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Two Great Techniques for the Flipped Classroom

In an article on Campus Technology Julie Schell, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at Austin, shares her favorite techniques for the flipped classroom.

One of the techniques that Julie talks about is just-in-time teaching, a technique for getting students to prepare before coming to class. With the students prepared before class, Julie uses the beginning of class to ask the students two “conceptual questions” about the material and one “feedback question.”

Julie uses the conceptual questions as a means to direct the thinking of the students, but says that the “secret sauce” is the feedback questions when she asks questions based on the student’s response to a conceptual question. By using this method Julie is able to get a sense of student misconceptions of the course content.

The other technique that is discussed in the article is peer-instruction. Developed at Harvard, peer-instruction follows a series of steps:

  1. The instructor gives a “mini lecture,” a brief introduction to a topic
  2. Students are asked a question related to the topic that expands their thinking
  3. Each student chooses an answer individually and moves into peer discussion to try to convince a fellow student of the rightness of his or her response
  4. The student responds to the same question again
  5. The correct answer is shared by the faculty member
  6. Students are invited to share why they chose the answer they did — right or wrong
  7. A longer explanation is provided

Julie insists that none of the steps can be skipped. Also, Julie says that students should discuss their answers with another student who disagrees with them. “You want a rich conversation, and to get that you need to create some dissonance.” She also states that students are more likely to come forward when they already know they are wrong, so she shares the correct answers with the students before she asks them to explain their thinking.

With these two techniques in hand, you’re already on your way to flipping your classroom.

Tips for Effectively Teaching with Your Multimedia Presentation

In a recent post on the SlideShare blog, Olivia Mitchell gave some helpful tips on giving an effective, informative presentation with slideshow tools. These days, there are may different tools available to create and present a slideshow– SlideShare, PowerPoint, and Prezi, to name a few big ones. However, some still struggle with creating an engaging, effective presentation that really gets across to their audience. Mitchell explains that a presentation works best if it combines g00d graphic design as well as good instructional design. In other words, the right combination of information and visual appeal presented in the correct way. Below are four specific tips she offers, to get you started with making any slideshow presentation better:

  1. “Use words and graphics” – it’s very important to use a good mix of text and graphics. The fact is, humans enjoy visuals. Don’t give a presentation full of text that you will at some point review orally anyways. Use a picture or graph to show information whenever you can. Of course, you shouldn’t just use graphics either. Give your audience a little text to guide them through points or present hard facts to them.
  2. “Don’t use pictures which aren’t 100% conceptually relevant” – when you use graphics that aren’t relevant to the presentation, you are sending your audience an invitation to get off track. Rather than paying attention to the information you are currently presenting, they’ll probably be more focused on figuring out what the image has to do with your slide’s content. Mitchell explains that “this tends to happen when you know you should add a picture but can’t find quite the right one – so you settle for something less”. Make sure the picture you choose is both relevant and visually interesting to help your audience digest information more smoothly.
  3. “Present words as audio rather than onscreen text” – depending on which slideshow tool you are using, you may have the option to add audio to your slides. According to the post, 64 percent of students found presentations that used graphics with audio more effective than presentations that used graphics with text. This is a great chance to add personality to your presentation, but it’s important you also cut down on the amount of text you put onscreen–you don’t want to give the audience too much information at once. Try using SlideCasts with SlideShare, or adding narration to your PowerPoint.
  4. “Use a ‘virtual coach'” – create a “host” for your presentation that the audience can be guided by. Keep your guide consistent, and check back with them after every group of slides or big points. Mitchell suggests that the presentation may feel more like a conversation to audience members this way.

Here is a great example of an effective text-and-visual presentation:

Chronicle of Higher Ed: Students Assess Their Professors’ Technology Skills

The Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed four tech-savvy students to get their viewpoint on how professors use technology in the classroom. More information about the interview can be found here.

Google Plus in the Classroom

In case you missed it, Google has announced that they will be releasing their own social networking site. The project, which is called Google+, is currently available on an invitation-only basis and is not yet available to the public. Still, many people have been able to try it and are saying Google+ could be a very useful tool in education.

A Wired Campus article by Jeff Young highlights the following key features on Google+, which may be beneficial to both students and faculty:

  • Google+ allows “selective sharing”, meaning that users can choose which circles of friends they would like to share specific content with. This feature could come in handy when professors would like to add their students as friends, but are concerned with respecting their privacy or personal lives.
  • Friend circles could also work as small group communication, possibly for class projects.
  • Google+ “hangouts” (casual video conferencing) can be used in place of office hours or face-to-face tutoring.
  • One assistant professor at UT Dallas even predicts that Google+ may be an alternative to the traditional LMS.

It’s hard to tell exactly what Google+ has in store for education. Since the social networking site is still in the developing stages, it may take some time before it’s widely used in the classroom. The site is expected to be released for public use on or before July 31st, 2011.

Lecture Capturing in the Courtroom

Campus Technology reported yesterday that the Villanova University School of Law has come up with a very interesting way to use lecture capturing. The school teamed up with Control Concepts and Creston to equip their practice courtrooms with lecture capturing software and several technology tools for use during students’ mock trials. To be exact: three video cameras, ceiling and bench microphones, two projection screens to show “evidence”, and an audio system that both levels out volume and assists people who are hard of hearing.

A recorded mock trial in action at Villanova, photo by Campus Technology

The previous set up for mock trial recording was one camera that recorded the student straight-on. After the mock trial, the professor would have to make DVD copies for each student.

However, the new set up allows whatever is taped to be recorded straight to a DVD. While recording, the professor operating has two views on a touch screen computer: On one side is what the camera is actually recording, and on the other is a preview of any of the other cameras’ views. This way, the professor can see what’s coming up before s/he records it. The additional cameras also allow several views of the student. This is especially important, as law students in particular work very hard on small actions in the courtroom–how they move around, their hand gestures, facial expressions, etc. The multiple views make it easy for them to see what they did well and what they need to work on.

Villanova’s system is a great example of thinking outside of the box with classroom technology. It’s important to remember that most technologies have multiple uses. As you can clearly see here, lecture capturing isn’t always just for capturing lectures.