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What Visual Aids Do You Use in Class?

I have often joked that my favorite week in school was the “using visual aids” week. When you go to college to be a teacher, using visual aids is one of the topics covered. I learned all about using visual aids in classrooms. Yeah, don’t laugh.

I use my eyeballs a lot and I like to touch things. So when a topic is being addressed I like to be able to touch it, or at least see it. Thank goodness for PowerPoint right? Does all that visual aid stuff for you right? Some colorful bulleted lists and maybe a picture or two and you got some kinda killer visual aids. Well, not really. Ask any student.

Some courses lean more towards easily accessible visual aids. Science courses for example. There are all kinds of cool things you can bring to class for science. Bones you find in your back yard, pretty flowers, or moldy bread. And the classrooms themselves are full of things to play with and touch. To smell and to get hurt using. Other courses, like psychology or advanced business courses may be more challenging. None the less, you can have fancy visual aids to help articulate and detail examples from the field of work you are studying in any course. It just takes some imagination. Easy Access / Easy Consumption - The Wall E Model I don’t teach English anymore. But when I did, I used serious visual aids sometimes. We usually call them “field trips.”  To me, they were just another visual aid that helped students better understand the multidimensional topics we covered. I had them draw the rock they saw in Bryce Canyon. I had them read about conservation in Yosemite. I used some big visual aids in my classrooms. 104_jpg   Now I do “teacher training” and I really can’t use the phrase “visual aids.” Sounds like I am talking about middle school right? But not really. I employ fancy colors, big pieces of paper, and sometimes old t-shirts to really bring a point home. Yeah, keep laughing. Sometimes, I use websites. But not store bought websites. My own websites. The difference there is like bringing store bought cookies to a party versus bring warm homemade cookies. You’re not laughing now, are you? And website are an interesting form of handout that can be shared many times over. Of course a website has limitations like anything digital. No smell. No texture. You can’t throw a website across the room or dance with it.
These visual aids can be employed in a variety of ways. You can use them in one on one conversations or in small groups. You could use them as rewards, or as ways to recognize outstanding performance. They could be online or held in a hand. They can be big or small. Fluffy or prickly. Smelly or cold.

What about visual aids in online classes? Well, you might just use the out-of-doors as a visual aid to help describe something.

What I enjoy the most is that time holding something that represents an actual artifact from the content being discussed. Then giving it to students to look at, to touch and feel. A tangible element to add dimension to the conversation. I know, I can think of a lot of examples for science or botany or anatomy. Even some for physics and math. But what about English? What about those times in psychology where you do role playing? Do you bring in hats and big horned rim glasses to help with the visual elements?

I have more questions about visual aids. Like is a guest speaker a visual aid? Is a field trip a visual aid? Is Skyping someone into the room a visual aid? Is asking another faculty’s class to come share some time with your class a visual aid?

Do visual aids make any difference? Learning is about making connections. Connections between ideas and things known and newly discovered. And these things are not just words in a bulleted list, they are often things that exist and can be touched. And that touching can be part of making connections more concrete. Because we remember what our senses encounter. And we sense the world with more than our eyeballs.

The 2016 UWB eLearning Summer Symposium: A Student Perspective

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Technology and education have close ties with one another, however, I believe it can be safe to say that technology seems to be utilized more to entertain, rather than to educate. The combination of the two has opened many doors to innovative ways of teaching to the generation of college students that interact with these gadgets and gizmos on a daily basis. I think it’s also safe to say that young adults of this generation love technology and social media. Students are constantly being exposed to a plethora of new games and apps that keep tech within their reach. With all these ‘lovely distractions’ threatening to forever hold the attention of our young minds, educators in higher education must find new ways  to integrate these ‘lovely distractions’ in a way that keeps students not only engaged, but actually building knowledge while in the learning space.

In July, I had the pleasure of being able to attend an event that took place at the University of Washington Bothell called the eLearning Summer Symposium. This event was focused on active learning strategies and ideas for creating more engaging learning spaces. There were several engaging presentations and opportunities for educators to share ideas with each other on topics ranging from tech tools, to active teaching and learning techniques, to OER (Open Educational Resources), and UDAL (Universal Design for Active Learning).

There were a two presentations that really stood out because of the utilization of technology and social media in a way the really engaged students.  The first presenter, Dr. Dan Bustillos, faculty in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, spoke about the importance of not only getting his students to learn about the mechanics of implementing health policy, but also that it was very important for students to experience the aftermath of putting policies in play and how it affects the overall situation. He explained that experience is gained by having to deal with making those tough decisions in the moment when the stressors are high and having to consider all cause and effect scenarios. Dr. Bustillos described that beyond just teaching these policies to his students there wasn’t really a vehicle in which he could simulate that experience to better engage his students. That led him to creating a game based course, which he built using an Excel worksheet. This game allows him to create simulations that put the players, aka students, in a position to decide amongst different strategies based on their coursework the best course of action for each stage of the game.  He claimed that this idea significantly increased student engagement because it was in the form of a game in which students are quite familiar with.

