September 15 kicks off National Online Learning Day, which recognizes and celebrates the advantages of education through digital channels. It’s a day that we celebrate every year as a provider of standards-based online games, videos, and digital activities.
Kids love online activities. We try to create resources for teachers to engage students through digital platforms, where most of them feel comfortable. When students aren’t learning in the classroom, they are usually playing on their phones or watching videos online. It makes sense to tie learning to the channels they are naturally drawn to.
Students and teachers can come together through their love of online learning. Here’s why your students love it when you bring the Internet to the classroom, along with a few ideas to celebrate National Online Learning Day.
Most Students Play Video Games Outside of School
As soon as the bell rings at the end of the day, your students will start playing online games. Some might join computer clubs where they can build worlds in Minecraft while other students might play Pokémon Go or Among Us on the bus ride home. More teachers are turning to EdTech games to engage students because video games are so popular with this generation.
Studies show that 76% of students under 18 play video games of some sort. This means you can pique the interest of almost any student by starting a lesson with a game or finding EdTech systems that incorporate games and challenges.
“One of the best ways for students to learn is through play, and growing up in a digital world, they are already playing video games outside the classroom,” says Rebecca Torchia, web editor for EdTech: Focus on K–12. “Bringing learning to students in a format with which they’re already familiar can help K–12 educators deliver important lessons.”
Even students who aren’t dedicated “gamers” engage in some form of digital play in their spare time. For teachers, this means they can introduce EdTech games without much explanation. While educators will need to spend some time onboarding students to a new game or system, most kids are used to downloading games and figuring out how they work on their own. You might find that some of your students are halfway done with a long-division quest before you have time to explain how the software works.
Your Students Are Also Social
If your students aren’t gaming (even on their smartphones) then they are likely engaging with various social media platforms and the users who create profiles on them. A 2022 Pew Research Study found that 67 percent of teens are active on TikTok, the largest social media platform for that age group. Students also use Instagram and Snapchat, with roughly 60 percent of teens saying they have ever had accounts on those platforms. (Facebook, meanwhile, is so last generation, with only 32 percent of teens saying they ever had an account.)
Pew also found that there is one channel that stands above the rest for engaging today’s kids and teens: YouTube. Almost all (95 percent) of teens have accessed YouTube at one point, while nearly 20 percent of teens say they are on YouTube almost constantly. Other surveys continue to find that today’s youth prefer watching YouTube over actual TV or streaming.
What does this mean for teachers? First, the best way to reach students is through digital means. Next, the easiest way to celebrate National Online Learning Day is by playing a few YouTube videos about the topics you are about to cover in class. In fact, you can use YouTube videos throughout the year to explain concepts in unique ways or reinforce ideas within your class. You can also find funny YouTube videos and age-appropriate dance parties for class-wide rewards.
Teachers are Becoming Increasingly Creative With Online Tools
The internet isn’t really new anymore. It’s no longer a foreign tool that students use and teachers need to figure out. Facebook debuted in 2004 and collected more than a billion users in a decade. Instagram launched in 2010 and Snapchat debuted in 2011. College graduates who entered the education field as these apps were getting popular now have a decade of teaching experience. They are no longer the brand new early twenty-something teachers who are still trying to figure out where the breakroom is.
Today’s teachers have Facebook groups for their classrooms where they post about homework and share class photos. They have Twitter accounts to participate in chats and keep Pinterest boards of potential lesson plans. They post YouTube videos to cover topics they didn’t have time to discuss in class. Some even use TikTok to connect with students.
Spend some time exploring #teachersoftiktok to get an idea of how educators connect with students on their favorite channels. Claudine James (@iamthatenglishteacher) has more than 3.3 million followers and created videos explaining concepts related to comma use, passive voice, and similar words that are easily confused. Teachers create content for their students, for each other, and for parents to better understand what their jobs are like.
Teachers don’t have to vilify social media, video games, and online learning. If your students are masters of comma use and can rattle off their multiplication tables, does it matter if they learned the content through online games and apps?
Embrace Digital Opportunities on National Online Learning Day
At eSpark, we are all about quests and adventures, which is why we want to give you a challenge for National Online Learning Day. Do one thing on this holiday that pushes you out of your digital comfort zone:
- Create a TikTok video for your students that uses the latest dance fad to introduce adjectives and adverbs.
- Develop a lesson plan using characters from the latest games that your students are obsessed with.
- Invite a YouTube personality your students love to speak to your class over a video call.
- Try a new game or app that you’ve wanted to incorporate into your existing lesson plans.
The possibilities are endless! You don’t have to become social media famous and you don’t have to take on a challenge that is expensive or time-consuming. Your goal is to embrace online learning and the countless tools available to connect with students in your classroom.
The internet doesn’t have to replace all of your existing lesson plans and activities. Your students will still love solving math problems with shaving cream and crafting puppets related to their favorite books. Use National Online Learning Day to show how in-person lessons and online activities can keep students engaged and make them well-rounded learners.