Written by David Christianson
Active learning isn’t about fun. It’s about engagement. It’s about doing something with information beyond intake and producing output. It’s about producing output right now, in the moment, and not waiting for a paper due in two weeks or a test on Thursday. Students are great at active learning, but they need instructors to provide the opportunity and a direction for it. Here are two activities to produce active learning in your class.
Name: Poll Everywhere
Who: Whole Class
Time: 2-3 minutes
Process: Poll Everywhere is a live polling website for presenters, also known as an audience response system. Free for up to 40 responses, instructors can make unlimited polls using even the free account. Responses can be represented in a number of visual ways, including bar graphs and word clouds. Questions can be open ended or multiple choice. Students or workshop participants can either send their response as a text message or use the website to answer, making this activity friendly for anyone with a mobile device. Houston Heflin, Assistant Professor of Bible, Missions, and Ministry uses Poll Everywhere to make formative assessments and get students actively involved in the lesson.
Purpose: Electronic audience response systems have been shown to improve student learning (Good, 2013). Eric Mazur, celebrated Harvard Physics professor, uses them for formative assessments in his classes. When students indicate they do not have a firm grasp of the the content being addressed, he uses peer learning activities to supplement the lecture. Peer learning can be helpful because, “The better you know something, the more difficult it becomes to teach because you’re no longer aware of the conceptual difficulties of the beginning learner.” Using Poll Everywhere to gauge your students’ understanding will allow you to know, before the test, if some sort of intervention is needed.”
Good, Karly C. “Audience Response Systems in higher education courses: A critical review of the literature.” INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY (2013): 19.
UMBC.edu [UMBCtube]. (2009, November 12) Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/WwslBPj8GgI