2 tools to turn digital distractions into engagement experiences

Two middle school students sitting at desks and looking at the same laptop

It’s almost the end of the academic year, and it’s time for the final push. With summer break in sight, students, teachers, and parents are excited for school to get out. Keeping students motivated can be challenging when their attention seems to waft away with the rising temperatures. One of the best ways I have found to keep spirits high while still preparing for end of year exams is to take the technology distractions that students love, and turn them into engaging and fun ways to prepare them to succeed.

Using technology to engage students

Anytime my students are allowed to use laptops or cellphones in class, engagement immediately increases. Reviewing for tests is essential, but students sometimes find it boring if not done properly. My students get excited when review is made into a game or a competition. Because of this, any chance I can incorporate something new or fun into my classroom, I do. I found some new options at a recent event I attended that I want to try.

In their Turning Distractions into Interactions session at the 2016 Cite Online and Blended Learning Conference, Krista LeBrun and Chris Ryals shared some great ways to increase student engagement through technology. My favorite part of this session was the introduction to the app Nearpod, which allows students to follow the teacher’s presentation on their own device. Not only can they see my PowerPoint presentations up close, they can participate in surveys, quizzes, and practice skills from their own device right in the middle of class. For example, a teacher can post text to the slides, and ask students to highlight specific details on their own device. Then, the facilitator can see what is happening on all of their students screens from their own laptop or digital tablet, and choose a few to share with the full class as an example.

Elementary students working on laptop computersSurvey or quiz data can immediately go up for the class to see, which is great when I need to address misconceptions during a lesson. I thought that this app was a fun way to deliver the same information, and have my students practice skills in a more engaging way. I particularly liked the idea of being able to see the work my students are doing at the time all in one place, which allows teachers an easy way to provide individual feedback to any student who may need extra support. At the end of the session teachers can provide students with a “homework” code, which allows students to access the PowerPoint slide from any location at any time after class is over (LeBrun & Ryan, 2016).

Another engaging website that they suggested was Kahoot. Kahoot is an interactive review game that allows teachers to create quizzes and surveys for students to review material. (LeBrun & Ryan, 2016) Kahoot days are my students’ favorite days. It provides them with meaningful test prep questions, and creates competition within the classroom for students to see who knows the most. I usually offer a prize for the “Kahoot” champion of the day, which can be a nice incentive for students to take the game seriously.

Challenging the end of year blues

At the end of the day, engaging students in a way that makes school fun and interesting is the best way to keep students motivated to do their best, especially in the last few weeks of school. Student engagement will depend on what motivates and interests your individual students. Get to know your students interests, and engagement will follow.



Krista LeBrun and Chris Ryals were featured speakers at our recent 2016 Cite Online and Blended Learning conference. The virtual track of this conference features many great speakers on all types of topics around online and blended learning. Register today at a reduced rate to access these webinars. You will then have access through August 2016 to more than 35 virtual recordings.


About the Author
Sari Goldstein

Sari Goldstein

Sari Goldstein is a graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in political science and a minor in psychology. She spent most of her 3.5 years in state college, PA, but also spent one semester studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. After graduating from college she began working for Teach for America in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. She teaches middle school language arts, and is hoping to continue making a difference in the lives of students nationwide. Her passion is creating educational equity and higher literacy rates within Title I schools.





LeBrun, K., & Ryan, C. (2016). Turning distractions into interactions. Lecture presented at 2016 Cite Online and Blended Learning conference in Amelia Island, Florida.