Professors have resorted to coercion to get students to pay attention, using tactics like clickers, cold-calling, or counting participation as a percentage of the final grade. But, in the end, do you want to be the professor who has to manipulate your students, or do you want for students to want to be there and engage?
That’s why just as other areas in life need “hacking” – breaking an existing process to make it better – professors need to hack into the lecture format that’s been done for at least 100 years to build a dramatically different learning experience. The Flashcast Files blog is dedicated to “hacking” presentations, so here are 4 ways professors can do just that.
It’s commonly known that most students learn best when information is presented in a multi-modal fashion to accommodate different learning styles. But, walk into a typical college classroom, and you won’t miss the Power Point presentation dominating the stage.
There’s no exact science for what percentage of a lecture should be reading, presenting, imagery, discussion, and so forth – but there should be an attempt at a better mix. According to a study commissioned by Cisco: “Adding visuals to verbal (text and/or auditory) learning can result in significant gains in basic and higher-order learning.”
Try it: For your next lecture, build in 10-15 minutes that includes a teaching aid not found on a slide. Make it something that appeals to the sense of touch, sound, or taste. Maybe a song for historical context; a physical demonstration, object, or thing; a live experiment; or student role-playing. We know a professor who begins every class with a song. It’s a clear demarcation line between the time before class, and asking students to pay attention for the next 50 minutes.
There is plenty of evidence that the “wisdom of crowds” is powerful. Collective intelligence has been used to accurately predict elections, and companies are using it to signal “ground truth” ahead of major decisions. You too can build an experience into your lecture that enables every student to voice their opinion or judgement about a particular topic. Not only will it enable you to engage every person in the class while building students’ critical-thinking skills, it can also teach you a lot about what your students think, feel, and know.
Try it: Use Flashcast, a live predictive polling app that allows professors to gauge the collective knowledge of the classroom in real-time. Simply ask students to predict something related to your lecture, and they can use their phones or tablets to enter a probabilistic prediction (0-100% chance). You’ll get an aggregate crowd prediction you can show instantly, creating a new type of learning experience from which you can have a meaningful discussion.
Crowdsourcing in the public sector has unearthed amazing innovation. The Sydney Opera House was built from one of hundreds of designs crowdsourced from the public. You can incorporate crowdsourcing into your classroom by giving students an opportunity to “build their own adventure” as it relates to what gets covered in upcoming lectures. By soliciting new ideas for what to cover, you can make attending class more meaningful and memorable.
Try it: Take a portion of your lecture time and “democratize” it. Cultivate Ignite is a web-based app that supports the process of crowdsourcing and prioritizing ideas via crowdfunding. How it works: Have students submit their ideas in the application for say 15-minutes of lecture time. Then, give everyone on the platform “funds” in the form of time to invest toward the best ideas. You’d commit to covering any ideas for lectures that get fully funded by the students.
Even with all the different techniques we can use to mitigate the impact of the human attention span in the classroom, oftentimes the only thing that really works is a hard reset. Some researchers have found that students need breaks as often as every 15 minutes in order to maintain attentiveness.
Try it: Structure your lecture in 15-minute segments so that between each segment, you can fit in a short break for a video, questions, or even a student stretch break. Doing so will give your students the mental break they need so that when you’re talking, your lecture doesn’t fall on deaf ears.
By Vanessa Pineda and Ben Schachter
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