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How to Engage Students in Remote Learning

project-based learning

Teaching is a wonderful yet demanding task when students are physically present in a classroom. But it’s a whole other level of challenge when they’re learning from home. Online learning or virtual instruction has been available since the beginning of the Internet. This model has primarily been used by colleges, universities, and corporations. However, in recent months due to school closures many teachers have been offering their classes remotely.

There are strategies educators can use to not only deal with this new situation, but also transform the education model to inspire students. This article outlines factors to consider when teaching in a virtual classroom and provides links to helpful resources to support learning.

Design Meaningful Lessons to Engage Learners

A challenge to remote learning is designing lessons that spark student interest. Often it can seem like school has become one boring worksheet after another. To overcome this hurdle engage students with real world connections. Design lessons that pose authentic problems and offer topics to which students can personally relate. As they investigate these issues and propose solutions, students are more involved and motivated.

Project-based learning is the essence of all TechnoKids materials. At first glance, this instructional approach may seem too difficult to implement using a remote learning model. However, each TechnoKids technology project includes lessons that have step-by-step instructions with illustrations that explain how to complete a task. Resources such as sample files, provide examples of completed work. As well, templates jump start creativity. TechnoKids makes it easy to support learners as they complete meaningful tasks from home.

Empower students with challenges to explore real world issues in your virtual classroom. Hook student interest with role playing. As they recognize relevance, students are inspired to learn. Two projects that are an ideal fit for middle or high school students are:

meaningful projects
  • TechnoWonderland: Students become marketing executives for an amusement park. They solve a variety of challenges as they develop technology skills.
  • TechnoTravel: Students play the role of a travel agent. They construct a travel advertisement to promote a weekend getaway.

Provide Activities for Multiple Devices

Another hurdle to overcome when lesson planning for a virtual classroom is access to technology. At school, typically the hardware is standardized so that everyone has the same device. However, when working from home, students have a variety of devices.

Teaching in an online classroom is similar to a BYOD program. Students could have desktop computers, laptops, or tablets such as Chromebooks or iPads. Or perhaps, they only have access to smart phones. As well, the operating system varies. It could be Windows, Mac, or Android.

Curriculum should allow students to achieve success using any hardware configuration. The challenge is to offer assignments or projects that are open-ended enough to be successfully completed using any computing device.

remote learning

TechnoKids projects will work with a wide-range of hardware and software. Teachers can download multiple versions of the same lesson from TechnoHub. Assignments are available for Google Apps, Microsoft Office Online, Office 2019, Office 2016, or Office 2013. This allows teachers to provide instruction that will work on any device. Everyone in the class can be learning the same thing, using different technology. Two popular projects that are ideal for remote learning are:

  • TechnoToon is a fun digital story-telling project. Students can create their animated cartoon using a browser such as Chrome or Safari and Google Apps, or Microsoft Edge and Office Online, or a desktop version of Microsoft Office. There are many options.
  • TechnoNewsletter has students create a fan club publication. They can use Google Docs, Microsoft Word Online, or Microsoft Word 2019, 2016, or 2013.

Differentiate Instruction

A further challenge to teaching remotely can be meeting the needs of all learners. Not all students are the same. Each has unique abilities. A child may have a learning disability or English as a second language. This requires teachers to modify tasks to accommodate individual needs. This can be done ahead of time, as part of curriculum planning, but is often done in the moment – which can be difficult when teaching virtually.

In a school setting, when a child raises their hand, the teacher can provide assistance immediately. The educator can assess the student’s needs and then apply a different approach to explain a concept or adjust expectations. This personalizes learning.

Moreover, when students are working from home, visual cues that show frustration are no longer present. This prevents the teacher from instantly making the necessary modifications to meet the needs of the learner.

When learning remotely, one way to accommodate all learners is to use lessons that have activities with varying degrees of difficulty. All children receive the same assignment. However, students can select from a list of choices. This allows them to complete the task that suits their ability.

TechnoKids projects provide a range of tasks that support all learners. One project that offers a wide-range of activities to differentiate instruction is TechnoCode:

  • TechnoCode sparks an interest in computer science. Students create games, puzzles, mazes, animations, stories and more using Scratch 3. Teachers and/or students can pick and choose activities. Younger students may just complete the first three sessions. Middle school grades can continue on to the computational thinking challenges of Sessions 4 to 6. Assignments include challenges with varying degrees of difficulty.

Provide a Flexible Pace

Another consideration when teaching remotely is scheduling the pace of instruction. Students may not have access to devices throughout the day, as parents or siblings could be using the technology. This restricts the ability to complete assignments in a timely fashion.