Another instructor, Dr. Jane Van Galen, faculty in the School of Educational Studies, integrates the use of Twitter into her classroom. Dr. Van Galen found it can be a valuable resource due to it being a sort of central hub of the Internet. Twitter connects policymakers, journalists, advocacy groups, professionals, and the general public in the same social space. She explained that Twitter users can share a variety of media including news, opinions, web links, and conversations in a publicly accessible space. She explained how the use of Twitter had several benefits in her classroom. She found that it draws students out into the ‘open’, ushering them into developing social networks for ongoing learning. She sees potential for connections beyond the classroom, and shared an example of how one of her student’s tweets was commented on by a well-known scholar, whose work the student had referenced in her original tweet. Dr. Van Galen also provided examples of how Twitter has the ability to amplify the student voice because tweets can be tagged by other groups or organizations. This ability to tag a tweet notifies members of the group or organization of the tweet and then notifies the potential thousands of individuals that follow that particular group or organization.  She found that engagement in her class skyrocketed when Twitter was used as vehicle for her class’s subject matter. From my perspective, a student perspective, these two presentations were the most exciting to witness because of the possible applications in other subjects.

Overall, it was a great time and I hope that these sort of events continue to take place. It is important that as we adapt to new technology we also adapt our ways of using and applying it not only just for entertainment purposes, but also to educate.

Half of Online Students Prefer this Route Over a Physical Campus.

A new study done by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research focused on students in online courses found that 50 percent of them would rather not attend classes on a physical campus.

The study was done in Spring of 2016 with 1,500 students who had either recently graduated, were currently enrolled or planned to enroll in the next year in a fully online higher education degree, certificate or license program; it found that while online courses were an only option for half of the students, 90 percent of them who had previously taken on-campus courses said that they preferred online courses or found them just as good.

According to Learning House’s Chief Academic Officer, David Clinefelter, 3.5 million students are working towards their degree online and that academic institution cannot afford to lose these students.

An important finding in this study is that most online students are unaware of the different pathways they can take during the college careers, such as micro-degrees or boot camps. They are more informed on the traditional college degree routes and templates, and only a third of the students were aware of the principles of competency-based education. Other findings include:

  • Among the factors that go into choosing an online route, tuition was found to be number one
  • The age for online students is decreasing as the average age for undergraduates this year was 29 for undergraduates and 33 for graduate students. That is done from 36 and 37 in 2014
  • About ¾ of students picked a school that had a physical campus within 100 miles of their home, with 32 percent of students stating that they planned on visiting the campus at least once a year, and 44 percent stating that they planned on visiting more frequently.
  • Computer science and IT has raised in popularity for graduate students with 20 percent choosing it – this drops education in the rankings, which dropped from 22 percent in 2014, to 14 percent this year.

For more information, please visit the full article here

Gamification Champions

Organization change theory believes there are individuals, “champions”, who push an organization past its comfort zone into new territory. Champions may be faced with a challenge that they don’t know how to solve, but will say, “We’ll figure it out”.

On college campuses, IT champions can help educators embrace gamification. Supports of gamification believe it offers just as many benefits for college students as K-12 students. Well-designed games boost student engagement, build critical thinking skills by requiring students to plan and strategize, and clarify abstract concepts that may be hard to grasp from reading and lecture alone. For students currently in an online course, gaming provides opportunities for collaboration and teamwork.

Despire these benefits, faculty who are new to gamification may be hesitant to jump in. Professors might ask questions about where to start or how to ensure games deliver educational benefit. This is an opportunity for IT professionals (campus champions) to identify potential academic partners.

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Partnership

Edwin Lindsay, a teaching assistant professor in North Carolina State University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, noticed students in his Introduction to Sports Management course lacked realistic expectations of future career paths. Lindsay partnered with NCU’s Distance Education & Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) to develop a gamification module. Lindsay and Stephen Bader, a business and technology applications specialist, created a Moodle plugin that lets students pursue one of 10 career paths by winning points within 14 skill sets. The game helps students identify skills they need to develop and related courses they can take to enhance those skills.

Linsay did not intentionally become a gamification champion, he eventually became one. His successful partnership with DELTA inspired gamification courses in NCSU’s horticulture department.

Champions Lead The Way

Champions help organizations thrive by understanding and sharing a vision: How have other institutions successfully brought gamification to the classroom? What benefits can it offer students in specific disciplines? How can a faculty/IT partnership pay off outside the classroom?

Champions are facilitators when colleagues are hesitant to embrace new technology, champions help them navigate unfamiliar territory. After faculty member or department rolls out gamification, champions help stakeholders extract lessons learned and help improve the process to make the transition easier.

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Engaged or Not?

The common view is to think of students as either engaged or not, however that is not the case. Fredricks writes, that it “can be short term and situation specific or long term and stable.” (Fredricks, et. al., p. 61) The Teaching Professor issued a newsletter, exploring the participation-engagement relationship. The two-study design with most of its eight hypotheses and three research questions confirming this conclusion: “oral participation is not a good indicator of engagement.” (Frymier and Houser, p. 99).

The research team indicated engagement as something they call “nonverbal attentiveness”. It is associated with behaviors, such as frequent eye contact, upright posture, seat location (closer to the front than the back), note taking, and positive facial expressions.

Most of the research focused on three aspects: behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, and cognitive engagement.

Behaviorally engaged students follow classroom rules and norms. Their behaviors demonstrate concentration and attention, by asking questions and contributing during discussions.

Emotional engagement reveals student attitudes toward learning. Attitudes can range from simply liking what they’re doing to deeply valuing the knowledge and skills they gain.

Cognitive engagement involves students wanting to understand something and being willing to go beyond what’s required in order to accomplish learning goals.

Yes, these parts of engagement work differently, but are “dynamically interrelated within the individual.” (Fredricks, et. al., p. 61) We need to also think about how engagement interacts with other aspects of learning, such as motivation and self-efficacy. We need to think about other aspects in order to help students succeed because engagement is an essential part of learning.

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