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.
Backchannel in Education – 9 Uses
7 Things you should know about back channel communication (Educause)
Group communication and collaboration spaces in Moodle
I see smart people! Using Facebook to supplement cognitive and affective learning in the university mass lecture
UTS Teaching and Learning Blog on Polling
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?
Using live polling, or live chats, isn’t something I have considered given I have a small Masters class of only 15-20 students. I do think it is interesting though, to think about how to engage students that might not be confident enough to speak out in class, and these tools might be one way of doing that. It would be important to use these tools occasionally, as the post mentions, to make sure they are adding to the base material rather than acting as a distraction. I think this is where it is good to come back to the Learning Outcomes for your lecture or course and just check in that these great, innovative ways of engaging students are also achieving the learning outcomes intended. Now that I think about it, these tools would be really good for generating a ‘breadth’ of ideas and thoughts and that is great if that fits with the learning outcomes for the lecture. Typically, if the students are just passively receiving the lecturer’s thoughts/ideas this is not achieving much breadth at all.
Hi Liana, thanks for contributing the first comment for Day 3! Your reminder to remember the Learning Outcomes for the lecture and ensure any “back channel” is in the ball park for the outcomes is very pertinent. Sometimes students will go off track in a back channel but it helps to put in a few simple rules about participation. Also sometimes comments that seem to be off the track can turn out to be just a different way of looking at the topic, which can be valuable.
After testing out different “back channels” with our face to face participants today, it is clear that the Chat room in Wattle is not ideal as it closes down the chats after you are idle for a few minutes in the chat room. You can access previous chats but you are not able to add any comments to them. This is problematic if you would like to have a live, ongoing chat event that is always available to students.
There is a free chat app called Today’s Meet here: https://todaysmeet.com/ which is simple and anonymous. It is public but due to being anonymous this is not so much a concern. You can also obtain more private accounts with additional functions for a very low cost. If you are are not a Twitter fan, this might be a viable alternative.
I am looking forward to trying out these tools. I am not confident at this moment to either remember to do it but I would like to make a conscious effort to incorporate back chat into our guest lectures at least. The next step would be to include this in the lectures. I would like to involve the course representatives to set this up and monitor it. A sure goal for this semester.
The on-line course I convene offers an optional face to face weekend. Recently I began presenting some of the face to face sessions while connected to Adobe Connect, for the benefit of students who could not attend, and also so there would be a recording available for everyone. I encourage the students at the face to face to login to the class as well (with the sound off on their computers) as they then have the materials in front of them, as well as on the overhead projector. I nominate a ‘scribe’ to record any questions from the room in the Chat Box, but I found that even many students in the room prefer to type their questions into the Chat Box.
Adobe Connect can also be set up to allow the students to chat privately among themselves. This I find quite distracting, because you can see that the student is typing, and dont realise they are not asking a question or making a comment. They like it though, so I dont disable it. In terms of trying to keep up with questions, if always assure them that I will go back at the end of the session and make sure I didn’t miss one. But if this was a real issue, you can just ask the student to click on the ‘raise hand’ icon when they post their question.
Hi Christine, that sounds like a great use of Adobe Connect, to include both online and face to face students. I have used online webinars a lot, so I know what you mean by the “back channel” in the chat box being distracting. Sometimes they are just having a joke with each other or asking about the weather. But I soon realised that this kind of chat is important to the students to feel connected when online, so unless it goes on for too long, I usually let it go. Also it can be difficult to monitor for questions in the chat box when you are busy facilitating – the ideal is to have a helper, or a student selected as moderator, to assist.
This is fantastic combination of face-to-face and online. Thanks for sharing this in detail. I am going to experiment with Adobe Connect after reading this.
One of the most common issues raised by lecturers in my experience is finding enough time to integrate activities such as polls and activities because of the amount of ‘content’ they feel needs to be explained or ‘covered’, especially in courses which have an accreditation element. Wondering if our participants have any suggestions for dealing with this balance in your courses?