Be accommodating in setting timelines and goals. Ideally, activities should be flexible and allow each student to progress at their own pace. There are great resources that allow teachers to personalize learning. OneNote and Google Classroom let you set assignments for individual students. You can pick and choose what and when to give to each student according to their needs and progress. TechnoKids offers support and step-by-step instructions on how to set up a Google Classroom or Class Notebook.

TechnoKids projects are ideal for self-paced learning. Two projects that students will enjoy are:

  • TechnoBookmaking has a collection of templates to publish a tiny picture book, a flip flap story, a riddle book, an accordion book, and many more. Mix and match! Complete as many as you want, in any order you want.
  • TechnoRestaurateur has students take the role of an entrepreneur developing a new franchise. Depending on which learning objectives teachers select, they can choose and omit assignments. For example, if spreadsheet skills are important, include all of the calculation and graphing activities and leave out the floor plan and logo designs.

Host Class Discussions that are Interactive

distance learning

Class discussions are an integral part of the learning process. Students can express ideas, ask questions, gain knowledge, and develop a fresh perspective. When instruction is delivered online, instead of in-person, the experience is somewhat different. However, technology provides unique ways for students to communicate with one another.

Face-to face instruction using online tools such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams allows everyone to connect. The etiquette requires that only one person can talk at a time, or else it is difficult to hear. Although, this is the case in the regular classroom, it is even more important in a virtual setting.

To keep everyone actively involved in the discussion, teachers can ask questions that are responded to using the built-in chat feature. This gives everyone a chance to share their ideas. You can ensure that students know that their perspective and individual viewpoints are valued by posting emoticons to individual comments. For example, a thumbs-up, smiley face, or animated sun are some ways to respond to contributions.

Another way to invite others to share their opinion is to offer polls. By keeping instruction interactive you can verify that everyone is participating. Moreover, this will help students to feel part of the conversation, which makes them less likely to tune out.

Another way to engage learners is to share your screen. This allows you to demonstrate a concept or clarify a misunderstanding. If using a TechnoKids project, it is a simple way to show the steps to complete an assignment. For example

  • In TechnoBudget, students budget for a shopping spree. They organize the items using a spreadsheet. By sharing your screen you can demonstrate how to create formulas and graph data. In addition, you could have students justify their purchasing decisions in a lively online discussion.
  • In TechnoMap, students produce an interactive map. There are significant differences between creating a map using Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, and PowerPoint Online. A virtual discussion is a great way to clarify the task, help students select a version, and answer questions. You can model sample maps by sharing your screen.

Invite Student Input and Welcome Personal Choice

Since online learning can be alienating to some learners, inviting student input is more important than ever. Students enjoy having choice. They like their opinions and interests to matter. For many, it gives them a feeling of empowerment. It also is motivating, because the assigned task is personally meaningful.

To simplify teaching in a virtual classroom, have students complete the same assignment. However, let them choose their topic. Everyone is learning the identical skills, but with different content.

Most TechnoKids projects allow students to pick a topic, area of personal interest, or unique and creative focus.

  • In TechnoEarth, students become environmental stewards. Each student picks a topic of personal, local, or international concern. Then they design an interactive infographic to create a powerful call to action.
  • In TechnoSite, students build a website. They choose their own areas of interest as the topics for the web pages.

Collaborate with Others

What students are missing most when they aren’t in a classroom is social interaction. Compensate by assigning work that requires students to work with others. Their level of engagement will grow, as will the essential skills of effective communication and accountability.

Many TechnoKids projects make use of the collaboration tools available through technology.

  • TechnoDebate has students work with a partner to take opposing positions on a controversial issue. They work together to prepare an animated slideshow to support each side, respond to arguments with a rebuttal, and answer audience questions online.
  • TechnoBlog allows students to express their opinions and expertise as they post a series of articles. Peers read, write, and comment on their work to develop digital citizenship skills.
  • TechnoQuestionnaire invites students to design questions to research opinions of a sample group of their classmates on an authentic issue. They analyze the results and present their findings to their peers.

Provide Self Assessment Tools

Working remotely can make some learners disengage. To encourage fundamental personal skills such as responsibility, self-direction, and self-confidence, include tools that allow students to measure their own progress. As students rate themselves, they develop critical thinking and problem-solving techniques. These tools can be checklists, rubrics, journals, or marking criteria. They help students consider what they have learned and how to do better.


TechnoKids projects all include a variety of assessment resources for both teacher and student. Most student workbooks have checklists both at the end of the project and often throughout each stage, such as a research outline or a planning organizer.

  • TechnoTurtle uses the Python Turtle Library to teach basic programming and ignite an interest in computer science. Each session has Review Questions. Students complete a variety of checklists as they create a Mad Lib and a Carnival Game. They reflect on their learning by answering questions for a coding journal.
  • TechnoAdvertise has students play the role of an advertising executive design a variety of publications. They review checklists for a product catalog and advertising flyer before they submit work for evaluation. Marking sheets for the five publications are provided for self-evaluation as well as teacher assessment.

