Successful Teaching and Engagement Using Technology

Published in:

A National Symposium

November 18–19, 2016

Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College
Atlanta, Georgia


The generation of students that we teach depends on the use of technology for daily rituals; deeply immersed in the culture of social media, they have instant access to continuous communication from mobile devices. Some argue that the pervasive role of technology in our students’ lives has reduced their ability to focus and concentrate. This change in the context of education presents a challenge for faculty to develop concerted and collaborative efforts to help these students achieve academic success. Presented here are teaching strategies that use interactive and digital technologies to increase student engagement and improve student learning.

Reducing Fear: Using Social Media

Students come to colleges and universities far more knowledgeable about technology and social media than many of their professors. Collaborating with students in the delivery of course content is critical for student success. Many seasoned professors with over twenty years of teaching experience may not be comfortable using social media resources, digital textbooks, or online forms of course delivery. In this paper, Dr. Martin addresses why the more seasoned professors do not use social media as a tool for disseminating information: they are afraid they can’t learn how to use it, that it will take too much time, and they don’t want to learn new media modalities.

Why professors may not use social media in the classroom is important to understand: it says something about their perspective on social media, their willingness to change, and their attitude toward increasing their own knowledge. These seasoned professors have the common goal of wanting students to succeed. That being the case, using the media that students use can become a powerful teaching tool. Being open to learning those social media formats and platforms will improve student outcomes—and students can help the professor in this venture. The very act of students helping each other is a powerful tool in student learning. Additionally, all colleges and universities have faculty and staff who are very proficient in the use of various media formats—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Maps, etc.

Dr. Martin changed her teaching strategy to include Instagram, a social networking app and media platform she was not familiar with, when she recognized that her students who were not doing well in her class might do better. The students taught her how to set up an account and how to use it. She went to the university’s technology lab for further instruction. These actions resulted in her learning Instagram, improved student performance, and her students moving forward. The class created an Instagram account and profile on Health that eventually generated followers. You can follow her class at: Instagram@Hthealthgroup.

More Thorough Teaching: Using LMS Software to More Fully Engage Students in the Educational Experience

The learning management system (LMS) Canvas has been advertised as a way to empower teachers to engage students by making numerous digital tools easily accessible in one place. Continued faculty development leads to increased familiarity with and use of many of the digital tools in the learning management system, especially the use of the attendance, announcements, assignment, and graded discussion tools. More thorough implementation of this online learning environment creates a more organized educational experience. The system allows the delivery of course content in a structured and interactive manner. For example, course assignments can be delivered first as an announcement, then delivered in the assignment tool accompanied by submission instructions, and later by feedback and comments on each student’s submission. At any point during the course, students can use the grading tool to keep track of their progress. Additionally, the discussion tool allows students the opportunity to interact with each other through discussion posts and peer response posts.

The automation of repeated actions, such as those involved in announcements, assignments, quizzes, exams, and project instructions, allows the instructor to perform changes and updates to multiple items at once. Although the lead-time required to set-up a course using the LSM can be extensive, once established the system runs smoothly and the tedium of these tasks is reduced.

For this instructor, the monitoring and assessing of student progress is one of the most important features of using the LSM because it allows the instructor the ability to track and monitor student progress in real time. This, as well as the notification features of the system, leads to increased student engagement and interest in course content.

The availability of extensive individual technical and user support—provided by our Center for Faculty and Professional Development—is essential for the effective use of this learning management system in the classroom, and results in more fully engaged students.

Successful Teaching Engagement Using Technology

Technology has become paramount to the success of 21st-century students in higher education. Utilizing technology in higher education classrooms to maximize student interaction and engagement is vital. According to a Nielson (2014) survey, millennials cited technology as the most defining characteristic of their generation. The use of technology governs their daily rituals. This has created a need for technology in reaching and stimulating students in the higher education classroom.

The technology used most by 21st-century students is social media and smart technology applications. Baird and Fisher (2005) suggest that the use of social media in the classroom will increase the relevance of learning for new generations of students. Colleges and universities have recognized that the future of learning involves embracing technology. Geographic and digital migrations will facilitate the global movement of families, identities, values, educational resources, social capital, and innovation, thereby contributing to an increasing global learning economy. As educators, we must move with the pace of this evolution to stay aligned with 21st-century students.

Technology has been used in mass media arts courses to increase student interactivity and engagement. Student interactivity and engagement can be categorized as interaction and engagement between student peers or between students and the instructor. Popular and relevant social media sites integrated into courses to stimulate student interaction and engagements include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. In addition to social media platforms, interactive video applications, such as Zaption and Vizia, as well as electronic content management applications like Evernote, Symbaloo, and Diigo, may be adapted to both synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning.

An example of an asynchronous mass media arts e-learning assignment that fosters activity and engagement between students, their peers, and the instructor is an introduction assignment involving Facebook. According to The Pew Research Center (Greenwood, 2016), Facebook remains the most popular social media platform. It offers a myriad of ways to seek information, interact with others, and form communities. For this particular assignment, students in a Fundamentals of Film Production course are asked to post introductions of themselves to a class Facebook page. Within the introduction post, students use visual imagery and audio or music clips to characterize themselves. The content of the students’ post also includes the area of media or film they are interested in, as well as career interests. In addition to posting an introduction, the assignment requires each student to comment on at least three other students’ introduction posts. After having completed this assignment students get to know one another much better having read, assessed, and commented on each other’s posts. Fostering community and engagement, the assignment is especially suitable for this particular film course, which highlights the collaborative elements of the film production process.

Another assignment that incorporates social media is a synchronous Literature Review Twitter Assignment for a Mass Communication Research course. For this assignment, during the class period, students post and share on Twitter links and information gleaned from their research. Students include a hash tag that synchronizes and aggregates all their tweets so they can be accessed as a synchronous thread of tweets containing shared research information. Students thus are able to conduct remotely a collaborative literature review.

In conclusion, we believe that effective teaching strategies using digital technologies and social media platforms not only enhance student engagement and improve student learning, but also enhance teacher engagement and effectiveness. These strategies meet the students where they are and move them towards a deeper understanding and application of knowledge.


Greenwood, S., Perrin, A. & Duggan, M. (2016, November 11). Social media update 2016. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Jacquemin, S., Smelser, L., & Bernot, M. (2014). Twitter in the higher education classroom: A student and faculty assessment of use and perception. Journal of College Science Teaching, 43(9).

Nielsen (2014, February 26). Millennials: Technology = social connection. Retrieved from

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Spring 2017: Teaching a New Generation of Students