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Energize learning with “activators”

Tech doesn’t have to be a distraction. Get tips for using it to ready students for learning.

3 min read

Voice of the Educator


Technology is ubiquitous. Users interact with devices while dining, walking, exercising and learning. Research even shows 1 in 5 teens wake up at night to check their social media accounts.

News about the potential negative effects of technology overuse and misuse are common in headlines today, but there is a growing movement championing positive use of technology.

“Technology does not have to be a distraction; it doesn’t have to be something that we use as an escape; it can be something that we use to engage and grow,” Kerry Gallagher, a digital learning specialist at a 1:1 iPad school, said during a recent Education Talk Radio Interview.

“[I]t’s our responsibility to teach children how to use devices responsibly, and in a way that enhances their lives instead of pulls them away from their lives,” she noted. She shared how “activators” help model positive technology use and ready students for learning.

Learning activators

You might say “bell-ringer” activity, but Gallagher says “activator” activity.

“In the past, I think these have been called ‘bell-ringers,’ … but I like to call them ‘activators’ because … it isn’t just bell work; it’s really something to activate their bodies and their minds and activate their thinking so that they are in a place to start moving forward with the learning.”

Here are some of Gallagher’s activator tips and tools:

  • Project something on the screen or place directions on students’ desks that require them to pull out their device and do something, maybe get up and walk around the room and make observations about things hanging around the classroom that you prepared.

  • Use an app like Socrative to have a self-paced activity such as a mini quiz ready for students to take as soon as they sit down so that they are sitting and learning and engaging with the content and review.

  • Consider Formative. It has various question types, and if students are using devices with touchscreens, there is a drawing question type that Gallagher said she really loves. “It could work in almost any class,” she said.

  • Turn traditional presentation slide decks into interactive content with Pear Deck. This platform has come a long way, and many teachers at Gallagher’s school use it, she said, noting that they have a new add-on feature that allows for self-paced activities.

Overall, “get them going with their technology as soon as they get into the room, and then they’re ready to go by the time the business of class — taking attendance and so forth — is done,” Gallagher said. “They are activated and ready to go for you.”

Kerry Gallagher is a recent winner of the monthly Editor’s Choice Content Award. Want to hear more of her tips? Listen to the full interview.

Melissa Greenwood is the director of education content for SmartBrief.


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