Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Journey towards a flipped classroom: Three tools to get you started

Today’s universities are focused on creating innovative forward looking education environments that prepare students for the 21st Century workplace. Part of this is shifting the traditional lecture based courses and moving more towards a blended learning environment. A final objective could be to flip the classroom. The flipped classroom supports a focus on effective use of technology innovations, pedagogy and best practices for fostering an inclusive learning environment to improve student learning outcomes. To achieve this, both blended learning tools and faculty support need to be in place for successful implementation. 

These universities often share the same story. Some classes are held in an auditorium space with 150 + students and are reporting a decline in student attendance during the lectures. Student surveys reveal that access to lecture captures and lack of engagement being part of the reason they do not attend. One way to approach these issues is to introduce blended learning applications and redefine the traditional classroom. Blended learning can be described in part as delivering content and instruction through a variety of mediums and give more control to the students. An example of this strategy could be successfully implementing the following tools:

  • Course Management System (CMS) - allows 24/7 access to course materials that are provided in multimedia formats. The CMS also includes assessment forms, discussion forums, quizzes and a grade book.
  • Lecture Capture- lectures are videotaped an uploaded into the online course materials so students can use as a resource and access 24/7.
  • Formative Assessments using an online assessment tool - specifically intended to generate feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning. This strategy empowers students to be self-regulated learners that include student’s individual goals where their performances can be compared and assessed. Formative assessments can be a tool to do this.

Faculty and student support should be embedded alongside these initiatives. Success is highly dependent upon an institution’s ability to support the blended and flipped classroom instructional model and the existence of a high quality well designed and supported faculty development program. With blended learning tools in place and a high rate of faculty confidence built in using the tools, curriculum can be re-designed so students are working in the classroom, verbally and with the online assessment tool, to solve problems, develop critical thinking skills and work in partnership with their peers to evaluate and answer high-level challenges. In the flipped classroom, the lectures and readings could be done outside of class so that the valuable classroom time could be devoted to faculty interacting with students via the online assessment tool and supporting the learning.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Add to Your Technology Toolkit

Finding the time to invest in professional development is never an easy task but usually well worth the effort. Recently I carved out two days to attend the 2nd Annual Teaching with Technology Symposium hosted by Tufts University’s ESTS department. Invigorating discussions with colleagues are really the best part of these learning experiences and this time was no different. From sharing ideas on how to engage students using technology in class to the pro’s and con’s of MOOCs, there were a lot of people buzzing with the possibilities. Following are some takeaways that I found interesting and am going to suggest you consider adding to your teaching with technology toolkit:

Flipping the Classroom.  Flipping the classroom  is allowing more opportunities for students to learn from each other, where the faculty step aside and become more of a facilitator than a lecturer. It’s about giving up some of the control and creating more critical thinking opportunities. This was a heavily discussed topic because many faculty feel intimidated and aren’t sure how to teach in this environment.

Open and Free Resources. Why re-create the wheel? Build discussions
incorporating other viewpoints and find outside expert material such as blogs, videos or research. Bringing in diverse perspectives enhances 21st Century Skills.  A great place to get started is using a video from TedEd.

Use the iPad. Help teach medical students how to build relationships with their patients by using the iPad to share medical information that is more of a personalized approach. An example might be breaking down detailed medical x-rays with a patient where students can use the white board writing tools to draw, circle and write out information that can be viewed together with the patient and printed out as a PDF. View video for other ways students use iPad.

IClickers in Large Classrooms. Using iClickers (or another student response system) to assess students and gauge understanding in real-time. A great way to try this and create a more intimate class experience is by first asking the entire class a question and viewing the answers together. Give more information as needed and ask them to break into groups and discuss. Ask the question again and compare answers. 

Use a Blog. Engage students through blog discussions. More specifically, have students find a fellow student’s blog response that they agree with and have them expand the point by finding resources that support the position. They can finalize the process by writing a blog entry defending it. 

Qualtrics Software Program. Use Qualtrics or a service like Survey Monkey to develop survey’s used as formative assessments throughout the course to edit and constantly improve teaching. It is a quick and easy way to hear feedback directly from students that allows continual editing and improving. 

Media Mark-up. Use Media Mark-up  or other annotating software such as OneNote for PC users and a White Board App for Mac users. Use these to write and draw directly on procedural videos to point out important elements of a procedure.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Student Response Systems

If you are thinking about using a student response system in your classroom, here are three products that are reliable, easy to use and offer a variety of analytics. 

iClicker- iClicker is a system where students use a clicker (remote) that communicates with a base connected to your computer. No internet connection is needed. iClicker integrates with many LMS programs, PowerPoint and Keynote and offers in-depth support including live phone and email support, webinars, case studies, video tutorials and other self-help resources. There are a variety of packages to choose from and start at 39.00 per remote. This works well if you just want more of a fixed price option. After the initial purchase you basically need to purchase batteries and the occasional remote replacement. The downside to iClicker is that students need to be registered to their individual clicker for the faculty to be able to pull analytical reports for individual students. 

Benefits: LMS integration, no internet needed, one-time fee and tons of product support
Negatives: Hardware purchase, uses batteries and requires clicker registration for individual

Learning Catalytics- Learning Catalytics is a cloud based system where students use their own devices (BYOD) and text in their responses so there is no need to purchase separate clicker remotes that uses batteries and can break. Because students log in remotely, it is easy to run a variety of reports to see individual student responses. The company only provides live email support and offers some resources on their website which are all delivered in text format. They offer a one package price of $20 per student for the year which is either linked to a student credit card or is paid for by the institution. Also, if you’re not sure of the service you can sign up for a free trial for up to 100 students. Important to note is this company was just purchased by Pearson but they plan on treating Learning Catalytics as a standalone program so there are no foreseen changes.

Benefits: Multiple quiz formats, Individual detailed analytics, BYOD, Cloud based, No hardware purchase
Negatives: Very limited support, and Internet connection required (may be negative depending on situation)

Poll Everywhere- Poll Everywhere is also a cloud based system so would be suited for the BYOD approach. It runs on a SMS platform and integrates with PowerPoint and Keynote. Poll Everywhere provides individual analytics and multiple reporting options although much more basic than Learning Catalytics. There are a variety of support options from live phone and email support to user guides, FAQ’s which are all delivered in text format. The main benefit is that the cost starts at $349 per semester for an instructor and can be downgraded to free at times when they are not using it. This might be a great option for those schools that are not currently using an  automatic response system and want to generate enthusiasm before committing funding. 

Benefits: Individual basic analytics, BYOD, Flexible pricing, No hardware purchase
Negatives: Reports are not as comprehensive as the other two, Attachments cannot be linked in the poll, internet connection required

The reason to consider using any student response system  is to create an active learning environment where students are engaged and participate. In one study, using an automatic response system
“increased academic achievement”. This can be very beneficial in larger class sizes where faculty can’t interact with everyone and need a way to gauge student’s comprehension of new subject matter. Using a response system can give immediate results.

In addition, research suggests that successful implementation of student response systems can depend on how comfortable faculty are in using the technology and how they will use it in the classroom.  Any of these choices are affordable and easy to use so hopefully more faculty might be interested in adopting for classroom use. 

If you are not interested in spending money, try the Poll Everywhere free version or use more generic programs to collect responses such as Twitter and Wordle.