The Good and the Better: Some thoughts on popular digital learning tools

This blog post is a collaboration between Emily Burns, Jonilda Bahja, Sam Silknetter, Logan Perry, and HokieInstructor.

In a post from Hybrid Pedagogy, author Sean Michael Morris writes that “just as the pedagogue will enter a room and rearrange the tables and chairs to suit his purpose, so too will the digital pedagogue happily hack [traditional learning spaces], opening it to the wider web, or using it as a portal to a more expanded learning environment.” We wanted to write a team blog post about some of the tools we’d use from the ‘wider web’ to create a more modern learning space, as well as some pros and cons of each. 

Kahoot!: 

Pro: This is a free* software that we might normally associate with younger learners, like in elementary education. It allows for fun exercises and competition-based activities (think trivia, scavenger hunts) that really get the students excited about the material or lesson. It works just as well for college students, but it might require some introduction by the instructor. You can choose how to name your ‘character’, so it can theoretically be anonymous. It also has some really great features. Because this is widely used and there are paid accounts, there is a really robust community of users (and it has an App) and there is support for technical issues. ALSO THERE IS MUSIC! Case Study: I attended a two day conference called Braille Boot Camp. After each “mini” presentation, we answered questions on Kahoot! Although I attended this conference in 2016, I still remember how much fun I had trying to win! My colleague won the entire competition. His prize was a cool 3-D printed heart with printed pieces that fit inside the heart. 

Con: As a tool originally designed for younger learners, it can feel silly or childish in higher education. So it might require some introduction to clear the air and let the students know that being silly can be a good thing! *There is also a maximum of 50 people on the free account, so you may want to look into institutional access.  

 

Poll Everywhere

Pro: I have been using this every semester before we talk about political opinions and polarization. No one wants to raise their hand and tell a class of strangers they are a Republican or a Democrat. Using anonymous polling let’s us get real without lower personal risks. Being able to have a dozen questions pre-loaded and using things like multiple choice, word clouds, and free association is also a huge benefit that can be used from semester to semester.

Con: I tried to use Poll Everywhere once for an online course, but I could not figure out how to post my questions. After I created an account, Poll Everywhere sends me emails that clutter my email box. I ended up having students self-reflect for five minutes and then share their thoughts in groups.

 

Mentimeter

Mentimeter is an interactive online tool that helps you prepare fun and interactive presentations, polls, and quizzes. You can use mentimeter during all the process of teaching to present information to students in a fun and interesting way, engage them with the content and ask them questions and visualize the responses in real time, and follow up with them on sharing. Mentimeter is used by 80 million people around the world. 

 

Pro: Allows you to gather feedback from the entire class in realtime and gauge the mood about particular topics. There is also no limit on how many people can participate. This is extremely helpful in big classrooms because you get the results of the poll live and visualized. Students get excited and consider it part of a game and they engage with it and use technological devices to participate and advance their learning. To create questions 

 

Con: Because students are allowed to post anything they’d like, it can be difficult to keep unwanted or inappropriate responses off the screen.  

 

Google Docs

Pro: This tool is student-directed. You get to step back and the students get to build the content. Students can collaborate in real time during class when using this tool. I have been using this to encourage students to create a joint-notebook that builds off of key terms I assign them and questions that certain students are tasked with adding. It is important to remind students that the settings should be turned on “editable” for anyone who has the link so all students can use it.

Con: Sometimes the student content is not…er, correct. Also, if you have students use Google Docs within a writing group, students will need to give direction on how to give feedback appropriately.  

 

So these are just some suggestions based on our personal experiences. If you have your own experiences with these tools or other ones you think should be on our radar, please comment below! 

 

1 Comment

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One Response to The Good and the Better: Some thoughts on popular digital learning tools

  1. Sahil Dudani

    I really like ho you introduced Digital Pedagogy by stating that the professor teaching online also takes control of their class by hacking into the wider web and making the class interactive, more like a traditional teacher setting up their seat plan. I also appreciate how you structured the blog, discussing the pros and cons of tools associated with Digital Pedagogy. You have covered a wide range of tools and the analysis is pretty good, even stating the motive behind each tool along with account and licensing information. I agree that keeping unwanted posts away from Mentimeter is not as easy as simply blocking a student from Zoom and that is where the concept of educational safe space steps in making it even more important to monitor such issues of misconduct. The post is very informative.

    Great Post!

    Keep up the great work.

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