The LectureTools Blog

7 Ways to Use Technology for Collaborative Learning in Your Classroom

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, May 27, 2011

The benefits of collaborative learning are already well-documented. Here are 7 easy ways to use free Web 2.0 applications for collaborative learning in your classroom:


1. Use Google Docs for collaborative writing

collaborative writing googl

Google's Chromebook could greatly impact education, but the online giant already has a great cloud computing resource for collaborative writing: Google Docs. No longer must one student be burdened as the “recorder” for group assignments.

In Google Docs, everyone can see and make changes to the document in real-time in a web browser. A provided chat room and the ability to comment either on the document as a whole or on specific passages facilitate collaboration. Discussions and comments can be marked “resolved” to indicate group consensus. Google Docs is ideal for most collaborative writing and editing assignments.


2. Use YouTube as a platform for group video projects

youtube logoMany colleges let students check out equipment like microphones and video cameras. Take advantage of these resources and the easy upload process to assign an engaging group YouTube video project.

Without professional training, don’t expect a Ken Burns style documentary, but your students will be able to express creativity and collaborate as a group.


3. Compile course information with a wiki

why wiki for educationWikis are available from a variety of sources. Each student can create new and edit existing pages on the wiki. You can verify the editors on each page and what changes they have made using the page history.

Wikis require quality strategy, but are great for cross-linking relevant concepts. An English class that creates a wiki with pages for each book it reads, can grow with pages for main characters, key locations, and key dates to provide students with an immense understanding and knowledge of class texts.


4. Facilitate collaborative reading with eBooks

kindle annotationsAmazon now sells more eBooks for Kindle than it does hardcopies. Growing popularity of tablets and e-readers allow for a new collaborative learning activity: reading.

The Kindle allows users to share notable passages from books on Twitter and Facebook, leave public notes at specific points in the book, and can display what other readers have commonly highlighted in your book. Similarly, the Inkling application for iPad is designed to make interactive textbooks. Students can create a social “learning” network by following their peers’ notes to ask them questions or highlight important passages.


5. Live blog a major event with CoverItLive

liveblogLarge events become social and interactive with CoveritLive, a moderated chat and live blog application. Moderators can publish comments submitted by users, upload multimedia, embed photos, pose poll questions, and create newsflashes or scoreboards.

Comprehensive coverage of an event encourages viewers to participate and contribute ideas. For example, students from a public policy or education class could log onto a live blog during an educational reform speech by President Obama. Users could highlight key points, strengths, or weaknesses in the speech, but only “approved” comments are published. Moderators also pose anonymous poll questions about key points of the speech or embed relevant multimedia, dramatically engaging students in the event.


6. Center discussion around photos in Flickr

flickr yahoo logoFlickr allows users to upload their photos and share them with the world. Photos can be geo-tagged, added to specific groups, and tagged by keyword. Each photo has a unique comment stream to facilitate discussion.

An architecture class, for example, could have students upload photos of buildings on campus. The photographer could add location data and a short history of the building in the description. Other students could then add tags (like “Gothic,” “Neo-classical,” or “Doric columns”) and discuss the photos in the comments. The same idea applies to any class that analyzes visual elements.


7. Supplement classroom discussion or connect to the
“real world” on Twitter

logo twitterA US News article this week shed some light on innovative uses of Twitter in the classroom.

Students can use Twitter to learn from each other’s tweets, as well as interact in dynamic literary character roles. Business classes can connect with outside professionals through the social network. Regardless of how students are using Twitter, the site forces them to present their ideas in a concise manner and has the power to connect them with a network that stretches worldwide.

Have you used technology to foster collaborative learning in your classes? Tell us how in the comments.


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Topics: social media tools in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Educational Technology, Web Applications, Cloud Computing

Considerations for Adopting New Educational Technologies

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Thu, May 19, 2011

technology in the classroom

Whether you are an elementary school teacher in a 3rd grade classroom or a university professor facing a lecture of several hundred students, there are literally hundreds of educational technologies vying for your attention. With the recent push to integrate technology in the classroom, people are promoting the use of social media, eBooks, student response systems, and other new instructional technologies as a way to improve the classroom.

