Blog post

Avoid Brain Drain With Interactive Learning: The Key to Engagement

July 18, 2017Nearpod Team

There are few things worse than students forgetting something they had previously mastered. For teachers, this can often feel like a huge setback. You know that a student made learning gains and yet, a week or month or school year later, the concept seems completely foreign to them.

This “brain drain” can be frustrating for students as well, particularly when they know what they’ve forgotten, and just can’t remember how to get it back. Like an idea sitting at the edge of their brain, just out of reach.

Fortunately, there are many best-practices that teachers can utilize to help students avoid brain drain and stay connected with the concepts they have already learned. And Nearpod is here to help!

Increasing Engagement through Interactive Learning

The first step to ensuring that students remember what they’ve previously learned is making sure they actually learn the material in the first place.

This means that students not only have to understand the content, but they have to be able to make a connection to it. Engaging students with interactive learning activities is one way to help students make better connections to the lesson.

One way Nearpod can help with this is by adding interactive polls to lessons.

Taking a break from a lesson to ask students for their opinion can help students become more engaged. Polling students for their thoughts during a lesson is particularly effective if you ask them to discuss their answer with their peers then reconsider their answer after the discussion.

As Harvard professor Eric Mazur explains, this “sets up students to commit to an answer, then move to the reasoning behind it…through the discussion with their peers, the students often become emotionally invested in the learning.”

When students become “emotionally invested in the learning” they are more likely to remember the content and avoid brain drain. Eric Mazur goes on to report that learning gains within his class tripled after implementing this type of interactive learning activity.

Adding polls into lessons is just one of the many interactive learning possibilities offered through Nearpod. Teachers can also add formative assessment options like drawn responses, open-ended questions, collaboration boards, and multiple-choice quizzes.

All of these activities can give students more control over their learning and help to increase engagement. Increased engagement tends to lead to increased learning gains and greater student retention of learning material.

Interactive learning

Driving Peer-to-Peer Interaction

In addition to increasing student engagement with content, Nearpod can also be used to increase peer-to-peer interaction.

Integrating technology in the classroom should not mean that students become more isolated and focused only on the device in their hands. Instead, technology should be used to foster communication and collaboration in order to increase peer-to-peer interaction.

Of the approximately 2,100 students who were surveyed for Nearpod’s “Student Perspectives on Nearpod” report, 73% said that during Nearpod activities, they interact with other students in a way that helps them learn.

“73% of students say that during Nearpod activities, they interact with other students in a way that helps them learn.” Student Perspectives on Nearpod

With a few simple steps, teachers can add collaborative components to any of Nearpod’s interactive activities.

For example, teachers can ask students to compare or discuss answers with their neighbors, or to move around the room and find a classmate who had a different perspective than their own. Students can also be partnered or grouped up to answer questions and begin discussions in teams, and then sent out to different groups to share what their original group discussed. These types of activities help to promote peer-to-peer collaboration within a class.

When students are engaged in collaborative, peer-to-peer interactions, they tend to increase retention. This means that using Nearpod to help facilitate these types of collaborative experiences can be another way to help students avoid brain drain and overcome the “forgetting curve.

Expanding Opportunities to Develop Critical Thinking

Along with helping to increase collaboration, Nearpod’s interactive learning activities can also be used to help students develop critical thinking skills.

Typically, critical thinking skills are those that help students learn how to think, and not just what to think.

Collaborative activities like those mentioned above are often a great way to help students improve their critical thinking skills. Additionally, interactive learning, in general, tends to improve critical thinking skills and help students focus more on how to make decisions rather than just repeating back content.

Scholastic Education sums this idea up nicely:

“Interactive learning sharpens critical thinking skills, which are fundamental to the development of analytic reasoning. A child who can explore an open-ended question with imagination and logic is learning how to make decisions, as opposed to just regurgitating memorized information.”

In addition to helping students develop analytic reasoning skills, promoting critical thinking can also help increase retention. By adding these types of Nearpod activities into lessons, students will be more likely to connect with and remember what they have learned.

Making Learning Fun

If an effort isn’t made to make learning fun, students will be less likely to connect with the content, let alone remember it down the road.

For example, a meta-analysis of 40 years of research on humor in education came to the conclusion that positive, appropriate humor can not only help build better relationships between the teacher and students, but can also help improve the learning environment and increase retention. The authors argue that, “there is substantial empirical evidence that humor can enhance recall and aid learning.” They go on to state:

“The use of positive, nonaggressive humor has been associated with a more interesting and relaxed learning environment, higher instructor evaluations, greater perceived motivation to learn, and enjoyment of the course.”

In a post combining findings from multiple research studies, Sarah Henderson of Edutopia argues, “Humor activates our sense of wonder, which is where learning begins, so it seems logical that humor could enhance retention.” Henderson goes on to say that a wide body of research suggests that we are more likely to “remember things that make us laugh.”

Nearpod has numerous options for adding humor and fun into lessons. Teachers can insert enjoyable videos, add in memes and GIFs, or put content-related jokes where students have to guess the punchline.

In short, by adding humor and fun into lessons, students will be more likely to remember and retain what they’ve learned. Increased laughter equals increased learning.

Interactive learning

Decreasing Brain Drain

By using Nearpod’s interactive learning activities to engage students with the content and with each other, teachers can create lessons that help decrease brain drain. These types of activities can also be used to promote critical thinking skills and add fun into lessons, both of which go a long way toward increasing retention.

Plus, Nearpod’s case studies have additional information on how Nearpod has been successful in helping increase retention and learning gains.

If you’re ready to start creating interactive learning activities with Nearpod, you can signup and create a lesson now!


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