I know that classroom mobile phone policies can be a fraught subject. Student distraction is a real concern, and handheld technology gives students a tool that introduces a constant stream of outside input (social media, news alerts, games) that often seem far more interesting than the class material or activities. One way to combat this is to make the phones or devices part of the learning experience.
During the 2016–17 academic year, the Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) conducted a pilot of Poll Everywhere as a classroom response system. Poll Everywhere is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) clicker system used primarily to poll or quiz students in a face to face classroom. Poll Everywhere allows students to answer questions in class on their personal device (phone, tablet, or laptop) and visualizes their responses in real time. It’s an easy way to engage students, build more interaction into your teaching, and gauge student understanding. It’s also a great tool to use for “fun” in the classroom, from a quick icebreaker to a complex trivia competition.
I have a confession to make. I confess that I jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon—and I am still riding it.
My first introduction to Pokémon was when my son was little. He had a collection of cards, carefully curated in protective binders. He spent hours reading the cards and developing the perfect deck to defeat his father—not an insignificant feat. For a child who was a “reluctant” reader these cards were one of the first times that he read for pleasure. He spent hours reading each card to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these unique creatures.
It’s just after your first class and the students are filing out of the room and you happen to be standing near enough to catch a few of their comments. You only get snippets of the conversations, but you hear…
In a face-to-face class, your presence is partly defined by your demeanor, persona and actions while in front of the class.
My colleagues at FITS have already provided many helpful tips for developing and facilitating effective discussions in online courses. Josh cautions against teaching a correspondence course and explains, “the best discussion questions don’t have a clear answer, and sometimes they aren’t even clear questions.” He also encourages instructors to provoke debate and ask those pointed and room-dividing questions. And Ashanti provides strategies for generating discussions that matter, such as providing opportunities for student-led discussions and pushing students to draw real-world connections.
Still, even with these strategies and course design principles in mind, it can be hard to get every student involved and engaged. Julie Stella and Michael Corry recognize this, and engagement is a focus in “Intervention in Online Writing Instruction.” Stella and Corry argue for “an interwoven perspective of motivation, engagement, agency, and action in Online Writing Instruction,” and in the process provide some helpful tips for all online educators.
Stella and Corry begin with an overview of the current literature centered on engagement and agency, and specifically the ways these concepts are treated in Self-Determination Theory (SDT). As they explain, SDT is “a framework through which educators may be able to reliably predict the motivation a student feels toward academic tasks.” In other words, the good stuff instructors are always trying to tap into. In SDT, all students – and humans – are thought to be working towards satisfying three needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
In the training sessions we provide for faculty who are going to teach online or hybrid courses for the first time, our facilitator, Daniel Stanford, often mentions how instructional technology consultants can serve as “course therapists.” We’re there to listen; to assure faculty that the anxiety they might feel around making such a dramatic change to their teaching is normal; and to help them move through the stages of grief they might experience as they negotiate the losses that result from change.
Given my understanding of this framing metaphor, and given the amount of advice I’ve doled out within this context, I thought I was fully prepared to undertake the process myself when I agreed to teach one of my courses online this past Winter. Surely I could coach myself through the process, right?
As the colleagues I turned to when I needed a therapy session will tell you, I was wrong. In two key ways, I didn’t follow the recommendations I usually give to others.
Technology is changing how we do everything. Gone are the days of classroom strategies that focus solely on using static content to engage students. Thanks to high-definition (HD) video ubiquity in mobile devices, tablets, laptops, etc., engaging in real-time (instantaneous) with folks across the globe without leaving home is feasible and affordable. To take it a step further, video conferencing, or as some may describe as web conferencing, webinars (web seminars), or webcasts, enables online collaboration with limitless implications for student engagement, in the US and abroad.
The formal definition of video conferencing, as defined by Merriam Webster, is:
a method of holding meetings that allows people who are in different cities, countries, etc., to hear each other and see each other on computer or television screens.
the holding of a conference among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals
While there are a number of solutions that exist to host virtual meetings, it’s important that standard features embedded in these systems are easy to use and work seamlessly during an online session. Some of the more common features include the ability to stream HD video, instant chat, screen sharing, recording, and the use of a whiteboard to jot down important points during the meeting. While nothing compares to face-to-face interaction, these tools help connect users in ways that a teleconference (see definition) are incapable of doing.
Some of the usual suspects—Skype, Webex, Gotomeeting, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, Avaya Scopia, Blue Jeans, Polycom, etc.—have worked tirelessly to create user interfaces that are intuitive and function with minimal to no latency issues. In order to make an informed decision, it’s important to develop and prioritize the functionality that’s paramount to a successful implementation for “you.”
When we started the Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) at DePaul a few years ago, my MoLI teammates and I agreed pretty quickly that our mission was not in finding “magic bullet” apps for faculty so much as it was encouraging learning activities that make use of the unique functions of mobile devices.
Our mission, however, didn’t stop me from seeking my own magic bullet apps. Early last year, at the recommendation of my teammate Joe Olivier, I started using the free version of Wunderlist. Little did Joe know, I have nurtured a list-making habit from an early age. It started with my mom’s yellow legal pads in the 80’s, and it’s been a fire hazard ever since.
Joe’s app recommendation made a huge difference in my everyday life. I’ll explain how in a moment, but first:
I’ve been indulging in a bit of a guilty pleasure lately: a network television series that ran a couple of years ago called Lie To Me. It stars Tim Roth as Dr. Cal Lightman, a deception specialist who is hired by agencies and individuals to determine the “truth” at a crime scene.
Dr. Lightman and his team of experts study the micro-expressions (brief, involuntary facial expressions) on all of the parties involved.
Be it a downturn of the mouth, or a twitch under the eye, “The Lightman Group” banks on the fact that these micro-expressions consistently indicate emotions such as guilt, shame, fear or arousal. These expressions are especially apparent when video footage of a subject is slowed down and studied, frame-by-frame. The scientific premise of the show is based on the cutting-edge research of psychologist Paul Ekman
One of the rotating banner graphics on DePaul University’s homepage boldly proclaims, “Chicago is our classroom,” enticing prospective students into a world of experiential learning in a bustling city with rich cultural, scientific, and career resources.
DePaul takes its identity as an urban university very seriously, but after the excellent Chicago Quarter program freshman year, how many DePaul instructors utilize the amazing resources of the city to teach their classes? How many instructors have even thought about what the city offers to their discipline?
Why am I bringing this up in a blog about educational technology? Because the biggest trend in consumer technology in the past five years can enable instructors to create unprecedented student field experiences and connect those experience back to the classroom. The trend I’m talking about, of course, is the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices.
This video shows how one instructor utilized students’ own mobile devices last year to help them engage with the city.
This is just one example of what mobile learning can do. And though the specific activities in this video are unique to the educational outcomes for this course, there are numerous possibilities for using mobile devices to help students engage with the city across academic disciplines.