Saturday, 26 July 2014

There is an app for that!

Everybody know that I like to talk about higher ed and tech together: flipped classroom, MOOCs and all that. The flipped classroom is in fashion on the Potch campus this semester, but I have always been worried about what to do in the classroom if the students did the reading, or watched the video and completed the online MCQs before they get to the class. The examples on the internet show that you can then use the time for Socratic discussion, class debates, more in-class cooperative learning etc, but those examples are hardly ever in classes of 200 and more.

Of course you can just try old school cajoling of students until they answer your questions, or put up the MCQs and get some answers by show of hands. It takes a special sort of enthusiasm to "work" with 200 people at a time.

Another solution to flipping a massive class (is it distance learning beyond the third row anyway?) is to add more tech to the ed. There are some cool examples of BYOD classrooms, screen sharing and many different student response systems. Unfortunately, none of them work in the underground bunker that I am teaching ECON121 in.

Until this week when I discovered plickers. It works like the show of hands or clickers system, but the in-class response the students use printed QR-like codes.

  • We did elasticity this week - they have a textbook, study guide and some video's explaining it. I then recapped a few key points and showed a few examples.
  • Then we practice the calculation and interpretation. The multiple choice questions are up on the PPTs.
  • The students get the printed code that shows options A through D.
  • When they are ready to answer they show the code and I scan them with my smart phone's camera.
  • Then I add a bit more explanation and those that have questions ask.
And it worked really well. They enjoyed the novelty and the scanning is quick. On my phone I see the following after each question: Question 4 had options A through to D. You can type up the whole question but I did not bother. You cannot add you options, only which one is the correct option - in this case B. Here 14 students answered the question correctly, choosing option B. Only 2 chose A and 1 chose C. You can also see the number of the response card and the option that they chose. Here, number 9 was incorrect with option A.

In my class of 200+ this could work nicely for checking group participation. If I assign students to groups and I know who is group number 9 or 16 or 12, I know that they missed this bit of the work. In small groups every student can have their own card and participation can easily be linked back to their other marks.

It is clickers made simple. You can read more about the use of clickers here, or just Google "using clickers in class". There are loads of resources out there.

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