Student engagement and technology apps

Lately, I have been using various technology tools to increase interactivity within the classroom. I have moved toward smartphone apps that can readily engage students.  Here’s my current list:

  • Google Classroom – students can post comments and answer questions in real time
  • Remind – this is a messaging service where I can instantly text message students without knowing their phone numbers. Students sign up for the service
  • Desmos – a graphing app readily accessed from the phone
  • Google forms – can be used for quick entry for questions or for generating a quiz

On top of all this, I use a Course Management System (CMS) from the university for all grading information. It’s convenient to use the CMS from an administrative point of view. My main issue is integrating these various apps in a seamless fashion through the CMS , which seems to be a static object not well suited to the dynamics of a classroom.

On the other hand, Google Classroom has no gradebook (did the developers talk to actual professors?) –  I have to manually transfer the grades from there to my CMS. So I mainly use it gauge class participation without a formal grade.

Desmos has nothing to help me assess anything, and it’s difficult to embed anything within my CMS – its interface is from 1990’s, and takes time to create simple questions.  This is why I use Google forms to create simple quizzes. It posts the results directly to a spreadsheet, unlike Google classroom.

The Remind app sends text alerts to students directly from my phone. I would love to be able to just alert them from within my CMS (not send an email), but, again, this is a stand-alone app.

The widely used CMS systems really need to license these types of apps or incorporate similar functionality. I also create external websites for my courses and link them from my CMS, because creating content within the CMS is much more time consuming.  So I have a very efficient gradebook in my CMS, but little else. The individual app world for education has moved along much further. It could be just our system  – but it’s a widely known brand and they certainly have the resources to address these issues.

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Hi! I am an associate professor of mathematics at Kean University, NJ. In this blog, I share insights and resources for mathematics in secondary and higher education.