As an academic, my biggest worries often centred around how I could engage my students more deeply in my lessons and integrate technology more effectively. Whilst I was aware of the term ‘active learning’, I sometimes resisted experimenting in my classroom because I was worried that active learning and technology use came with too many risks. Would all of my students participate in a discussion? Would they have the higher-order thinking skills needed to contribute in class? Would I still have the time to be able to teach sufficient content?
Active learning is an approach to teaching in which student participation and engagement with the learning process is emphasised. Once I practically employed active learning strategies such as collaborative note-taking and back-channeling in my lessons, I realised that my worries were unfounded. In fact, courtesy of technology, I could clearly delineate before, during and after class activities, manage my time better, and enhance my content presentation.
Whilst the concept is simple, engaging students in a lesson using technology, such as discussion and polling tools in Canvas, Google Docs or Groups on Social Media, is not always easy. This is, firstly, because the technology could disrupt the flow of the class and disengage students from learning unless teachers are fully aware of the objectives of their lessons, how and when technology is used, and how to keep students focused when using the required technology. Secondly, not all academics in higher education have been trained in teaching. Therefore, despite having expert knowledge of their subject’s content, they may struggle to present such knowledge to students in ways that engage and maximise learning. Thirdly, technology is evolving at a rapid pace. The result is that busy academics may not have time to continually acquaint themselves with the latest tech developments and tools.
Introducing: Approaches for Teaching with Technologies
The learning design team at the LX.lab are fully aware of these challenges. Therefore, we have worked hard to develop activities and design ideas that academics can adapt to their context to promote active learning through effective use of technology. Instead of focusing on technical skills, they link the resources for the perusal of academics – in this sense, they bridge the gap between research, teaching and technology use in the classroom. They also inform you whether these activities and the product of them are reusable, plus the time that you require to set up and use.
Reaching students remotely in an online environment
Our first release in a series of these resources is a carefully curated collection that can be used in an online learning environment, so we have linked it to the Remote Teaching Toolkit. We hope that these ideas can inspire you and give you some practical ideas for how to engage your students, wherever they are. Future batches of these will focus the lens on blended learning and face-to-face interactions – watch this space!