BYOD Alternatives for Classroom Polling

Digital alternatives for classroom polls and quizzes
During the course of a lesson in an active learning environment, instructors may want to conduct some type of classroom poll, which can get complicated in a BYOD (“bring your own device”) environment. Fortunately, there are several options available that allow students to participate in classroom polls while using their own laptop or tablet, or even a phone.

  • Kahoot – The company boasts commitment to keeping the product free, so responses are free up to 1000 participants. Additionally, results are exportable to Google Drive.
  • Poll Everywhere – Students can simply text responses using their phone. Instructors receive up to 40 free responses and one year student access is $14.
  • i>clicker REEF –  While this service requires students to bring their own remote, there is a 2 week free trial offered and students can obtain an access code for $15.99 that tracks their quiz answers for a year.
  • Audience Opinion – This is a simple app and is free up to 75 responses to professors with an “edu” email account.
  • Direct Poll – Easy to use and free up to 500 responses, this one is a great pick for large lectures.

Depending on the needs of the class and instructor, there is sure to be a choice that will seamlessly incorporate BYOD polling into the curriculum.
(Source: University of Delaware)

Open Source College Textbooks Going Mainstream?

Are open source textbooks becoming more widely accepted?
One frequent headache for the average college student is dealing with textbooks. They’re expensive, used copies in decent condition can be hard to find, and textbook companies frequently come out with “new” editions that are minimally revised versions of the previous edition.
But an initiative out of Houston-based Rice University could help change that. OpenStax is on a mission to provide openly licensed college textbooks, many of which allow for open contributions from academics. After launching their first textbook in 2012, they have expanded to more than 20 different books. In August, they formed an international partnership with the UK Open Textbooks project to help make its model available to students across the world.
But providing free textbooks is only part of the organization’s mission. Another major facet involves application of technology through online tools that help students practice and deliver personalized questions to help students fill in the gaps. And the best part for financially strapped students? All of this is free or available at a nominal cost, as low as $10 per course.
Of course, there will likely be concerns over content quality; schools won’t be interested in adopting this if it puts their accreditation at risk, regardless of how cheap it may be. But given that this is based at Rice University – one of the premier schools in the nation – OpenStax seems to carry some level of credibility. Moreover, this new approach should be compatible with colleges seeking to implement active learning techniques. With the right kind of active learning furniture in place, it could be a tremendous boost for any number of colleges and universities, particularly those serving low-income communities.
So the internet, having already disrupted numerous other industries, has now trained its sights on textbook publishers. Starving students across the world are likely thrilled.
(Source: Campus Technology)

Abandon the Cookie Cutter in Active Learning Design

Active learning design customized for your space
To achieve the custom design for your specific active learning classroom, keep an open mind. When the goal is to create a space for interpersonal and hands-on education, the options are limitless. The key is that the layout must invoke something different. A new style of learning can’t very well occur in the same environment we were conditioned to “sit still and listen”.
While it is easy to make an overhaul project of a complete redesign and restructure of a classroom an expensive one, there are economical ways to go about it. The same results can be achieved with a variety of table set ups, access to screens or whiteboards, and ease of movement in the room.
Though a renovation can typically run from $40,000 for new furniture and technology, the higher end gadgets in many spaces are unnecessary. An active learning outcome is possible on a budget.
Before initiating the process, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s the vision?
  2. What’s the focus?
  3. How flexible?
  4. What’s the budget?

While the answers to these questions can vary widely depending on the needs of the classroom, the outcome is the same. Focus on letting go of one ideal and the final product will be a perfect fit.
(Source: Campus Technology)

The Active Learning Makeover: Don’t Discount Ugly Rooms

Using older rooms for an active learning environment makeover
Sometimes the most underutilized spaces on campus are the ideal testing grounds for active learning. Even if the space seems unfit, cluttered, small, or outdated, the main goal is to provide an environment where students can easily interact.
Think outside the box. Experiment with extra furniture and available rooms. The latest technology isn’t always crucial when the goal is for peers to interact and build upon ideas. The aesthetics of the space becomes less important when students are engaged enough, which is the ultimate goal of any instructor.
It’s also worth pointing out that starting with an underutilized space – especially if that space is considered the ugly duckling by your users – gives you at least two advantages. One: you’re likely to encounter less resistance to making significant changes than you would if you were to start with a particularly popular area of your facility. Two: you might be more likely to improve user satisfaction – if the room is that disliked, it can only improve.
When it comes right down to it, there are really only two absolutely necessary aspects to creating an active learning classroom: furniture that can be moved around to encourage group collaboration and the opportunity for students to work together.
(Source: Campus Technology)

