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Education/Training

How To Make Your Classroom Engaging

When I was a student a decade or two ago there was little interaction between teacher and student. The environment was cold and not very inviting, and the teacher was a seemingly unapproachable talking head. As a student, it felt like a sink-or-swim situation where my attention and focus were my only chance to learn and succeed.

Today’s teaching environment is much different. Most of today's students are millennials, those born sometime between 1981 and 2004, entering college after 2000. The millennial generation has been described as special, achieving, sheltered, confident and team-oriented. They have grown up in a self-centered world where trophies are given for participation. They crave feedback and validation. They are more comfortable with adults and authority figures than previous generations and feel the answers to most questions are there for the taking. Students have constant access to media. Classroom time seems unnecessary to some, because they can just Google the answers. The educator needs to create a warm, welcoming and friendly environment; one that feels mentally comfortable so students can stay focused. The educator has to get the student effectively interested.

Here are some tips for creating a warm, comfortable learning environment:

  • Make the classroom more informal, relaxed and comfortable.
  • Engage their senses. Never have the student enter the room without noise. With practically everyone including the educator having a smartphone, load up a free music application (e.g. Pandora, Spotify). Load an artist or genre that has a soothing style. Make sure you don't have the explicit tab in the “on” position to avoid an awkward and possibly offensive situation.
  • Consider the smells; most classrooms have a bland, if not unpleasant, smell. Spend a few dollars on a vanilla plug-in air freshener or room spray.
  • Look at the lighting in the room. Too bright is unpleasant and uncomfortable, but too dark may decrease attention and be impractical. Consider using fluorescent lights that create a daylight effect.
  • Look at your PowerPoint presentation. Are the colors too bright or too dark? Brown has long been known to be easy on the eyes and allows the student to view the screen longer and clearer.
  • Show the relevancy in what you are teaching. Give real-life examples when possible.
  • Use humor.
  • Find creative ways to teach.
  • Give assignments that allow students to show creativity through personalized responses.
  • Use multimedia including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms in the classroom when possible.

As educators, it’s on us to draw and hold the students’ attention. Even with the best presentation materials, an uncomfortable learning environment shortchanges our success as educators. Let's use the best tools in our toolbox to keep our students engaged in the learning process. 

Keito Ortiz, EMT-P, is the prehospital care training coordinator for Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in New York. He has been serving in EMS for 20 years. Ortiz is a NAEMSE Level II, a lifetime member of NAEMSE and an NAEMSE International Committee NYS-certified instructor. Ortiz is also an adjunct EMS instructor for Kings Borough Community College and runs several EMS-related educational Facebook pages such as EMS Pulse and NAEMSE. 

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