meet their needs. Once the free trial expires, users will have the option to select a plan for their needs within education, business, or marketing. For education users, individual teachers can purchase a year subscription for $60, or a school setting may opted for a premium plan via school license ($2 per seat with a minimum of 500) or an academic license ($9 per seat with a minimum of 250).
Kahoot! is an internet-based platform for creating a fun and engaging way for teachers and trainers to administer formative assessments and receive immediate feedback on how their students are performing. The teacher simply loads the content into the Kahoot! platform to set up the game, each learner downloads the free application, the teacher provides the game pin, and students enter the game pin into their app to access the game. As students play the game, the teacher is able to see how the class is performing as whole, which can help the teacher evaluate whether additional teaching on a particular topic is warranted. Additionally, Kahoot! provides the teacher with individual scores so supports can be provided to students needing help. One neat feature Kahoot! provides is the teacher is able to assign quizzes to be completed through the app outside of the typical school day, which will allow the teacher to evaluate the effectiveness of their daily lesson so they can prepare for the lesson the following day. That said, there are features of Kahoot! that are free, while others are only available through a paid account. Kahoot! Premium+ costs $9 per teacher per month and provides game capacity of up to 2000 players at one time. Whereas, upgrading to Kahoot! EDU is $12 per teacher per month and provides users with collaboration with other teachers within the district and school branding. Overall, Kahoot! is an excellent resource for teachers and other instructors who want to increase learner interactions and engagement while tracking individual performance. Check out what a live Kahoot! game looks like here: https://create.kahoot.it/details/fbd5cc53-0883-4f53-97f6-a16fdc19ac5b
Regardless of the application or web-based learning tool you choose, the technology platform should not be considered alone. The role the educator plays in designing, implementing, and evaluating learner outcomes is key to accomplishing educational goals. Hrastinski (2020) suggests educators should make informed decisions using current peer-reviewed literature and comparing their instructional design to game designs already evaluated by the field of educational technology. This can lead educators to make necessary changes to their game designs before implementing them with their learners. Gibson (2020) supports this notion by establishing the importance of data gathering and analysis to revise game designs based on accurate information gleaned from their learner sample. For educators to do this, they must identify what kind of data will be useful and program the technology to accomplish that.
In addition to data collection and analysis, Gibson (2020) sheds light on the instructional design elements needed to ensure learners are contacting reinforcement on a regular basis. If the educator is not familiar with the learner’s current knowledge base, they may program the technology with content either too advanced or basic. If the information is too basic, the educator will not be able to demonstrate learner growth. On the other hand, if the content is too advanced for the learner, they are likely to experience too much frustration, grow stagnant in their learning, and have limited experiences contacting reinforcement (i.e., awards, badges, etc). As a result, motivation and engagement will diminish. It is for these reasons a technologically skilled educator is arguably the most important part of building technology-based learning systems to increase learner outcomes.
Alsawaier, R.S. (2018). The effect of gamification on motivation and engagement. International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 35(1), 56-79.
Gibson, D. (2020). Designing purposeful digital learning. Educational technology, Research and Development, 69(1), 153-156.
Hrastinksi, S. (2020). Informed design for learning with digital technologies. Interactive Learning Environments, AHEAD-OF-PRINT, 1-8.
Johansson, S., Gulliksen, J., & Gustavsson, C. (2021). Disability digital divide: The use of the internet, smartphones, computers and tablets among people with disabilities in Sweden. Universal Access in the Information Society, 20, 105-120.
Kalleny, N. K. (2019). Advantages of Kahoot! Game-based formative assessments along with methods of its use and application during the COVID-19 pandemic in various live learning sessions. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure, 8(4), 175-185.
Tetourova, T, Hannemann, T., Javora, O., Volna, K., Sisler, V., & Broom, C. (2020). To solve or to observe? The case of problem-solving interactivity within child learning games. The Journal of computer Assisted Learning, 36(6), 981-996.