I agree, the time it takes to ddivert to these activities reduces time for lecture content. On the plus side is that one hopes more students gain understanding of that concept. Not sure where one shifts the uncovered content to given the limited contact times being imposed.
John, that is a good point. I think supplementary online materials and activities can help, and when we have access to Echo Active Learning Platform these may just be the answer – tools for adding value to your lecture. If you think of the lecture as just one forum for learning, along with others, students will tend to gravitate to the forums they find fit with their learning preferences. However only the subject matter experts, such as yourself, can gauge whether this is possible, whether the learning can only be effective in face to face situations, or whether it is possible to convey the information and stimulate learning effectively outside the main lecture.
For anyone trying to access my poll above and it didn’t work, I realised that I had not looked at the settings for the poll, which had defaulted to a timing of one day only for the poll to remain active. I have now gone in and reset it to one week. So just another thing to remember about setting up polls, make sure I look at the settings!
Jill, just letting you know, I’ve tried a couple of times but the page came up empty. Not sure what’s happening. But that also reminded me of my experience with trying technology. Typically I finish my lectures with 3 quick MCQ questions, while I”m wrapping up my session. Students say out loud their chosen letter. If I feel there are multiple choices among the cohort, I ask for a show of hand for each choice and then we discuss what is the right answer and why. To quicken the process I decided to introduce PollEverywhere in the class, and was hoping to spread the questions around during the lecture. Of course I trialled and tested on my computer before the lecture it all worked fine, but when I tried to set it up in the lecture theatre, it did not work. I spent a bit of time trying to get to show the student responses on the screen but given up after 5-10minutes as it felt very distracting to everyone. …..I returned to asking the 3 MCQs and ask for a show of hands.
Hi Krisztina, thanks for letting me know – I did go in and activate the poll and it worked, but the one week setting must have already expired because today it was inactive again. I have activated it again in case anyone else tries to access it. Usually in a lecture the poll would only be needed for a short time frame when you invite the students to respond, so the default setting would be fine. I have run into problems because I am keeping it running for the length of the coffee course, so the default setting for one day caused problems.
With all of these apps and technology, it is a learning curve we are on, and there are layers of knowledge to acquire about settings and behaviours. As we persevere we become “champions” for that particular piece of technology and can share our knowledge with colleagues. However I understand the stress of things not working during a large audience lecture. And the time constraints you have in trying out and testing.
The point made previously in the comments about narrowing the choices down to a few useful programs, testing them and trying them, then offering training and support, is something ANU Online is working towards.
These sound like a really interesting idea. I really like the idea of the backchanelling. I have heard before of a student-led idea where the students all took notes in the lecture on a google doc, where they were able to ask questions of one another and provide real time explanations. I do worry that this would pull focus from the content of the lecture though. I have attended some online presentations (e.g. Thesiswhisperer ones) where there was a chat happening during the presentation that allowed for questions to be asked and answered in real time, but this worked better because the viewers weren’t in the room at the time. I’m not sure if it would work so well in a live situation. It also requires a certain skill set from the lecturer.
I like the idea of the web quests, but I’ll have to think about it more. I have used padlet in tutorials before, but more for the jigsaw idea from yesterday than student feedback and back channelling.
Hi Lauren, thanks for your thoughts on the idea of backchannelling. In our workshop today we talked about it a lot – it can be challenging activity for the teaching staff. It requires a certain balance for it to be effective. One of the strategies we came up with was to set very clear guidelines for students right at the start on how to use it, and clear expectations for what will happen if it is not used properly. One suggestion was to have student reps or senior student volunteers to monitor and answer questions in the chat, so the lecturer can concentrate on delivery. Just a few ideas on how to make it work successfully!
I think using some of these techniques in lectures can create an equity issue. Not all students have the financial resources to have phones, tablets, or computers they can bring to class that have reliable internet access that is fast enough to let them participate. Having the students work in small groups or having a Wattle forum for students to post on after class can ameliorate this somewhat, but I do think lecturers need to consider this issue. If we accept that interactive learning improves student success, we need to be sure to include students who can’t afford the most recent technology. Has anyone who used these techniques addressed this with their students?