Active Learning Environments: Dealing with Internal Friction

There can be internal opposition to setting up an active learning environment
When preparing to implement a new active learning space, get ready for politics. Issues will most certainly arise if one department is being funded over another. Registrars in particular can make some noise because the more space given to active learning means increased difficulty for them to schedule courses with fewer available classrooms.
This means it is essential to gather your support and go to the board with a plan to present the benefits of active learning and evidence that the space is desired by a large group of people. After getting the go ahead, do some surveying. Get an idea of how students and faculty feel about their current classroom (the traditional learning space). After a semester of active learning implementation, survey again.
These polls can give insight into what worked about the new space and what didn’t. User input is critical when their education is on the line. If the space was overall successful, that result increases the chances of active learning space expansion in the future. If not, you can tweak where necessary to yield a better outcome a semester down the road. Work to find the right balance and active learning will transform any classroom for the better.
(Source: Campus Technology)

Active Learning Environments: Making the Adjustment

Adjusting your environment for active learning can be difficult
Another aspect of the transition to an active learning classroom is getting everyone familiar with an entirely new set up and way of doing things. This change will take time and adjustments on the parts of both the students and the instructors.
Let students in on the goals of active learning so they are prepared with the changes and know to an extent what to expect. Introduce the new environment, immerse the class in interactions and activities that promote this style of learning, and give it time to catch on. Keep in mind that the transitional period needs to allow for some trial and error as everyone gets the hang of things. It may require moving furniture and technology around from the original vision, as you experiment with what is the most effective.
Remember that it is expected that a certain amount of traditional learning will still be taking place. It is easy to get the idea that a reformed space will overhaul the entire curriculum and learning process, but reality is, you end up getting some of both. The goal is met when active learning is increased and the interactions are gradually more creative and productive.
(Source: Campus Technology)

The Active Learning Redesign: Consider Neutral Territory

Active learning computer lab on campus
When considering available options for setting up active learning spaces, remember locations around campus that can be useful for many groups. If these revamped environments can benefit a large number of students, not only is it more cost effective, but the positive outcomes of the active learning model will be more evident.
One of the challenges can be to find the right space to revamp due to internal political considerations. If the room being considered is restricted for use within in a particular department, others within the organization might understandably object that the proposed revamp will only benefit a relative minority of users.
One potential solution is to select central hubs where students gather and brainstorm ways to utilize these areas. One idea is to repurpose a portion of the library as an active learning center. Room to study, teach, and interact are the factors to consider most.
With all academic focuses having equal access to a single location, the active learning center can be geared to accommodate a variety of learning styles and outcomes. This is a unique and all-inclusive approach that will yield positive results across the board.
(Source: Campus Technology)

Smartphones in the Classroom

Student on smartphone in class
What if the very thing that keeps kids from focusing in school could actually help channel students’ attention? Smartphones are nearly impossible to ban, so working with them can actually allow students to become more engaged, as their lives are so technologically-centered. Since their futures depend on their ability to use technology proficiently, it could make sense to involve it in the learning process. The following are some recommended tools that utilize smartphones in the classroom:
Plickers – Teachers often need to assess how much the information is actually being grasped by the students. Plickers gives teachers the ability to ask questions in real time and have students respond with their answers directly to the instructor’s smart phone. Gauging the responses helps teachers to adjust lessons accordingly.
Trello – Organization of assignments and projects can streamline the work for students and teachers. This free service allows for multiple users to collaborate on group tasks.
White Noise – Use any number of music apps to play white noise sounds during study periods. This blocks out excess background noise and has proven to increase concentration.
Kahoot – This tool has game-like functions and a layout which will be attractive to young learners. They can create quizzes and receive feedback from their classmates as well as obtain data for graphic assignments.
Venngage – Seeing the data visually is an effective way of processing new information. Venngage offers a series of templates that students can customize to display impactful infographics.
Nearpod – This tool creates interactive lessons. Students can ask questions and receive feedback immediately, which is an advantage in keeping their attention.
Class Dojo – Students create avatars and gain or lose points for behavior. This is a motivating and incentivizing way to uphold class values.
Prezi – A presentation tool more creative and striking than PowerPoint, Prezi makes the creation and the viewing of presentations much more enjoyable.
Cold Turkey – This service can be turned on during busy work times and blocks time-wasting web sites temporarily. It can be used as an incentive to complete assignments and then turned off for free time.
These options, plus the right kind of class environment through quality technology furniture, will put new life into the learning process while utilizing the very tools that seem to get in the way of productive class time.