For the past twenty years, I have worked as a secondary English teacher. I love being a teacher, and I do whatever I can to promote engagement in my students. I strive to design learning activities that motivate my students to develop their critical thinking skills and engage them in activities that are relevant to the world outside of the classroom. In order to attain these goals, I regularly use technology to foster student engagement, reinforce relevance and prompt deeper thinking.

Over the years, various technologies I have encountered at professional development opportunities have peaked my interest. I would go home and plan, what I believed was, a thought-provoking and engaging lesson that embedded the new technology. My excitement and anticipation could not be contained as students walked into the classroom. On a number of occasions, though, the result was unanticipated and disappointing. Students were uninterested, detached, and not compelled to engage with the technology in the way that I had hoped. The activity that I thought would take the entire class period resulted in accessing my “teacher’s toolbox” to modify the lesson, as the students waited. It is moments like these that led to my desire to explore student engagement and the use of digital technologies in the classroom.

I have personally seen digital technology engage students in activities and lessons. I have seen the power of the technology to engage students who were previously resistant to learning and, as a result, I believe that digital technology has the potential to engage students.

The Question of Digital Technology

The existing research on technology and student engagement supported my interest in exploring secondary students’ perspectives on the phenomenon of digital technology in the secondary classroom and how it might engage or disengage today’s students.

This question lead me to pursue my PhD in Education. My dissertation explored How does the use of digital technology in the secondary classroom engage and/or disengage students?

Through the research process, I learned so many “lessons to teach by” as I called them in my research. The most prominent idea that emerged from my research was that technology only engages students when it’s a tool used to allow them to construct their own knowledge – if it’s used to disseminate didactic information that they need to retain, they’ll disengage from the technology and the entire task.

When I returned to the classroom, after conducting my research, I began to apply my learning. This blog documents what I’ve tried and what I’ve learned in an effort to inspire other educators to create their own authentic and relevant classrooms by offering opportunities for students to construct their own knowledge.

This is my journey in Students Participating in Authentic and Relevant Knowledge Construction #SPARKC