I agree, we cannot expect all students to have the means for the latest gadgets or event the interest. Some chose not to use them. They should not be penalised.
Hi Katrin – great point about not all students have access. It is easy to forget this sometimes, and you’re right that we need to consider equity and access to devices when creating activities like this. I have asked students to collaborate on responses in groups (combining a think-pair-share and a polling activity) so that students without devices still end up in a group with one and can put in a collective answer after discussing it. That has worked pretty well for me in the past 🙂
I agree there is an equity issue, but these multi-modal approaches could be really useful for students who experience mental health issues; where they cannot always make it to a face-to-face lecture, or are not able to ask a question in front of the class.
My undergrad classes range from 85-105 so without wifi and technology to support web-based tools I often use ‘voting’ where students express their views via a show of hands.
Wikispaces Classroom would be great for the entire university! Until then, rely on tutorials for student engagement and feedback.
First, I must apologise for not showing for the face-to-face today – I stayed home today with a cold.
It took me some time to master Socrative. Once I was demonstrating it to my peers in the Fenner School and I hashed it badly by choosing the wrong settings. Moving seamlessly from the Powerpoint screen to the Socrative screen takes some practice (two screens in our teaching spaces would be an improvement!). So, as Jill has also experienced in this course, the technology can be unforgiving.
Which goes to Aliya’s point that if the technology isn’t easy for the students to access or doesn’t work, you quickly lose valuable lecture time.
In my case I have to plan and practice to get it all working seamlessly which adds further pressure during my teaching semester, which is a really busy time for me. There is such a dazzling array of options in this space that I wonder if there is any value in The ANU promoting a small group of established apps and providing some resources that will help the teaching community use them? Some consistency might also be appreciated by students?
Phil, I think it is an excellent idea to have some help with setting up, “fool proofing’ a small number of techniques, so that we don’t waste time trialling and testing (and then failing or have less than ideal final results). We would probably be braver about trying something new if we feel supported.
Hi, I think Liana makes a good point that these online tools may be useful to enable sharing a wide range of ideas related to the lecture. I am otherwise rather skeptical about involving too much online interaction. It is easily generating a distraction. I suppose it all comes down to whether one is able to enforce “on” and “off” switches, not only for the chatroom but also for the students with regard to turning their attention away from their phones and back to what’s happening in the classroom. I would give it a go just to see what the effect is.
We have used the poll-show hands version. I am not sure how well this was perceived in that particular class. But the sample size was very small. I think rather than guessing I will asked the students directly next time whether they find these breaks in the lecture stream useful or rather would not be bothered (they can answer that anon online….).
I really enjoyed watching the video The Twitter Experiment (there’s a link to it in the post Backchannel in Education: 9 uses). Before I started watching this video I was very sceptical that anything good could come from using twitter in a lecture hall (and this is despite being someone who regularly uses twitter in my free time). But as I watched I realised that twitter would have dramatically improved the Contract Law lectures I suffered through as an undergraduate. Our lecturer was commendably keen to get lots of interaction happening with his class of 400 first years, but in reality what happened was that every week he would ask the class some questions and every week they would be answered by his favourite 5 students while the other 395 of us simmered with resentment. With twitter we could have all had our say.
Hi Katie, that’s definitely a great way to use a backchannel. I have used them in my teaching practice and I was also pretty sceptical at first. It took me a few weeks to get used to the idea that students were chatting with each other while I was delivering my teaching. But when I looked at the backchannel after class, I was usually very pleased to see students sharing links, helping each other, etc. Which was so lovely! So I am a convert.
actually I have not tried the above strategies yet but they sounds good and I will definitely try at least one of them in the future lectures
Great to hear Naeimeh! Let us know how it goes when you try them!
* 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?
I Have used Moodle (Wattle) live in a classroom for a small group intensive short course and for an industry short course. This worked extremely well. I gave mini-lectures interspersed with students working in Moodle on their individual workstation. For the industry version two students shared a workstation, which promoted collaboration (although it was originally done due to a workstations shortage).
