TLS Tips: Lowering the Stakes to Teaching with Technology

When I began teaching, incorporating active learning into my class plan was a big step. It meant that I may have to field unexpected questions, realize I didn’t have all the answers, and have to think on my feet.  [Sidenote: I think this is the perfect librarian job description].  It meant that I needed to let go of control and share the teaching responsibility with students to truly be more of a guide on the side.
So, if you’re just getting started with the idea of integrating active learning into your teaching, adding in technology may sound a bit overzealous. Anything and everything can go wrong with technology, right? Well, I’d like to share a few examples and techniques that may lower the stakes to using technology meaningfully as part of your pedagogical practice in different kinds of teaching environments and situations. I hope these examples will help illustrate how some of these tools could facilitate not only more active learning but also meaningful dialogue and teaching. And also, there’s a lot that can go right with technology, too!
Using GoogleDocs for Group Work and Collaborative Discussion
Previous TLS tips have name checked GoogleDocs or GoogleForms for integrating active learning. I’m going to go a little bit further in-depth to explain how I set this up and why I take my particular approach.
Most, if not all, of the learning outcomes I identify for UGS classes aim to discuss source evaluation. As Krystal mentioned in her previous TLS tip, I prefer to have the students do this exploration and discovery on their own in groups and then come together to share their experience. During the larger group discussion, I try reiterate the most important takeaways of source evaluation.
Here’s a few examples of GoogleDocs that I’ve used in the past to get students working in groups:
  • Exhibit 1 : Prof. Min Liu’s class
    About the class: 65 min total in a computer lab classroom in SZB. The students worked in groups for 15 min and then the report out took about 30 minutes, which was longer than I originally allotted for but the discussion was really fruitful.Document design: This is an openly editable GoogleDoc so students do not need to login to edit which means that there are FERPA fewer issues. I selected a topic based on the students assignments and then found a variety of sources that would enable us to cover multiple aspects of evaluation. I added the “final answer” of Read It, Skip It, or Cite It to help reinforce the idea that research is an iterative process and that background information can come in many different containers (not just Wiki/Encyclopedia articles). I link these documents to the class’s course guide (in this instance, this one) so they can find everything all in one place.How I use it:  As the students are working, I have each of the Docs opened in different browser tabs and toggle back and forth between them. I actually project their documents up on the screen so they know I’m paying attention; i think they also like to look and see how far other groups have gotten and that provides some motivation.  As I’m looking through, I note (mentally, digitally, or analog) which groups have covered a particular point I want to highlight as well as something that I want to discuss further with them. I make sure to start out with one thing they’ve done well since often students can be shy to share and talk about their work in front of the class.

    Changes: Over time I added “Whys” to some of these questions because I wanted the students to delve deeper into their answer. Additionally, this really helped our class discussion because I could see their thought process.

  • Exhibit 2, Form + Responses : Prof. Charumbira’s class
    About the class: 75 minutes total and this took up the entire class. The is the second of two classes I taught for Prof. Charumbira and this took up the entire class session.Document design:  Since we had already had one session about source evaluation, the second session was focused on getting the students to be able to understand the types of resources available to them.  Through assigning each group a different resource to find using tips from the course research guide, the students filled out the form with one student assigned as the recorder so there weren’t multiple entries for each group, a bit of difference from using the GoogleDoc for class activities.How I use it:  I circulate as students fill out the form; those that have identified their       source as a book are free to go into the stacks to retrieve the book (I make sure ahead of time it’s in PCL.) As in the exercise above, I pull up the Google Spreadsheet and check-in noting some of the points I’d like the group to discuss. In this activity in particular, I also ask the students to provide their feedback on the research process so we can also talk about that. This gives me an opportunity to see what I’ve missed covering and where I need to make changes for next year.

    Changes: I wanted to focus the students on a the questions and creating a GoogleForm over a GoogleDoc enabled me to do this. GoogleForms limit the participation, but I think it also sort of forces students to talk. In the future, I would also definitely think about asking students to fill out the form ahead of time, and then discuss their answers in groups or as a larger discussion if there wasn’t available technology in the classroom.

I hope this gives a little bit more insight into some of the ways that just one form of technology can be integrated into the classroom and can help facilitate discussion. Students are very familiar with the Google Suite of tools so hopefully using this tool won’t be as scary as some others.  If you are interested in creating something similar or have an idea about translating a paper activity into something digital, I’d love to hear about and/or help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>