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Engaging Classroom Students In The Digital Age

By: David Wilson

, Mar 2, 2015

The new digital classroom model is showing the increasing role that technology is playing in current education.

Google “Digital Classroom” you’ll notice a growing presence of this in the South African market. Outcomes Based Education, adopted into the education market in the 1990’s has come and gone, with a digital trend now not just on our doorstep, but in our laps and in the palm of our hands.

Universities in the USA lable this new movement of learning as a “flipped classroom“, swapping out traditional classroom elements, such as lecturers, and replacing them with a group of problem discussions that allow for more interaction between students.

David Miller in an article on the Flipped Classroom states that

“Students are given a task and asked to work in teams in order to find the best answer. When working in a team, students get involved in debates that make them come up with good arguments, which is what a person needs to retain information. Getting students involved using debates and interactions are more efficient than forcing them to listen to an old lecture.”

Now there may be 5 steps to create the digital classroom, or 10 points to develop the perfect online lecture. These only problem is that these things take time, and people, often unaccustomed to change and weary of technology, need to feel comfortable before they can fully embrace the world of ones and zeros.

The University of Pretoria has adopted the use of RepsonseCards and QT devices in varying faculties, although they initially only started with a winter school program.  After achieving a high success rate, they adopted the use of clickers in the mainstream curriculum for the Genetics and Biology faculty.

Instead of asking a question and getting a grunt of a response, an active question with real answers is instantly available, and can be tested in a few ways.

Genetics lecturer Mrs Pamela de Waal, commented that sometimes when you do something for a long time, things become obvious to you, even though they may not be for the student who hasn’t been exposed to it for twenty years. Even with a small class, it may be difficult gauge what students do and don’t understand.

In many study units, the first study units lead on to others, so if you lose students in the first, they’ll be at a disadvantage for the rest of the semester.

“Immediate assessment in invaluable. You cannot go through a whole semester and only take a test at the end. If students expect to need to answer a question of the topic being spoken of during a lecture, their concentration is upped, and they actively engage in conversation. By just by pressing a button, the student can tell if they’re right or wrong. Whether they understand or do not.”

Again, David Miller states that

“Students are given a task and asked to work in teams in order to find the best answer. When working in a team, students get involved in debates that make them come up with good arguments, which is what a person needs to retain information. Getting students involved using debates and interactions are more efficient than forcing them to listen to an old lecture.”

These debates and questions can be during or at the end of a lecture, and can even have the feeling of a game show, seeing who gets the quickest correct answer, or quizzing the class before and after a topic to assess understanding and growth of knowledge. Mike Broderick, the CEO of Turning Technologies, quoted in the article “How Colleges Use Gaming Technology to Keep Students Engaged Inside and Outside the Classroom” by Jessica Kennedy, states that

“Ten years ago, gaming was probably thought of more as being in primary education, but in secondary, post-secondary today, more and more of this data coming out says you can engage in a competitive environment. You’re involving so much more of their attention and focus than a traditional classroom environment might.”

As much as it benefits the students, it is also indispensable for lecturers. Without the feedback given with the ResponseCard clicker devices, the lecturers are going in blind as to the engagement, understanding and retention of information.

David Miller states that this means professors should turn to more focused discussions that end with immediate feedback delivery using clickers. They can gather quiz responses and display the anonymous results on one of the screens displayed in the classrooms. Clickers allow students to think more about a certain material, and guarantee that all the discussions carried are based on real-world experiences.

Sources:

5 Reasons Why the Flipped Classroom Works in Higher Education – http://www.higheredtechdecisions.com/article/5_reasons_why_the_flipped_classroom_works_in_higher_education

How Colleges Use Gaming Technology to Keep Students Engaged Inside and Outside the Classroom – http://www.higheredtechdecisions.com/article/how_colleges_use_gaming_technology_to_keep_students_engaged_inside_and_outs

Clickers Case Study at the University of Pretoria – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66I3jV5iEF4

About the Author: David Wilson

Husband, Father, Entrepreneur, Event Professional and Problem Solver passionate about life, people, education, and South Africa. Most of my day is spent with the team at www.participate.co.za, I'm a silent partner to my wife's online retail business www.kidscargo.co.za and recently teamed up with Lisa Illingworth to launch Future_ProofSA teaching kids how to become entrepreneurs. I live in the wonderful city of Johannesburg and am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who I love.

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