This had the advantage that the students could use exactly the same tools remotely, before and after the face-to-face session.
* What strategies have you used when things have gone wrong with your interactive methods?
When all else fails: talk and get the students talking. Once when talking on alternative energy in Indonesia the power went off (ironic). I abandoned all the gadgets and got the student to ask questions.
Tatia, you could use a WiFi “hot-spot”. I dropped in to QUT a few years ago and they showed me a briefcase hot-sport for outdoor e-learning. This was a briefcase with a 3G modem and a WiFi router and battery. The same can now be done with a smart phone.
Interesting points made above that I would like to comment on:
Rebecca talked about possible equity issues for students that do not have access to the technology. When I reflected on this I thought about how so many full time students are probably on prepaid plans for their phones, and if wifi is not reliable or available in a particular lecture theatre this could cause problems.
You could get students to work in pairs or groups, so that those with the required technology can utilise what they have. Otherwise, it is important to have some alternative activities for anyone without the technology, or for when the technology goes wrong.
Phil points out the time and energy required to get to know the large range of choices in technology we can now use to enhance teaching and suggests that ANU concentrate on a few that are tried and true, and provide support for lecturers to learn and use these. I think this is a great idea and it is actually something we are working towards – difficult in an ever-changing landscape in terms of both university technology and policy. One thing we are currently exploring is the capabilities of Office365 tools, which are available to all staff and students as part of our institutional suite of communication tools. It occurs to me that the “conversation” tools in Teams (part of the Office365 tools) might be something that could be used as a back channel in class. But this is just one example. You are right, we need to keep assessing these tools and come up with those that we think are most useful to lecturers, then provide support and training for them.
In regards to training and time I would also like to voice an issue we casual staff have at the ANU. We are often only at the ANU before or after our teaching time as we need other work to supplement the work we get through ANU. So attending training is often difficult as it is held when we are either not there or teaching. Also, some training is only available to full time permanent staff.
I am also reluctant about using new technology as it often takes away to focus from the content and when it doesn’t work it uses up precious teaching time and adds to stress for the lecturer and frustration for the students who sit and wait until/if something is working.
My classes are generally smaller, so I can get direct interaction and I see the point of making lectures more interesting (hence doing this course) but I really think good training and reliable technology is vital for success. I had some semesters where the technology in the rooms has so frequently failed me that I now rely on my own private mac and iPod for all technological use….
Hi Katrin, very valid points about the effects of casualisation, lack of training, unreliable equipment etc. We can only hope that as universities increasingly feel they must come fully into the digital age for teaching and learning, all of these issues will be addressed. Meanwhile at ANU Online we hope to be able to be a valuable support to all lecturers, whether casual or contract.
I’ve not used these tech strategies in lecture situations before. I have used regular hand-up polling and think that integrating the Think-pair-share model of problem solving with the online polling (https://pollinghelp.cit.cornell.edu/best-practices/) could be really interesting as a way to understand students’ thought processes as they work though conceptual issues individually and then in pairs/small groups. I imagine the students would probably be quite interested in then seeing the staggered results, perhaps as a mode of self-assessment.
Two or three years ago, I did explore whether to use online polling of students in my lectures by asking other lecturers who have used it as well as students. I believe the polling involved courses that have enrolments of at least 100 students . After considering their responses, I decided not to do so although I could change my mind in the future. This is what I learned:
1. Student participation is generally low (20%?) unless participation is assessable and thus a course requirement. (Assessment is simply based on participation and not if the “correct” answer is chosen.) If it is assessable or required, then arrangements must be made for students who can not or choose not to attend the lecture.
2. Setup costs to develop competency on the software, to compose the questions and possible answers, and to record participation for assessment purposes is non-trivial. Winging it doesn’t work.
1. Liked polling but don’t do too much. Definitely, not more than once a lecture. Once a week would be okay. Evidently, polling can be time-consuming due to capturing student’s attention before and after the polling exercise.