Many of these new gadgets and applications are flashy, attractive, and can create new opportunities for student learning. It is important, however, to carefully consider whether a given technology actually makes a positive impact on education, rather than simply adopting new instructional technology because it is “new” or “trendy.” Not every technology is right for every situation.


Classroom technology should be easy-to-use

Apple is widely known for designing intuitive interfaces with as few buttons as possible. When the Apple iPhone was released in 2007, one of my teachers became an early adopter. He proudly proclaimed that the new device was so intuitive that his toddler was able to use it.

Though technology in the classroom generally need not be simple enough for a toddler to use, it should be intuitive. True, any new technology will have a learning curve associated with it. If there is nothing new to learn, the product likely is not doing anything you were unable to do before.

The interface, however, should be intuitive for educational users. If the product’s design does not make sense to you as an instructor or to your students, chances are that insufficient input from educational users was incorporated into the product. This is an early red flag for any instructional technology, as a practical technology should be developed with end users rather than for them.


New tools should integrate with your teaching style and course curriculum

Even if a given instructional technology is easy-to-use and is designed to make a positive impact on student learning, it will not be right for every situation.

Google Docs works great for collaborative writing or assignments that require peer editing, but does not make much sense for students to compose individual work. Similarly, opening up a Q&A through a chat room might make sense for a huge lecture, but is unlikely to be a good use for a small discussion group of 10 students.

Before adopting any new technology, you should be comfortable using it with your particular class. Even if you stop lecturing to pose a question through clickers, for example, it should not break the flow of your class. Use technology at logical points of your class, where it can truly supplement your instruction.

If the technology does not affect teaching or learning, forget about it

Making use of instructional technology that has no impact on either teaching or learning is a lot like using sound effects whenever a new slide or bullet comes up during your PowerPoint presentation: it accomplishes nothing and will only serve to undermine student confidence.

Interactive lectures taught using clickers have been shown to improve student learning. Using technology to help facilitate problem-solving and classroom discussions can increase student engagement, attendance, and attentiveness.

With any technology, you must ensure its effective use impacts teaching or learning. If the new tool does not make a difference in student learning or engagement, ease-of-use and ability to integrate with your course’s flow are moot points.


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Topics: social media tools in education, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Educational Technology

Social Media Increases Student-Teacher Interaction and Credibility

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Wed, April 20, 2011

Personal tweets from professors have been found to increase their credibility with students.

Personal tweets found to increase credibility marks

A recent experiment by Kirsten A. Johnson, an assistant professor of communications at Elizabethtown College, revealed that students find professors that have personal tweets to be more credible. Credibility was determined by student ratings of three different fictional "professors" on Twitter in areas of competence, trustworthiness, and caring. One Twitter stream consisted entirely of personal tweets, another of entirely professional tweets, and the third of a mixture of personal and professional tweets.

"I think that students, particularly undergraduate students, want to make a connection with their professors that goes beyond knowledge," said Johnson.

The connection many students make with professors and teaching assistants over social media has become an easy way to increase student-teacher interaction.

The potential of social media

You don't have to look far to realize that we are in the midst of a social media revolution. Students already use these technologies in the classroom, though perhaps not always for educational purposes. At the same time, social media offers an unprecedented opportunity to share content, ideas, and knowledge.

Students can informally engage with material, connecting with both classmates and faculty on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and SlideShare. Even a superficial personal relationship could help engage students in a large lecture, where students typically never meet their instructor. Some who advocate the opportunity social media provides have dubbed the use of social networks for educational purposes "educational networking."

Adoring students have already created Facebook Pages for literary characters like Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby. Institutions like the Detroit Institute of Arts and the University of Michigan Museum of Art also use Facebook and Twitter to engage with fans, encourage discussion, and share information. These informal discussions range in complexity but all allow anyone to participate and engage with their ideas, whether they are using a laptop in class or surfing the Internet at home.

Social media and technology both in the classroom and at home present a golden opportunity to increase these kinds of interactions between students and educational experts, as well as facilitate peer instruction between students who join in such academic social media discussions.

Have you incorporated social media in your classes? If so, let us know in the comments.

Topics: social media tools in education, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, instructor interaction, educational networking