Technology can be a valuable tool in the classroom. It diversifies the presentation of material to students, increases the amount of material you can share with students, and creates opportunities for effective communication both in and outside of the classroom. This page explores strategies for incorporating technology into your course.
Teaching with Technology
At CTE, we believe that multimedia enhances your teaching experience and increases student learning. Classroom multimedia includes, for example, 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, KU's Learning Management System (LMS), 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.
CTE has compiled a list of links and sources for you to browse as you consider how to incorporate technology into your classroom. The Center for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) also released a list of the "Top 200 Tools for Learning in 2017," which you can explore by following this link. In addition, we encourage you to watch this Two-Minute Mentor video with KU faculty members Paul Atchley and Greg Freix, in which they discuss their own strategies for teaching with technology.
In Teaching with Technology, David Brown states that "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. Digitally recorded 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 encourage active learning and initiate interactive exchanges between instructors and students. As Jose Antonio Brown says in Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, "e-communication can help to bridge the power differential inherent in education." In his book, he outlines several strategies for how to implement e-communication with our students, especially for those of us who are interested in establishing multiple channels of communication (utilizing Twitter and Facebook groups, for example) with students:
- Establish in the syllabus how you will communicate. This should include your maximum e-mail response time and if you accept chat, Skype, Facebook friend, or other network requests. How to contact you is vastly more important to most students than your office hours.
- Limit the forms of communication. You probably do not need to do both Facebook chat and Skype. Don't try to do everything at once. Ask students for casual feedback after class, but stick to your plan for a while before you try different or multiple channels at once. Do not randomly change your mode of communication.
- Create a schedule for yourself, follow through for an entire semester, and then reevaluate. When is the best time or the best day of the week to announce new assignments or provide your feedback on the last test?
- Do not mix the personal and the professional. (This is also an excellent principle to model for your students.) If you are going to post summaries on Twitter, do not add a post on your new puppy. Keep your personal information on a personal channel, which can be another Twitter feed or Facebook or some other network.
- It is fine, and even useful, to employ multiple methods of communication as long as you are clear and consistent. You might, for example, let students know that email is used for announcements and information about the readings but that you will tweet study questions. You could just as easily reverse this, but be clear and consistent. Students are used to filtering (i.e., blocking) certain stimuli, so it is essential to let students know that information coming on their phone can affect their grade.
Technology can also assist communication inside the classroom. For example, an image or video clip can be used as a discussion starter. Classroom responses systems (CRS; also referred to as "clickers") can be used to initiate discussions: you can present a thought-provoking question that corresponds with the day's lecture material, along with several possible responses. Then, 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 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. We recommend that you create carefully worded questions, plan how CRS helps meet learning goals, and have flexible teaching plans so student feedback can influence a lecture's efficiency 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 firstname.lastname@example.org). Another great resource for information and advice on using clickers can be found in the Clicker Resource Guide.
Working in Groups
One way to expand on information discussed in class is the use of Blackboard discussion groups. You 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 and respond to their peers.
- Initiate a conversation on a topic not fully covered during class time.
- Have students post potential discussion questions for the next class.
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. 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.
For courses where you might have students working in teams over a long period of time, we suggest becoming familiar with the CATME system, which, according to their website, "is a system of secure, web-based tools that enable instructors to initiate best practices in managing student teams." With CATME, you can assign students to teams, incorporate self and peer evaluations, allow students to rank teamwork, and make meetings more effective. CTE's Doug Ward has written here about the benefits of CATME in Bloom's Sixth, the CTE Blog.
Leading discussions, as you can see from the above examples, requires us to maintain a balance between using our voices and encouraging students to use theirs.
Resources: Brown, D.G. (2000). Ed. Teaching with Technology. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company.
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 email@example.com.
KU Information Technology has developed a new model for technology support on campus. The Technology Support Center (TSC) model was created to provide better service to our customers, leverage the knowledge and skills of support teams and provide professional growth opportunities for support staff.
The TSC model is a hybrid between centralized and decentralized support models. This hybrid model is based on:
- Centrally managed support teams that are located in close proximity to the customers they serve
- A tiered structure that gives frontline support staff the ability to escalate particularly difficult service issues
- Shared decision-making between unit leader and KU IT to meet customer needs
In addition to the resources provided by TSC, you may also be interested in checking out the Technology for Teaching and Learning page, which contains a comprehensive inventory of the available tools in four broad categories--Performance and Evaluation, Collaboration and Communication, Content Management, and Audio/Video Production--to help you find the right tool to meet your needs.
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.
The Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center (EGARC) is an academic unit within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that seeks to promote the study of humanities through the use of technology and instructional media. In addition to housing an audio/video collection of over 13,000 items in 60 languages, the Center, located in 4070 Wescoe Hall, contains a 36-seat active learning classroom, two computer labs, a media-enhanced conference room, a soundproofed recording studio, and a learning commons designed to facilitate collaborative work. They have a wide variety of portable equipment available for checkout, and provide instructors with a materials development area that includes the latest in hardware and software. They also support grant and research projects that leverage technology for instructional purposes, particularly those projects that focus on the creation of Open Educational Resources.
- Digital Voice Recorders: perfect for recording oral tests in language classes or for conducting interviews at remote locations
- PowerPoint Presenters: these allow you to control any computer from up to 50 feet away, freeing you up to stand anywhere you wish in the classroom when making a presentation
- Transcription Foot Pedals: great for transcribing audio content, these foot pedals have three buttons that allow you to play/pause, rewind or fast forward through audio files using your foot, keeping both hands free to type at the keyboard.
- Computer and A/V Adapters: including dongles to connect Mac laptops to LCD projectors on campus (e.g., Mini DisplayPort to VGA, Mini DVI to DVI, 30-pin to VGA, HDMI to VGA), audio splitters, and miniAV to RCA cables to connect your video camera or iPod to a television.
- USB-Powered Microphones: can be used to improve voice and sound quality when recording audio or participating in a web conference (using Skype, Skype for Business, etc.)
- Webcams: these HD (720p) webcams can be used for web conferencing (e.g., Zoom, Blue Jeans, etc.) and for a variety of voice-recording activities or assignments.
- Laptops/Netbooks: four total for checkout, all of which come equipped with the Microsoft Office 2013 suite (including PowerPoint) and are configured to take advantage of the campus wireless network.
- WiDi Wireless Display Adapter: with this device, you will be able to mirror your screen to the external display without any cables or additional adapters.
- Tablets: EGARC has three Samsung tablets available for short-term instructor checkout.
- Mobile Projector: this ultra-portable mobile projector available from EGARC has VGA, HDMI, S-Video In and audio in/out ports and weighs just 2.6 lbs.
- Digital Camera: faculty and staff are also invited to edit digital images in EGARC's faculty work area, where they have Windows and Mac workstations with photo-editing software (e.g., Photoshop, Fireworks and InDesign).
- Digital Camcorder: all four digital camcorders save to SD cards, and the Center has USB SD card readers for instructors who prefer to transfer recorded content onto their own machines.
- Wireless Mics/Tripods: these wireless mics (that clip onto clothing) help ensure crisp, clear audio from a speaker as it drowns out ambient background noises. EGARC staff are also available to help instructors set up our equipment in EGARC facilities to record student presentations or teacher performance to be submitted for job applications.