Many interviewees suggested that participating in verbal discussions was no longer the only way to conceptualise engagement, and used technology to facilitate alternative approaches.

I find the tactics, and the pedagogy is exactly the same. You know, you have to create structures by which students will talk to each other, and actually engage with stuff and do the work and become involved. (Participant 17, Social Sciences, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

Participants identified a wide range of types, tools and purposes for incorporating technology in their teaching, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many lecturers to rapidly develop new forms of teaching and learning. For some participants, this has been a cause for frustration with colleagues:

I keep ranting in meetings where people will say, Oh, I don’t know how to teach online, I was like, well, it’s the same tactics you’re supposed to use normally for active learning and inclusion. And, you know, it’s no different. It’s just you’ve got a bit of kit. And that’s it. (Participant 17, Social sciences, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

However, for many of these participants, using technology was already an established approach in the in-person classroom, capitalising on students’ existing resources. 

I like people to have their phones in my lectures, especially in international students because they can use it to very quickly translate things. (Participant 36, Business and management, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

Participants highlighted using these technologies, particularly in large classrooms, but not exclusively, to encourage students to engage in activities through a range of different formats.  For instance, it was reflected that a student who might be unwilling to speak in front of 50 classmates in their second or third language might be willing to make an anonymous contribution to a shared Google Document, or to ‘use an emoji or something, so you’re not having your English language scrutinised’ (Participant 15, Creative arts and design, University Alliance). This implies a shift in understanding of engagement, away from vocal discussion to engagement as multi-modal: written, silent, emoji, technology-mediated, hand-drawn, or annotated. 

Educational technologies were believed to encourage international students, as well as other students, to share their ideas and demonstrate their understanding, capitalising on the contributions international students can make to the collaborative classroom. For instance, tools like voting software allow lecturers to gain a rapid evaluation of the state of knowledge and understanding in the room. In a large group setting, contributing to a collaborative endeavour like a Padlet board, a Google Document, a Jamboard, might also carry less risk for ‘saving face’ than speaking up, thereby enabling more people to contribute than a one-by-one discussion-style plenary session. 

Especially our Chinese students, sometimes they’re not as comfortable in the language. And then they can be silenced, I think, because, like, everyone else is talking more than they are. I feel bad about that, and that’s why I think actually, the online posting is really valuable, because that’s an area where, you know, you can think before you speak, and you’re on a more equal footing. (Participant 33, Social sciences, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

Appropriately used, therefore, educational technologies were understood by participants as part of an equitable and inclusive approach to teaching. 

However, as one participant cautioned, it is important to familiarise students with the technological tools, as these may be new approaches to learning for many, as ‘Sometimes we think these students are tech-savvy, but actually, sometimes their knowledge of some things is more superficial than we think it is’ (Participant 3, Business and management, Russell Group). This, we argue, is likely to be particularly important when working with international students, considering that use of various technologies can be culturally and regionally bound.


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