Improving class discussions with polling tools: iClickers
Student response tools are effective at engaging students and starting in-class discussions.
Since students are asked to form a response to questions, they automatically become a participant. A good strategy for creating discussions is to ask students to respond to the results from the poll. Ask students to comment from each viewpoint. Starting a lecture off with a poll can also get students to start talking about class topics from the beginning. Spreading out polls can keep students engaged throughout a class or presentation. Even throwing in a fun poll in the middle of class can re-energize students.
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Whether you are using a blog, forum or just having students submit their writing on bCourses, assigning reading responses is a great way to improve the quality and quantity of class discussions. Posting questions on the readings for students can give them a hint about the next class topic and help them to start thinking critically about the readings before going to class.
By using digital tools, you can make it easier to track the learning of your students by having an online archive of their responses. Many tools make it easy to comment back to students so that you have to carry around fewer papers and students get feedback faster.
Engaging class discussions can be important for learning, but also can detract from the days agenda. Extending class discussions online can ensure that class time is used efficiently to cover everything in your teaching plan. Informing students that they can continue the discussion online is a great way to manage class time while ensuring that students have an opportunity to finish their discussion. Transitioning discussions from in-class to online will engage different students in your course. It can also push students to think more about course topics outside of the classroom.
Face-to-face discussions can be done with video conferencing tools. Inviting people into small group discussions or to speak with large audiences are possible with only a laptop and a web camera. Visiting speakers, or collaborators from around the world, can participate in discussions with your class using these tools.