“Could you all please grab your smartphone and.. turn it on?”

Eight bachelor students, that are always secretly hiding their smartphones below the table, are staring at me while I am saying this. They seem to be completely surprised. Slowly they start to search in their backpacks and the side pockets of their hoodies to take out their iPhones and Samsungs. 

 

The first question that was asked to me during my job interview to become a teacher in higher professional education was: “when all of your students are busy chatting on WhatsApp, what would you do to get their attention?” My answer: "let them use their smartphones during class!”

After having educated students of various ages, I am convinced that this is still the one and only way to change downloads, chatting and webshopscrolling into class engagement. A great tool to get more interaction with your students is the PresentersWall . With this web-based tool, students can participate in class votings and discussions with the use of their smartphones. Even the shy student, that is not familiar with raising his hand, will be able to give his opinion this way.

As a teacher, I often use tools such as PresentersWall for several purposes:

 

Towards the exams
“You can’t really teach a kid anything: You can only show him the way and motivate him to learn it himself.” (Dave Cullen, Columbine)

Even in the year 2014, it is a trend to start studying just a couple of days before the exam. Somehow, students only feel the urge to start studying at that last-minute moment. In order to check the knowledge level of the students, I usually organise a quiz in one of the last classes. Students can vote on multiple choice questions, using their smartphone. The results appear directly on-screen, so everyone can see how many students chose the correct answer. Sometimes these results can have an eye-opening effect. For example, when 70% picked the wrong answer, while the topic seemed so damn simple. This will motivate students to start studying a (tiny) bit earlier.

 

  • Let them think for themselves 

“I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” (Albert Einstein)Albert Einstein

 

In every class, whether the theme is marketing or law, important topics are being discussed. As a teacher you would like students to start thinking about these topics spontaneously. I like it when my students start discussions about the theory by themselves, in order to form their
opinion.
A way to let them discuss interactively, is to have them vote on statements. This way, every student is being asked to form an opinion and to bring in arguments. This moment is perfect for you as a teacher to ask your students three simple (but very important) questions; who,
where and why? 

 

  • Some food for thought

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.” (Peter F. Drucker)

 

No matter how good you prepare as a teacher, afterwards you will always think of something you could’ve done differently. However, instead of guessing what you should change the next time, you cab better ask your students. They are the experts and they are your customers. For this reason I like to ask my students a couple of questions using the PresentersWall, regarding points of improvement for my lectures. This way it is easy to collect lots of tips, tricks and experiences in a
short time span. Students can provide you with feedback on your classes while they stay completely anonymous. Save your feedback by clicking a simple button and reflect on your classes, this allows you as a teacher to improve your teaching skills!

Are these methods and goals innovative? No, of course not! Voting on statements and answering questions are ancient techniques, that have been applied during lectures for a very long time. But, modern tools such as the PresentersWall make it a lot easier and faster to continue using these techniques in our modern education system. In addition, students are allowed to use their smartphone in class. This might be new to them, but they will get used to it very quickly. Trust me!

 

Written by: Inge van der Heijden, Avans Hogeschool Breda.

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