We all know how popular the Ted Talks are, as an example of how the one way lecture as a form of teaching can be well received – providing it is interesting and engaging. Ted Talks are by nature very much a performance, with entertaining and engaging presenters. We can’t all be as entertaining as some of the Ted Talk celebrities, but we can make our lectures interesting and enjoyable learning experiences.
A lecture is by definition teacher-centred rather than student-centred. All eyes are on the “sage on the stage” and their presentation slides. This is necessary and the best alternative in some circumstances – so how can a one way form of communication such as a lecture to a large hall of people include an element of interactivity and engagement? How can we be sure our students are “with us” all the way through our lecture, and not disengaged, looking at unrelated conversations on their phones?
Yesterday, we looked at some strategies to promote student engagement with simple activities. Another drawback of large format teaching is that it is more difficult to have interaction and questions to see if students are following along with you, and if they understand. In this session, we discuss some technology that might be of use to ensure students are with you during your presentation.
Ways to make sure students are engaged and feel included
Use interactive participation tools
Use audience response systems such as Socrative, Poll Everywhere and Kahoot for getting feedback, surveying your audience, testing for understanding and playing interactive games around your lecture content. Facilitate your audience to meet one another, compare their ideas, discuss a main point – then use one of the interactive tools to feed their thoughts back to the whole audience. For example, you could use a multiple choice quiz question to assess whether students understood the last concept that was discussed.
Try it out!
To try it out as a participant, go to my poll at PollEverywhere, and choose an answer to the question: How likely are you to use a poll during your lecture?
(a) I will definitely use polling
(b) I am not sure but would like to explore further
(c) I will definitely not use polling
To participate, go to the web page and choose an option, OR using your mobile phone, text JILLLYALL628 to +61 427 541 357, and once you have received a reply from PollEverywhere, send your answer A, B or C by text. Once I have some answers, I will do a screen shot of the results and post here in the comments.
Bear in mind that in a lecture, the students will see the poll displayed on the screen in the lecture hall so won’t need this amount of explanation.
Post Script: here is the screen shot of the results for 6 people who took part – this is what could be displayed on the screen if you did this in a lecture (it is a bit small as a screen shot, sorry!)
Try a live chat
A live chat that is available during your lecture allows students to communicate with each other and with you, to ask questions or to contribute thoughts. This is commonly a part of academic conferences, where participants communicate using a “backchannel” on Twitter or another similar platform. This option can provide a space for students to expand on the content, build connections and relationships, and continue the conversations after the class has ended (Camiel et al, 2014, Yates et al, 2015). If there are concerns about student privacy and desire for anonymity find an app where you can set it up as a private group, and where students can participate under a pseudonym if they wish. (Please see note below regarding privacy settings and issues). If you wish to remain within your institution’s digital environment, your LMS such as Wattle (Moodle) may have a chat room you can utilise and have students log into during your lecture.
Explore supplementary online resources or meeting place
Supplement your lecture with follow up support and discussion – for example, create a community site for your subject, where you can add your materials such as slides and lecture notes and enable discussion on the site. You could use Wattle but also you could open a Wiki in the free web app Wikispaces Classroom, for example, and allow students to contribute and add their own pages of content. At ANU we will soon have access to Echo Active Learning Platform (ALP), which will have a range of great interactive tools to use along with either a live lecture or lecture capture.
Please note: If using social media such as Twitter or other public sites, students need to be aware that other people might be able to see their posts. Think carefully about how you set up your use of tools like this and consider privacy for students. The other issues with social media include the fact that ANU cannot compel students to join social media sites. (We hope to cover managing social media in another one of our Coffee courses in 2018.)
Launch live research and web quests mid-lecture
You can have your students search for particular information using internet search engines on their devices, as a way of ensuring they are engaged. Create some excitement in the room and make it a race to be the first to find the latest on any particular research, for example. You could get them to work in groups, or compare their findings with their neighbour then report back through a polling question using one of the polling apps described above. Another great tool for sharing findings and links is Padlet, a digital whiteboard space that is very easy to use.
Things to watch out for – how do you manage these concerns?
Too much going on at once: A live chat feed that is open to all while you are lecturing can be difficult to follow and distracting. As the lecturer you may not have the ability to monitor and respond to a constant flow of commentary and questions. One way of avoiding this is to structure the chat so that it is opened up when you ask for feedback on a specific topic, then closed again. Communicate to the students that the feedback is only relating to the specified topic, and direct enquiries or technical issues to another communication stream or to later communication with yourself. Ensure you space out interactive activities like polling and chatting. Use them sparingly and strategically during the lecture and have a definite start and cut off point each time.
Students lacking access to devices: What do you do if students don’t have access? Students may have difficulty accessing an app like Poll Everywhere, for example. It may not work as well on all devices. An easy way to address this is to get students to collaborate on an answer and share their response as a group. Ensure that you allow enough time for students to overcome any difficulties and to seek help from their peers, when posing questions for student feedback. Having an asynchronous forum for student to visit later and add their thoughts can also avoid frustration for those unable to take part in the moment.
Technology is lacking – WIFI or mobile phone reception may be poor in the room at the time: Have a plan B such as think, pair, share, or a simple poll by show of hands. In addition, the suggestion above that provides students with a forum to go to later to share their thoughts can avoid frustration for those who are keen to participate.
Camiel, L.D., Goldman-Levine, J.D. Kostka-Rokosz, M.D. & McCloskey, W.W., (2014) “Twitter as an in-class back-channel in a large required pharmacy course” in The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Volume 78, Issue 3, 2014.
Yates, K., Birks, M., Woods, C. & Hitchens, M.,(2015) “#Learning: The use of back channel technology in multi-campus nursing education” in Nurse Education Today, Vol. 35, Issue 9, September 2015, pp e65-e69.
Do you use any of the tools mentioned above, or other interactive tools to engage your face to face students? Tell us about our experiences – what worked and what didn’t?
What strategies have you used when things have gone wrong with your interactive methods?
If you haven’t tried any of these, explore the links and let us know what you think. Do you think any of the tools might be useful to you in your lecture presentations, or do you have doubts?