February 11, 2010

Increasing Student Interaction in Class

I have just prepared next Tuesday's workshop on 'Increasing Student Interaction in Class'. It is the first time this one has been offered and I'm pretty enthusiastic about the topic. So far there are 8 people enrolled, which will just about be enough for me to take the approach which I think is crucial: this workshop, of all workshops, cannot be a pure and simple powerpoint presentation where participants sit and listen! I have to model, so far as I can, what I want to communicate. So I have worked out what I hope will be an hour's session that is almost entirely interactive, and at the times when it isn't, this too has a specific reason and point to convey. The biggest challenge for me, and probably the biggest novelty for the participants, will be the use of clickers, but I'm excited about trying these out for myself. I have to admit my participants will be my guinea pigs, but I've had a good introduction to clickers from Hannah in the Teaching Grid and this context is absolutely perfect for trying them out in safety. I trust that those attending will not eat me alive or the workshop slide into chaos and bedlum! I've done some reading to back up my thinking about the benefits of student interaction in class, although this is fairly familiar territory for me, and I have also spent some time finding and watching a variety of vodcasts on YouTube, especially about the use of clickers in class. Somewhat frustratingly, I haven't actually found a vodcast which actually models good practice in the use of clickers. Most do exactly what I've been at pains to avoid in my session: lots of talk about the benefits, lots of 'presentations', but lamentably little which demonstrates a full-length class where they are integral to the session and where the lecturer models excellent practice. Maybe there's a niche here...

Are there likely to be any other challenges that I have to cope with? Yes, if the clickers don't work, or if I haven't got a sufficiently good grasp of how they are used. I'm always a bit nervous when it's a first time using something, but I have done my prep and the TG staff will be around to help out if need be. I shall go to the Grid at least an hour early to make sure all is in order. I guess another challenge will be if participants flatly refuse to work with me. They have to be prepared to relinquish what might be their tried and tested 'sit and listen' approach. There's no reason to suppose that will be the case, though, and if a problem does arise, then I will work with that as best I can. I have ways and means...!!!

Am I confident about the presentation? (Wrong choice of term, there, of course!) I think, hope, I will be introducing a range of interactive techniques that will inform as well as inspire participants to go on thinking imaginatively and creatively. If I manage to do that, then an important goal will have been achieved. If they then go on to explore and develop these techniques in their own practice, then I shall be very satisfied and excited. I hope people remember to tell me!

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