2. A unintended consequence of online polling is that requiring students to use their online digital devices in lecture can distract students. “Hey, check out this FB notification. OMG!!!!”
I agree with Pau. A Simple hands up is often more effective. Cheap and no technology issues.
We also have to recognize that if you only have 30% of your students by week 3 as per Marnie , it’s not such a big and daunting lecture hall any more
Paul, while I agree that all of your points are valid, my own personal experience is different in every respect to your survey (e.g., I thought Brian Schmidt used polling very effectively in his “Town Hall” presentations last year). However, mixing-up the experience for students is probably more important for someone like me who is is not as naturally gifted in delivery and therefore will struggle to maintain engagement across the 50 minutes. Indeed, I have sat through seminars and lectures where any type of technology would only get in the way of a fantastic learning experience.
I haven’t used any of these but I really like the idea of using live polling as a way to keep students engaged! I think it would be very effective in the lectures I’ve been involved with and, where content isn’t suitable for a poll, we could still use it in a fun way e.g. related trivia questions, to keep students active.
To be honest, I’d like to see apps like PollEv being used in a good way. I’ve seen students using it as a platform to show their ‘creativity’ in providing unrelated ‘funny’ answers, as they would do in high school or so. To some, those are just jokes, but to me, it is little bit over the limit. I prefer email and after-lecture talks as students are too shy to share their ideas in the class.
I haven’t used online polling in my own classes yet, but I have been on the otherside of it a few times – mostly in teacher training courses ironically! The two or three times I saw it used were all really effective, hands up is a good way of showing general responses, but for some reason the use of the online poll gave a brief sense of excitement and had good novelty value. I think on the one had the questions that were posed led to a variety of surprising or varied resposnses which was interesting to see visually, for some reason it felt more visceral an experience than just looking at hands up. But also being able to see the poll response change in real time gave a little frisson of excitement like horse racing, to see which answer would get the most votes. This is on the one hand a slightly frivolous justification for doing the activity, but we are talking about using all of these tools essentially to avoid the tedium of non stop lectures, so I think anything that provides a little blood rush is probably a great antidote to students falling asleep!
I tried the old fashioned way ~10 years ago… giving students coloured cards to hold up. That worked OK but I did not feel it added a huge amount of value to my sessions.
When looking into the software recently, I like the idea of using some of the options for students to do revision quizzes and ask open questions (or “muddiest point” comments) after the lectures. The main reason being the ability for them to do this anonymously. I wonder if the anonymity that these platforms afford will encourage more online interactions from some of the students who are reluctant to use the Wattle forums.
I have often used a system where remote students can connect to the lecture and answer or pose questions and this has worked fine,
My experience of polling systems is mixed – too often the technology has failed Also it takes quite a while to go through the steps and often more entertainment than educative.
Hi apologies for late posting. I tried poll on line on 30th in the morning, but despite several tries it didn’t work. so then I let it go. I just polled now.
I haven’t used poll online in class, but have the experience of using it at the vice-Chancellor talk last year and loved it. I will definitely try using the new technologies. However, before doing that, I think the first step is to understand how they work.
Hi Tehzeeb , sorry about the Poll, it deactivated on me again. Because this was to be open for the whole coffee course I should have ensured the settings were adjusted from the default of one day, to more than one week – I am on a learning curve also! It would not have been a problem if it was just a one off poll in a lecture, of course – the default settings would have been fine. So as I said somewhere above, lesson learned is, always check the settings of the app you decide to use! Now I know one more tip to give people on Poll Everywhere.
Several people have mentioned asking for a show of hands from students as a polling technique. I like this technique for the instructor to gather information. For it to be effective as a learning technique, the students need to do something additional, such as discuss the question.
A colleague of mine recently used Kahoot in a seminar for the first time and had a very positive experience. This sparked my interest in using such software. Looking at the comments, however, suggests that the show of hands polling often can work just as well, or at least avoids potential technology problems.
