Building KU's Teaching and Learning Community

Using Technology

student and professor working at a computerIn Class

The use of technology in the classroom can enhance student learning by increasing the exposure that students get to material, as well as diversifying the formats of this exposure. Technology provides the teacher with more ways in which to present material and aid student learning (e.g. aural, visual, demonstrations, applications). David Brown states, “The computer assists professors in their delivery of the picture that is worth a thousand words, of sound accompanying text, of attention-grabbing animation.” A PowerPoint presentation of a lecture’s outline can help students see where the class is going and how to organize their notes. Videotaped demonstrations can be used when in-class demonstrations are not feasible, or when presenting the information to a large class that would have difficulty seeing an in-person presentation. Images or videos can be presented to reinforce lecture material.

Technology can also be used in class to not only vary formats of presented information, but also to encourage active learning and initiate interactive exchanges between students and between the professor and the class. For example, an image or video clip can be used as a discussion starter. Clickers can be used to initiate discussions: Present a thought-provoking question that corresponds with the day’s lecture material, as well as several possible responses. Ask students to use their clickers to select which response they most agree with. Use this information as the platform to start a discussion.

Clickers can also be used to implement in-class quizzes, take a poll of student opinions or understanding, and record attendance. One suggestion is to take a break in the middle of class to gage student comprehension of the material covered so far. Ask a question that would require student understanding to correctly answer, and have the students respond using their clickers. In this way, teachers can gain immediate feedback on the current level of student comprehension of the material, and shape the direction of the rest of the class accordingly. However you use technology in the classroom, ensure that students understand how they will be graded for their responses.

Outside of class

There are several ways to use technology outside of class to help you achieve course goals. One way to expand on information discussed in class is the use of Blackboard discussion groups. Teachers can use these groups to disseminate class information or to establish an arena in which students interact with one another about various topics or class activities. There are a number of ways to stimulate online discussions:

  • Ask students to post their responses to a selected reading or homework problem.
  • Initiate a conversation on a topic not fully covered during class time.
  • Have students post potential discussion questions for the next class.

As with in-class discussions, be sure students know how their contributions will be evaluated and graded.

Another way to deepen and assess student learning outside of class is to use online quizzes. These can be created on Blackboard, and questions could address in-class material or outside reading assignments. Making the completion of online quizzes worth points in the class will likely increase class participation, and requiring completion of online quizzes over reading assignments before class will increase the number of students who do the readings prior to class. Moreover, online quizzes can be set up in such a way that students can take them multiple times, thus gaining practice working with material and increasing understanding.

Resources:

Brown, D.G. (2000). Ed. Teaching with Technology. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company.


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professor lecturing during classMaximizing Technology

Multimedia options

Multimedia can enhance your teaching experience and students’ learning. Classroom multimedia could include PowerPoint, Camtasia screen and audio recording, digital recording, animations, student voting machines, document projection systems, transparencies, film, filmstrips and whiteboards. Digital multimedia can be stored in Blackboard, a student/instructor Web-based interface for e-mail, asynchronous discussion groups, digital whiteboard, file exchange and storage, scores and grades, blogging, and online testing with secure exam.

Clickers

Classroom responses systems (CRS; also referred to as “clickers”) can be an effective tool for instruction, particularly in large classes. Clickers are individual, hand-held units that use infrared or radio frequencies to transmit responses to a receiver. After an instructor poses a question, students use clickers to answer it. Computer software then generates a histogram for displaying the responses to the class. CRS primarily improve learning outcomes by increasing active participation via individual student responses or peer interaction, by allowing students to answer anonymous questions that help jumpstart discussions on difficult topics, by providing feedback to teachers about how much material students are retaining so that lectures and class activities can be adjusted, and by giving students an idea of how their understanding of the material compares to their classmates. Teachers can also use clickers for mid-semester evaluations of the class as a whole. However, technology alone doesn’t enhance learning: Instructors need to plan how CRS can help meet learning goals, create carefully worded questions, and have flexible teaching plans so student feedback can influence a lecture’s rate and direction.

When used wisely and creatively, CRS provide many benefits to instructors and students, including engaging students, catalyzing class discussion, monitoring attendance, evaluating student mastery of concepts, adapting lectures in response to student understanding, increasing peer interaction and instruction, assessing student learning from assigned homework, and test preparation. Common challenges are these: Students may resist paying for their individual clickers; instructors must manage technical difficulties; guidelines for lost, broken or forgotten clickers must be established; both students and instructors will experience a steep learning curve for using clicker software; instructors must help students change expectations (they’re no longer anonymous in a large class!); less material will be covered in class; and clicker efficacy depends on the quality of questions instructors ask. Most challenges can be minimized by planning ahead. If you plan to use CRS, contact IT (864-8080 or itcsc@ku.edu). Another great resource for information and advice on using clickers can be found in the Clicker Resource Guide.


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professor discussing teaching practices with colleaguesKU Technology Resources

KU provides a number of different resources for faculty and instructional staff interested in integrating technology into the classroom:

Information Technology provides hands-on training and assistance with various classroom technology resources, such as Blackboard. And faculty can use IT equipment for scanning, digital video editing, CD-ROM production, and digital photography. Go to the IT page for information on upcoming workshops or contact them at itcsc@ku.edu.

Library Instructional Services offers instructor-led workshops on computing and information literacy topics, customized classes for KU courses and other groups, consulting services for individuals, and resources for instructors and learners. Go to the Libraries site for information on upcoming workshops or contact them using their Ask a Librarian tool.

Blackboard Learn provides training for faculty interested integrating Blackboard into the classroom. Contact them at 864-2600 or blackboardsupport@ku.edu.


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