As the world becomes increasingly digitalized, implementing technology into the classroom is no longer an option, but a necessity. However, with the answers to so many questions readily available at the touch of a finger, the challenge becomes not whether you SHOULD implement technology, but how to do so effectively and in a way that will engage your students without distracting from the focus of a lesson.. Here are a few activities and ways you can incorporate technology into your classroom setting.

Have students keep an online blog.

Many English or Language Arts classes have students keep daily journals where they write about a new topic each day, so why not cut out the notebook and pencil and have them write their entries online in the form of a blog? You could have each student set up a WordPress site write their daily posts where not only can you monitor that assignments are completed on time, students can also gain experience managing and designing their own websites. You can even teach your students useful grammar skills while they write by having them check their writing with online tools like Grammarly so they can better practice and grasp the tools they’re being taught in the classroom.

Have students hone their vocabulary with Free Rice.

I’m personally a huge advocate for the site and can’t recommend it highly enough for use in the classroom. Free Rice is a website that allows you to both practice your vocabulary skills and help fight world hunger; for each correct word you can define, Free Rice donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme in an effort to end world hunger. To date, over 95 billion grains of rice have been donated, which comes out to nearly 9.5 million bowls of rice given to those who are hungry. You can educate your students in vocabulary as well as benevolence by giving them a platform to use their education to feed the hungry.

Store papers and school work on Google Docs.

This is a great way to guide students as they work on various projects. Google Drive allows you to store documents, spreadsheets, images, and all sorts of data files in a “cloud”-like location that’s accessible through a person’s Google account. If you have group assignments that require work outside of the classroom, Google Drive allows multiple students to have access to the same files so they can work collaboratively, and there’s even a messaging service within Google that allows students to communicate with one another via live chat, so they can collaborate outside of school without having to coordinate a way to meet up to get work done. Google drive is also a great way to ensure that assignments are never “lost” or get eaten by the dog.

Utilize “exit tickets.”

The second the bell rings your students are probably already thinking about their next class, so why not engage them as they leave the classroom with one last refresher from the day’s lesson? Exit tickets only need to be a question or two for students to answer that you pose to the class or post on a board as they leave the classroom, and then use one of the various online survey platforms to have students submit their responses — Poll Everywhere even lets your students text in their answers in real time.

Bring geography to life with Google Earth.

Wouldn’t it be incredible if, while learning about a country on the map, you could see the country around you and immerse yourself in the lesson by being able to visualize the cities and provinces about whose cultures and lifestyles you’re learning? While you may not be able to pack your students up and whisk them halfway across the world on a fieldtrip, you can virtually walk down the streets and explore the neighborhoods with Google Earth and Google Street View. Now, students who live in the Midwest can have a better image of what a dessert looks like or how tall the Eiffel Tower really is in a way they may never have otherwise.

Bring their phones into it.

This one is kind of tricky because it may involve shaking up your entire teaching style in order to monitor usage, but permitting students to use their phones in class can help to engage them in new ways. Have your students use their phones as e-readers or to watch lesson-related videos while you walk among your students to ensure no one is abusing their phone privileges with texting or social media. There are also apps, like Remind and myHomework, for which both students and parents can sign up for text message reminders about assignments that are due or upcoming tests or projects. It also allows a medium for parents to get involved with their children’s education and help them with assignments should they need it.

Swap textbooks for ebooks.

Ask any college student — textbooks aren’t cheap. The average college student spends $1,200 each year on textbooks, and for schools it’s not much better; for elementary and high schools, the average textbook costs about $70. Now, compare the cost of a single textbook to the cost of an iPad, which starts at less than $300 and can hold all of the textbooks a student would need from elementary school up through graduation. Not only will you help save trees in the process, but you’ll give textbooks portability and transform them from clunky and heavy to a convenient and lightweight medium where students are already focusing their attention.