I thought the use of polling with software like Kahoot could prove particularly valuable in charting changes in student opinion over time. An idea I’m toying with is to ask students a series of the same questions two or three times over the duration of the course, to see if ‘opinion is moving’.
Hi Ben, thanks for your response regarding Kahoot. I haven’t personally used Kahoot, it was something that came up when I was doing some research in interactive classes. From what I read about it, it sounds like a quiz/game type of tool, where you can set up quiz questions in a game format. Apparently it can be a lot of fun and engaging for students. It would certainly be worth trying and testing if you wanted to try something new. And I am sure you could use it to chart changes in student responses over time, as you suggest, although you could probably do the same with Poll Everywhere, minus the game element. When considering using these technology tools it is worth spending some thought on the purpose, what it is you want to achieve from the activity.
I also think it is important that the most effective tools/functions be built into existing facilities that are available to all students and lecturers, not only for equity reasons but also for more consistent learning environments and student experiences. I would find it confusing if different lecturers use different apps. Students do care about marks. If an item is not assessed, it is often difficult to get them participate fully.
I have used Poll Everywhere, but not Kahoot or Socrative, but very sparingly in my one-hour tutorials. I have used it more frequently in my guest lectures which last for three hours. I personally think that it is not necessary to use Poll Everywhere in tutorials as a quick show of hands is much more efficient with a class size of <25. In lectures which last for around two to three hours, I find that the use of technology to conduct mid-point checks engaged students and helped to break the monotony. It is not possible to stop all students from fiddling with their phones especially in large lectures, so my opinion is that lectures involving some use of technology provide more synergistic benefits than disengagement.
Ok I finally got through the links which I found very interesting as a way of illuminating the debate about why the Lecture is so contentious in contemporary education: I teach in the School of Art and Design and the lectures that I give are typically (although not always) for an audience of about 15 students. I do on occasion give guest lectures to large cohorts of students at about the 80 or so mark and find that the feeling in the room is always markedly different. With the 15 students it is easy to invite questions and comments but not so easy with the 80 students. It was particularly interesting to learn that 80 students is apparently the number that the research indicates is the drop off point for student engagement.
Because of my low student numbers in lectures I probably won’t employ back-channels or social media spaces but I really liked some of the noodle features I wasn’t across yet, particularly the wiki. I think the wiki has a strong potential in a visual arts course to produce a resource of contemporary artists working with specific foci and can see a direct application for some of the subjects I teach.
Unfortunately for the type of course content and size of classes I teach, these interactive systems are somewhat limited for sharing anything other than language based contributions from students. Also considering students visual content may be coming from many various kinds of file types, applications, media.
However in my classes of under 20 students, they can contribute visual information directly from their Laptop or Ipad to our Digital projector via 3 input cables.
Ted Talks has me thinking back to the ‘Lecture as Performance’ modules by Amanda Burrell, that were mentioned in Coffee Course Day 1 …many thanks to whoever that was.
Here is a sample of her thinking: https://vimeo.com/74351476
Curiously, in this Vimeo clip Amanda Burrell mentions that many people cannot see the correlation between a ‘lecture’ and ‘performance’ (surely the commonalities far outweigh the differences).
Thanks Simon for your thoughtful comments. Its so great to hear about your approaches to teaching and your flipped classroom experiences – both as a lecturer and as an undergrad!
I haven’t really used any of these techniques so far, but, ever since I first learned about ‘clickers’, I’ve been keen to try some kind of mid-class polling. The closest I’ve come so far is to get the students to hold up different coloured pieces of paper to indicate that they are following well, or are stuck. This was in a computer practical, and when they held up the colour for ‘stuck’, the demonstrators or I, immediately went to help that student and the class didn’t continue until all students were ‘following well’. This seemed to work quite well and I received good feedback, however, upon reflection, there are two areas of potential concern: (1) some students who were following along very well might have gotten frustrated with the delay while others caught up; and (2) some students might have been dishonest about following along when they were actually struggling.
I’ve never thought about using twitter in my teaching, but I like the idea of having a ‘backchannel’ to get a live stream of comprehension. I can see potential downsides along the lines of those identified, but maybe something similar that allows for privacy/anonymous posting would be a good solution to that. thanks for the links in this part of the course!
