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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.

Virtual History

When we think about studying history in school, it often involves reading a long boring textbook. However in Marc Perry’s article he highlights a new form of teaching history. Perry interviewed Claudio Saunt, a professor at the University of Georgia, and Stephen Berry, who both founded the U. of Georgia’s Center for Virtual History. Mr. Saunt and Mr. Berry have created websites that show pictures, videos, documentaries, and many more virtual representations from history.

For example, Mr. Saunt’s map, “The Invasion of America,”goes beyond a class lecture or a regular book. The map creates a visual representation of how the United States captured 1.5 billion acres from indigenous people between 1776 and 1887. You can click on the timeline to see the United States slowly change each state’s color representing the captured land. Since the website released, “The Invasion of America” has attracted more than 90,000 viewers on this website alone. A YouTube video about the invasion was created as well and has received over 95,000 views.



Picture by: Hastiin Tilden

With the mass audience received from ‘The Invasion of America” Mr. Saunt proposed to collaborate with Mr. Berry to create another website called IndianNation. Mr. Saunt refers to it as a historical “Facebook of the dead.” In this website you can click anywhere in the United States and Alaska and it will show you which tribes where and are actively present. You can also search different people by gender and location. When you click on a tribe you can see pictures, videos, and documentaries about them. I clicked on a few tribes located in Eastern Washington, but no pictures or documentaries have been submitted yet. It might be because Mr. Saunt and Mr. Berry want the community of descendants and students to help by having actual tribe members share their stories, photos, and letters documenting the lives of its members.

There are some barriers to teaching and writing in new ways for historians. For example, they are encouraged to publish traditional books and articles. However, with the technology, historians will be able to inform so many more people. The number of viewers show how much of an impact teaching through technology can have, which is something historians and other educators should take into consideration.

Welcome to the future of collaborative learning with technology

The future of classroom learning is here…

rsz_adaptive_learning_dsc_0006 (Photo by Sandra Leander) (https://asunews.asu.edu/20130923-online-learning)



How do professors approach both learning and working with new software? Do they dive right in and begin training hands on? Does the technology help or hinder the students’ ability to learn? These are just a couple of questions tackled in John K. Waters’ article titled The Great Adaptive Learning Experiment.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Arizona State University’s Dale Johnson conducted research on technology based adaptive learning within Arizona State’s teaching department. This involved teaming up with a tech company known as Knewton, which runs an online math assessment program. The Knewton program in tandem with the teacher’s lesson plans allowed for the development of math skills tailored to the students’ needs. In fact, according to Waters Knewton “provided instructors with real-time reports that allowed them to detect gaps in knowledge, create adaptive study plans for each student and focus lessons around concepts where students need the most help” (Waters 2).

There are benefits seen outside of the classroom as well, particularly on the university’s wallet. During the time this program was in place ASU increased pass rates by 18% and dropped student withdrawals by 47%, for an overall savings of 12 million dollars in what would have been lost tuition. While 12 million is quite an astounding number it’s important to realize that while this program does seem beneficial for the student, the teacher and the university there may have been other factors that helped boost the pass rates and lowered student withdrawals. One cannot assume that these numbers are solely due to the Knewton program and the teachers who designed their lessons around it. With that said due to this project classroom learning may be evolving into a more hybrid classroom learning environment which may or may not prove as beneficial as the Great Adaptive Learning Experiment. Only time will tell.

Why We are Looking at the ‘Value’ of College All Wrong

It’s no secret that higher education is expensive. It’s also no secret that higher education is important. It’s drilled into the heads of children from the time they enter the public school system that their main goal should be to attend a college or university. But as the economy continues to struggle, many people speculate as to the value of their investment in higher education when they graduate deep into debt and are unable to find a job. They paid a great deal of money in order to make a great deal of money, but for some their investment never returns.

Never in history has knowledge been so accessible. We are never more than thirty seconds away from an abundance of information since new digital technologies have transformed society for young generations. Some can speculate as to the point of spending thousands of dollars to sit in a classroom and learn something they could easily learn from their couch on their phone. Why should they go into debt over this? St. John’s College President Christopher Nelson has the answer to this question in his article on the Washington Post Blog.



The answer is simple: Universities should not be promoting the transfer of information, but rather the maturation of the student attending. That is the true point of attending a university. Anyone can learn anything, but the ability to apply that learning and use it independently is what you take away from your four—or five or six—years in college. This theory comes from St. John’s College President Christopher B. Nelson.

Nelson believes that by removing the economic lens from our outlook on a college education we can see the true ‘value’ of our investment. We can better ourselves and our ability to interpret and gather information through attending college, through working with caring teachers, through participating in extracurricular activities, through applying our knowledge in an internship, through working on long-term projects. College has so many more benefits than monetary ones, and as a society we should start acknowledging them.

For more information on this subject visit the link above.

Engaging A New Generation Of Students

Not another essay! Essays are the most common way for teachers to test if their students understand the concepts that they have been learning. With essays being the most common assignment, you could imagine how dull and boring it can get for students. Luckily with new technology and the use of Online Learning, teachers are starting to explore different ways of engaging with students.


By: algogenius

Take for instance, Linda Watts from the University of Washington who taught a course titled “The Beholding ‘I’: Social Observation as Contemplative Practice in the Helping Professions,” she was hesitant to teach this course via an Online Learning Institute at UW Bothell because she believed that the content relied heavily on face-to-face interactions. Watts was featured on the UW website under the Center For Teaching and Learning, for a short essay that she wrote, titled Mindfulness in Higher Education, in which she explains her experience teaching a course using online learning.

Online Learning, in its elimination of the face-to-face interactions, requires a different approach than a regular lecture based approach. How do you engage with students online and increase participation?

In her short essay, Watts explains how she used the Online Learning as an opportunity to try new things. In her efforts to “engage class members in exploring and contributing to the literary and journalistic documentary tradition of social observation”, Watts designed her assignments around promoting skills for helping professionals. Watts lists some of the assignments and skills in her short essay: dispositions associated with mindful practice, acuity of vision as relevant to mindful practice, relational abilities associated with the helping professions, familiarity of techniques associated with mindful practice, awareness of methods for self care in the helping professions. She lists photography, meditation, and guided visualization as possible assignments- don’t they sound better than writing an essay?

With Online Learning, the pathway through education is opening up and providing students more opportunities to challenge themselves and expand their thinking while gaining important skills. Looking to Watts as an example, it is also offering teachers the opportunity to explore other more engaging teaching methods. This sounds exactly like what going to school is supposed to be; we’re working collaboratively to learn critical information and we’re actually enjoying it.

So what do we say as students? Stop relying on only essays and explore creative ways to engage us in exploring and actively contributing in your course by using something that we know so well – technology.  What are you waiting for?