Tag Archives: active learning

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A Space for Developing Historical Interests and Comprehension

As many of you already know, I am very interested in working on the subject of passive to active learning.  I overheard a young lady voice frustration around not understanding a class reading and bemoaning the idea of having to produce a lengthy writing around it.  I have since spent time reflecting on how to produce a tool that would visually aid students  to understand what they have read and potentially increase their desire to know more about historical events and human strife.

This exercise requires students to have read assignments before attempting to complete the exercise.  They should leave the exercise space prepared to begin writing around themes in the reading.

Utilizing a web app, students would be able to pose a question around a reading, construct keywords, and then recreate visually what they perceive is going on within a passage by placing  contemporary images in a grid that represents the action within the text.  Students would have the ability to rearrange the images in the grid.

For example, if the reading was about the French Revolution, students could focus their responses around other themes besides the main theme and use the keywords to help form contextual questions to help them populate the grid.  The option to add more rows to the grid would be available if students wanted to work in a larger space.

For instance, to answer the question why did the peasants revolt, students would be able to visually answer that question with the use of contemporary images to describe conditions around human hunger, greed, female suffrage or any of the other factors that figured in the politics of the day.  Having created the visual grid, students should be positioned to write with a better understanding of the various themes within the text.

A backchannel could also be made available that would allow other students to comment on the question posed in the main space.  Their discussions could be around other historical events that are similar to the topic in the main space.  This comparison is meant to help develop interest in and understanding of other historical events, either past or present.

Teachers could introduce this tool to students at the beginning of the semester, so that students gain familiarity before using the tool in their personal spaces.

Ayanna’s Project Ideas: Active Learning in Large Lectures

Hello All!

I’m late in posting, 1. because I missed our first class, and 2. I’m posting right before class so that no one feels that they have to write responses—it’s been great, a week with just reading! I hate to take that away from everyone.

I teach large format Biology courses, my main course is Anatomy and Physiology. In a good semester, I will have 230 students in my class, in a bad semester, 350+. We meet in lecture halls which seat 150 students at a time.

A challenge is to encourage active learning and class discussion in such a large course. Some students tend to dominate in class, others are shy and intimidated to speak up when responding to questions. Having class discussion groups is a nightmare due to stadium seating, and the noise level in a class of 150 can be intolerable.

We currently have “clicker” type software, using the students’ smartphones to respond to questions, but we can only use multiple choice questions. I would like to have the students complete clinical critical thinking problems instead, and to brainstorm with other members of the class, in a time efficient way, that would not require them to leave their seats.

Idea 1: Create a texting platform, similar to YikYak, which would allow the students within the lecture hall to create online discussions to the questions. The instructor would be able to see the contents of the chat as it is occurring. If the instructor presents multiple questions, we could find a method to divide the students into groups, and they would discuss their problems over the chat. The instructor could decide if the students would present their findings, or there could be a class-wide discussion following each chat session to talk about some of the comments. Unlike YikYak, the entire session would be captured for the instructor to later review if they like.

Idea 2: This is a fun little idea for my high school outreach summer program students. I will admit I got this idea in part from my husband, as Google visited his office the other day and brought goodies. Our department has a green initiative to reduce the amount of hazardous waste produced by our large format classes, so we have moved from dissections to virtual cadaver model programs–which requires students to purchase a code from a publisher to use. In our summer high-school outreach programs, they have an option to take a general bio or anatomy prep course, and it would be nice to provide students with this software option, but it is not cost-effective. If we could create a cadaver dissection app for these students, and add (this was my husband’s idea) Google Cardboard, to make it a virtual reality cadaver app, I think this would be a lot of fun and be a good learning tool for students at this level.