I’m a big fan of Twitter myself – I used to teach in a media studies course where it was used during lectures for students to share resources, discuss the content, etc. But what it was particularly useful for was building positive relationships and reinforcing social presence, with students and teachers having more of an opportunity to interact and get to know each other. But this can involve a significant workload for the teaching staff to maintain as well.
We have been thinking of a future course on using social media in teaching – would that be of interest to you (or anyone else)?
Hi Katie – yes, definitely! I’m still pretty new to twitter, so it’d be of great interest 🙂
I considered using a polling system in my class last year, but after a bit of research and thinking decided against it. Several things made me change my mind: technological issues or lack of access to a smartphone can disadvantage some students (it was suggested above that a group of students can vote together, but I feel like this defeats the purpose of using a poll). I also agree that this should be used sparingly. So after considering the amount of time it’d take me to set it up and explain to students how to use it, it felt like a bit of an overkill when raising hands or colored pieces of paper (as Angela suggested) may work just as well.
As a Learning Designer, I have assisted academics in using Poll Everywhere and Socrative. I have used Kahoot personally in a few training sessions and the audience generally love the idea of being able to participate. As mentioned in some of the previous posts, Poll Everywhere works well for large classes because it becomes difficult to engage and get students to talk in a large class. In one course, there were 400 students and Poll Everywhere was an excellent tool to get a response from the class. Unfortunately, in one instance the lecturer decided to create an open-ended question activity and students started posting inappropriate answers or asking personal questions.
In observing lecturers who use these polling tools, it becomes a missed learning opportunity when after receiving the answer to their poll, there is no discussion about it. I’ve seen this happen so many times, where the lecturer runs a poll in class and never discusses or analyses the result.
I have had a lot of success teaching tutorials with Storymap (https://storymap.knightlab.com), which is a tool for creating a linear narrative using markers on a map. For example, I got students to work in groups to map parts of the journey of British grand tourist Hester Piozzi as she travelled around Europe, using her published diary as a source (this was a suggestion from my colleague Katrina Grant in the Centre for Digital Humanities Research). Students tagged the locations on the map, found a contemporaneous drawing or painting of the place and entered Hester’s comments on the place. Here is an example I created for the class: https://uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/e614819fc593c8b9214a93f0ec309d49/hester-piozzis-grand-tour/index.html .
It was a great exercise. The students had lots of fun and chose amusing anecdotes from the diary, which was hilarious to read out at the end of the class when everyone had finished. It was a great way to get the students to learn about the grand tour phenomenon in the eighteenth century, including the mindset of British tourists and, what is more, to get them reading primary sources. A colleague and I have recently used Storymap again to get students to map how works of art travel, and students have posted links to their wok on the course Wattle forum. I will certainly be using it again in the future.
There are a few caveats to using Storymap and tools like it, though. Firstly, the students need laptops to use Storymap. I don’t know if it would work on a phone, but it would be far too fiddly anyway. I know it doesn’t work on iPads, because several students tried. They need to be warned in advance so enough students bring laptops. Secondly, they need to sign in with a Google account. This can be a problem for those who don’t have or want a Google account, but so far I have had the students work in groups, so there’s inevitably someone who can sign in. Thirdly, it takes a few minutes to show the students what Storymap is and how to use it. They do pick it up very quickly, but if the task is going to take a while and you also want everyone to show off their work at the end of the class, you need to be quick.
I have used polls in lectures, including Poll Everywhere and Mentimeter. One benefit of using these tools even in smaller classes was that it allowed students who may be uncomfortable or hesitant speaking up in the classroom to participate. Like Paul and others have previously mentioned, I found that while students responded positively to these techniques they easily became bored if they were overused. The takeaway here for me is to think critically again about why we are using polls and other digital tools and what learning outcomes they are designed to achieve. A poorly thought out use of digital tools can end up having a negative effect on student engagement as it can seem gimmicky.