Teaching with Technology

There are numerous technologies available for enhancing and streamlining Teaching and Learning; however,  these technologies may hinder as well as enhance our teaching approaches. Today we brainstormed a list of technologies, had a detailed discussion on the use of iClickers, and capped off the session by questioning how we could use social media such as Facebook as a teaching tool.

List of Technologies

Software and Learning Management systems:

  1. Turnitin
  2. WebCT
  3. Wiki/Sakai/Blogs
  4. Moodle
  5. Elluminate
  6. Elive
  7. Social media
  8. Add-on’s to MS office
  9. Google docs


  1. iClickers
  2. Tablet PCs
  3. Smart boards
  4. Jamming technology

Standardization of Technology: How do we adjust to multiple software packages?

Charlie and Lawrence suggested that in courses like Statistics, multiple software packages can create situations in which students use different software packages. For example, Charlie uses Minitab in his courses, which is no longer supported by Apple products.  Rather than presenting a problem solution in multiple packages, he will demonstrate a solution in only one application.

Practical Approaches to Using iClickers in the Classroom

Both Scott V. and Mark L. were identified as experienced users of iClicker technology.  Scott uses them in his third year class and Mark uses them in a first year class on Human Biology. Both Mark and Scott recommend using iClickers since they:  are liked by students, provide a sense of the learning to the instructor, enhance engagement during lectures, and reduce the threshold of participation by  anonymizing answers. Mark uses them to perform opinion polls, ask fact-based questions such as those on his exams, ask difficult concept questions, and introduce new material. Scott links his use of iClickers directly to his learning objectives and gives the students regular quizzes. He mentioned that he has slowly integrated their use into his class and that he has compiled a bank of questions, however, he cautions that the iClicker questions may be more superficial than what might be encountered in an exam.

In response to a question from Margo about pedagogical literature, Barb put forward that the selection of the tool and how it is used must enable students to engage with the material, other students and even the instructor. The technology should be intentionally integrated into a course design to maximize the “affordances” of the device in the context in which it is being used. For more on affordances read Donald Norman.

iClicker Pros:

  1. Enhance student engagement, especially in large classes.
  2. Put up a question in powerpoint, show the distribution of the class responses and discuss the answer.
  3. Use to probe a classes understanding of a topic before and after lecture.
  4. Can use to take opinion polls.
  5. Excellent tool for reviewing course material.
  6. Can use it to keep track of students.
  7. Feedback from iClicker answers can inform teaching by identifying gaps in learning.
  8. Can be used as system for in-class peer evaluation.

iClicker cons:

  1. Don’t use strictly as an attendance tool – students clue in, and they don’t like it.
  2. Students will swap iClickers, or forget them altogether, thus using them for graded assessments is not recommended.
  3. Its difficult to probe deep thinking with  iClickers as the format is limited to multiple choice style questions.
  4. It is hard to craft good questions which may provide students with a false sense of security if they perform well on iClicker quizzes.
  5. Don’t get to ’see the thinking’ of the students as they answer questions.
  6. Management issues, technology has to be brought in, set up, questions have to be written and delivered in lecture; these things take time.

What’s currently in the news on clickers in the classroom?

  1. Karl Weinman on Science Education Reform and the use of iClickers
  2. Selecting a standardized device for use across campuses.

Engaging Students with Social Media

As a chronic facebook user in my personal life, I (Nienke) have been trying to think of ways to include it in my classes as a teaching tool. Thus I was very happy when Nicole brought up the idea of using social media to enhance discussions in her courses.  Nicole uses WebCT discussion boards for her classes, however, students often leave logging-in to the last minute, which affects the quality of the discussion. Furthermore, the discussion in WebCT is asynchronous (using discussion threads) rather than synchronous (such as a live chat or text messaging). Since students often interact on Facebook, the login barrier is removed, and would ideally create a more natural discussion flow.

What would a facebook page for a class look like?

Caveats: Erasing the page at the end of each term is not as straightforward as a WebCT reset. If participation is being marked then each contribution would have to be tracked manually. Students may still be more interested in other pages than the course page. Discussion may still require careful management by instructor.

Resources to explore:

  1. Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom: Embracing the Benefits while Understanding the Risks (from Faculty Focus)
  2. Privacy Guide for Faculty Using 3rd Party Web Technology (Social Media) in Public Post Secondary Courses (second link from the top)