Turn Learning into a Game and Celebrate Achievements

Gamification, the use of game-like concepts, can be used to stimulate learning, celebrate successes, and simply add fun to curriculum. Teachers know the value of stars, progress bars, and any type of positive reinforcement. As adults, we collect loyalty points to get rewards such as coffee, groceries, or travel miles. In the absence of a personal touch, certificates and badges given online can remind students that they are progressing and that their efforts are recognized.

remote learning

TechnoKids projects reward students for their efforts. Every title includes a certificate of completion and a parent letter outlining technology learning objectives that have been achieved. As well, projects include many encouragements for students and strategies to add fun to schoolwork.

  • TechnoInternet is a series of lessons that teach Internet safety, search strategies, digital citizenship, and more. Included in the resources is a map on which students can track the places they have visited: e-Library, e-Playground, e-Media Center, and more. When finished, they receive an Internet Citizenship Card.
  • TechnoTrivia teaches students to build a quiz with a variety of questions, an answer key, and feedback. Planning, research, communication, and analysis skills are developed through a fun, game-like activity.

Are You Ready for BYOD? Questions to Ask

Before launching a BYOD initiative there are many issues that require consideration. Review the list of questions. Use them to frame a discussion about BYOD at your school.

Electronic Device


  • Can a student bring any device? (smartphone, tablet, netbook, e-readers, laptop, gaming console)
  • BYOD discussion questions

    Discussion questions for BYOD in schools.

  • Will there be minimal standards such as screen size, processing speed?
  • Do you want students to be able to use their devices to interact with existing technology such as interactive white boards?
  • Do you want teachers to manage content between devices?
  • Will your school offer students devices for purchase?
  • Will your school offer a leasing option to parents?
  • Will students be allowed to bring multiple devices? (e.g. smartphone and laptop)


  • What apps will students be using?
  • Will the school or teacher specify or recommend apps?
  • Will teachers have access to a learning management system (LMS)?
    • Will they be able to pick their LMS?
    • Will they be told which LMS to use?
    • Will they receive training on how to effectively implement the LMS?
  • Who purchases apps?
    • Will your school offer educational pricing for software?
    • Will your school charge a user fee for apps?
  • Will the school require student devices have antivirus/malware protection?
  • Some apps require an email address to register. Will students be given a school email address or will parents need to sign their child up for an email account?

BYOD for schools

Equal Access

  • What alternatives will you offer students without devices to guarantee equality (lending library, computer lab, mobile cart, computers in classroom)?
  • How many devices would you need to ensure equality?
    • What type of device will you provide?
    • How often will this equipment be updated to avoid a device gap as technology advances?
  • What percentage of the student population likely has a device to bring in?


  • What activities will students complete?
  • What measures will be taken by the teacher to make sure that students without a device are not penalized?
  • Are there e-book versions available for existing textbooks?
    • What is the cost to obtain the e-book version?
    • Will parents pay for an e-book version?
  • What classroom rules should be established for BYOD?


  • Where can the students use their device? In the classroom, library, hallway, gym, restroom, playground, school bus?
  • Should access be restricted during certain hours of the day? Can it be used before/after school, when changing classes, recess, or lunchtime?
  • Is device usage restricted to educational purposes or can students use it for other reasons?
  • Will students be able to print from their device?
  • Will students be able to use devices outside of school hours at school-sponsored events?


  • Who can bring a device? (e.g. students, parents, teachers, volunteers, school contractors)
  • Will access be restricted by grade level?
  • Will access vary depending on user?

Technical Support

  • Will teachers be required to offer technical support for hardware, software, or network issues?
  • What resources will be provided to help students connect to the network?
    • Who will create the resources to help with technical support?
    • What format will be used for the resources? (print, video)
    • How will these resources be shared? (handout, posted to website)
  • Will a tech team be created to help students with their devices?
  • How will teachers offer support for apps?


  • Do devices have to be turned off and stowed away when students are not in class?
  • Where are devices to be stored? (e.g. lockable trollies, cupboards, or lockers)

Disciplinary Measures

  • What constitutes an infraction?
  • What existing school policies already cover infractions?
  • Can school personnel confiscate a device if it is not being used appropriately?
    • Under what circumstance can the device be confiscated?
    • What is the duration before the child’s device is returned?
  • Can school personnel search the contents of a device if it is not being used appropriately?
    • Under what circumstance can the device be searched?
    • Does a parent need to be present or can they offer verbal consent?
    • Can a search be conducted without parent permission?
  • Can school personnel limit, suspend, or revoke the privilege of bringing a device to school?

