TLS TIP: Stray observations/tips on using our new Learning Labs

I will start by saying that so far, I LOVE teaching in the new Learning Labs. I was a bit apprehensive coming into the semester without much time to practice using the new technology (I have, at times, been accused of over-preparing) but my first few sessions pretty much got me past that fear. I’m working on transitioning a lot of my old session outlines into more interactive, student-centered formats, but admittedly, I have a way to go.  Since we’re all busy at this time of the year, I’ll make this post short and sweet and share a few stray observations and suggestions I have in regards to our Learning Labs

1) Use the group structure to your advantage

As admitted above, I haven’t yet infused active learning into my teaching as thoroughly as I’d like to. Despite this, I’ve still noticed that the students seem much more relaxed sitting down at group tables with their own devices (as an aside, I’ve started asking faculty members to have their students bring them, and placing a laptop cart in the room for anyone who forgot) than they did in rows with immoveable laptops. When I ask them to work in a group, they seem primed to do so. I’ve also observed that having them do group work activities, like coming up with evaluation criteria by looking at a website, that make use of on the closest flat screen tends to help with engagement. Whereas previously, students would often default to looking at their own computer and have to be prodded to talk in a small group, the shared space and technology seems to invite discussion. Directing students complete tasks as a small group, then report back to the big group, is a fairly easy entree into using the student-controlled screen capability. I recommend trying it out!

2) Minimize distraction

Grace and I co-taught a class in Learning Lab 2, and set the room up so that the instructor laptop connected to the overhead projector, and individual student groups connected to the flatscreens. This was great during group work, but I found myself getting distracted by students following along on the screens while Grace showed them databases. Easy fix! From now on, I will make sure that anytime groupwork is not being done, I will either freeze student panels, or send the instructor laptop to all panels.

3) Mix it up and capture results

I’ve also made use of the whiteboards throughout the room, having students answer questions or brainstorm on them. I like that this gets them moving around a little, but I lamented to Sarah that I couldn’t capture their work for assessment this way. She great idea of using my iPad to snap photos of the whiteboards for assessment. Why didn’t I think of that? Remember that you don’t have to incorporate all of the technology into every activity. I prefer to mix it up a little.
I know that y’all have ideas and observations of your own by now, and we’d love to hear how you’re adjusting to the Learning Labs, too! As always, let us know if you have questions or ideas.

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