I have the unusual luxury of two whole weeks at the office before teaching begins and while I do have quite a few other things to do, I’m happy to have time to really think about how I want to teach this semester’s course.

Benedikte Irgens, who teaches Japanese here at UiB, linked on Facebook to this article about the use of clickers in teaching medicine at the University of Oslo. An immediate discussion broke out about whether or not clickers can be useful in teaching in the humanities, where we often want critical thinking and reflection rather than true/false answers, and so I remembered that Liz Lawley uses clickers, and she writes that

instead of using this for multiple-choice quizzing, I use this for things like “Choose Your Own Lecture,” in which students pick which path I take through the lecture material, or for polling the students on what they thought about a required reading or video, or for letting them vote on whether we should end class early on a beautiful day and go outside. It’s not perfect, but it’s a way to discourage passivity.

Next I found a whole book, by Derek Bruff, about creative ways of  using them precisely to foster classroom discussion and higher-order thinking. So now of course I want to try out clickers in the classroom, being a nut for trying out new and interesting teaching tricks. But I think not this semester.

Reading about clickers led me to another post on Derek Bruff’s blog about structured Twitter assignments, where he gives a couple of examples of ways teachers have used Twitter in teaching. It’s key, Bruff argues, that students have clear deliverables and aren’t just asked to Tweet whatever they feel like, and also that “student tweets are aggregated and analysed” and not just ignored. An examples is Mark Sample’s use of Storify to gather student tweets about watching Blade Runner, or using Poll Everywhere, as Corbette Doyle has done, to have students vote on which questions (previously posed on Twitter) should be addressed in an upcoming class.

I like the idea of requiring questions on the readings before class and gathering them somehow. Corbette Doyle used HootSuite, which seems to gather Tweets from your students and let you (and the students) easily read them. I’m not sure how much added value this really gives you in comparison to simply using a Twitter hash tag or a Facebook group for class discussions.

2 thoughts on “tools for teaching

  1. Catherine Shuler

    tools for teaching :: http://t.co/dDSg0SFp

  2. Derek Bruff

    Glad you like the book and the recent blog post. For more inspiration for using clickers in the humanities, you might check out some of my older posts on clickers and critical thinking: http://derekbruff.org/?tag=critical-thinking.

    Good luck with your refinements to your upcoming course. If you try out clickers or structured Twitter assignments, I’d be eager to hear about it.

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