Professional Development

  • Are all teachers committed to supporting BYOD? How can you create a “buy-in”?
  • What training is required to support teachers in their implementation of student devices?
  • How will teachers be given time in their schedule to collaborate with fellow teachers?
  • How will teachers be supported over time?


  • Do parents support BYOD?
  • How do you want to involve parents in BYOD?
  • Do you want to offer an information session, where they can explore devices to see their educational use?
  • How will you keep parents informed about BYOD?
  • Should parents be encouraged to purchase hazard/theft insurance?


  • What will be in our BYOD policy?
  • What content should be included in the parent letter?
  • What should the BYOD agreement form look like?
  • Do all users (administrators, teachers, volunteers) need to sign the BYOD agreement or only students?
  • Does the Internet Acceptable Use policy need updating?

Technical Considerations

  • Can the current infrastructure serve additional devices? What upgrades need to be made to provide a secure, efficient service? (bandwidth, firewall, access points, server, mobile device management system)
  • Will WIFI networks be public and permit only Internet access or will it be private, permitting students to login to server?
    • If private, what upgrades are required to have an efficient authentication process?
  • Does the infrastructure have a backup system so that if the WIFI service is interrupted, education is not disrupted?
  • Is there monitoring software to allow IT to adjust the service to reduce the impact of high demand videos or other apps that hog bandwidth?
  • Are there enough outlets and power sources for students and others to charge devices?
    • Will there be charging stations?
    • What rules will be associated with using the charging stations?
  • Will students register their devices? What process will be used for registration?

Financial Considerations

  • How much will it cost to upgrade the infrastructure?
  • Will it cost money to upgrade the electrical system to accommodate charging stations?
  • Is there additional software that needs to be purchased to monitor the network?
  • Is there a cost associated with maintenance of the infrastructure?
  • How often will the infrastructure require updating?

What Is the Secret to a Successful BYOD Program?


byod and schools

Tips for successfully implementing BYOD.

Nothing is worse than launching a BYOD initiative that fails. Don’t let that happen to you! Take the time and do things right. To have a successful BYOD program you should:

  • Establish a reliable infrastructure.
  • Develop a policy that outlines accepted devices, restricted devices, authorized use, infractions, consequences, and responsibilities of stakeholders.
  • Form a lending library to ensure an equitable learning environment.
  • Supply adequate storage facilities.
  • Provide charging stations.
  • Select a learning management system.
  • Incorporate the use of devices and web apps in staff meetings.
  • Offer professional development.
  • Have students and parents read policy and sign an agreement form.
  • Launch a pilot program. Make participation voluntary.
  • Post instructions for connecting devices to the network.
  • Post signs around the school to illustrate if the area is approved for device usage.
  • Initiate a digital citizenship awareness campaign.
  • Display classroom rules for using devices.
  • Use web apps to create consistency.
  • Use the devices regularly during instruction.
  • Review BYOD continuously and make modifications to the initiative.

BYOD for schools

BYOD Parent Letter

Do you need to send a letter home informing parents about your new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program? SAVE TIME! Take some ideas from this sample parent letter to get you started.

Sample BYOD Parent Letter

Dear Parents/Guardians,

School Name is launching a Bring Your Own Device initiative this school year. Students in Grade X will be able to bring laptops, netbooks, tablets, or smartphones to use for educational purposes. Having ongoing access to technology will help your child develop greater independence, increase engagement, and develop skills required to thrive in the 21st Century.

Educational Activities
Student devices will be used to access resources, complete assignments, and for personal organization. Educational activities may include researching information, producing documents, analyzing data, participating in surveys, producing videos, reading e-books, creating blogs, taking notes, or scheduling events. The use of the device is at the sole discretion of the teacher.

Digital Citizenship
A focus of this initiative is digital citizenship, which is the responsible use of technology. Your child will learn digital skills, ethics, etiquette, and online safety. These are important aspects of participating in today’s world.

Safe and Secure
To maintain a safe and secure learning environment, a filtered Internet connection will be provided for students. They will not be permitted to use a personal broadband connection such as a 3G/4G phone network. As well, students will only be able to use their device under the direct supervision of their teacher. Any unauthorized use can result in the device being confiscated, searched, and privileges being revoked./

Students are solely responsible for their device. They must bring it fully charged to school. Similar to other personally owned items, School name is not liable for loss, damage, misuse, or theft.

Technical Support
Resources will be provided to help students connect their device to the school network. Your child must be familiar with how to use their device. Teachers will incorporate the use of your child’s device into learning. However, they will not provide technical support.

We look forward to the educational opportunities that BYOD will bring. Participation in this initiative is voluntary. Your child will not be left out if they do not have a device. School name will continue to provide access to school owned technology. To learn more:

If you would like your child to participate, sign the Electronic Device Consent Form and complete the Device Registration Form.


Principal Name

BYOD for schools