I am fortunate enough to work in an open plan office and regularly hear the inspirational words of the staff from ACDEV, working with lecturers to unpick their true learning intentions and ways to engage learners. The range of ideas and enthusiasm given within the discussion makes me want to don my teaching cap again but it also makes me reflect on my past experience of 10 years teaching in Primary Education.
A common question we have from lecturers is how can I use technology to engage my students more. I think this could be reworded as how can technology enable further
learning to take place. The pedagogic ideas need to be there in the first place and this idea that technology is a magic wand needs to be dispelled (pardon the pun!).
Primary education – students with short attention spans, sound familiar?
Within Primary Education there is the traditional approach of starter and introduction (normally on the carpet), activity and then a plenary at the end. This is a very simplistic structure and there are plenty of variances but I want to focus on the carpet time element. There was an urban myth of sorts that children can only concentrate and focus on the carpet for the number of minutes of their age. So in a lot of my cases, that was 4-5 minutes to get my main message across about what I wanted them to learn in the lesson. Now I am not for one suggesting 20 minute lectures but are university students that much different to primary school children? We try to promote within content capture sessions to do small bitesize recordings as they are the most viewed and well received. It made me think outside the box and get my class up and moving, or taking them outside. Quite often we would play games and children would not realise they are learning, they were hooked.
Hooking them in with technology
While this is impractical in HE due to the layout of teaching spaces around the university, another means is to use technology. I was fortunate enough to meet the late Tim Rylands. He was a truly inspirational educator who won many plaudits for pioneering gamification. I wanted to share the clip below, to highlight not the actual technology used (the clip is 5 years old) but the creative thinking behind it.
The current flowing throughout is to engage and motivate learners and while children of primary age are perhaps a more wide and open audience, the premise is still valid in HE.
Our department offers an ‘Enhancing Lectures’ training session which has this very ethos at heart. Using a student engagement platform such as Nearpod allows students to be co-contributors to the events unfolding within their lecture. Their input is used and valued and they become active stakeholders in the success of the learning experience.
Do we promote this sort of practice enough?
Stand and Deliver may be an iconic 80’s track and may get a nostalgic airing in a club night but may not be to the liking of the modern day student. Why then should we expect the old fashioned delivery method of standing at the front of the lecture theater and imparting knowledge to be any different? I believe we need to reflect on our own pedagogic practices and survey the ever expanding landscape of technology to engage students further.
These are uncertain times and whether it’s the Moodle and Technology Conference within the Science and Health faculty on our return to campus or the Online Teaching and Learning festival in July, these provide academics with plenty of ideas and stimuli. Perhaps the greatest learning progression starts not with the student but the educators themselves.