Tag Archives: Active Learning

Taking the Tech Out of Technology

it20students20lab20classI LOVED this article!!  I posted it on our PIDP 3240 discussion forum and it generated a lot of commentary.  Peers were intrigued, interested and totally engaged in discussing this article.  In the article, the author states that instructors who were involved in the Virtual College at his school were actually not interested in technology at all….they wanted to learn ways they could increase social interaction.  Likewise, students wanted instructor contact.  Although we get very excited about new technology and great new tools, we still need to maintain the human connection.  The author sums it up well: “A blend of teaching practices, technology, and basic human contact just might be the recipe needed” (Buemi, 2015).

I tend to agree very much so with Buemi.  Although I like the options that technology gives us, I still like the human connection, between students and instructor.  Linking back to the hybrid course delivery model, this is a great way to achieve exactly the perfect recipe that Buemi describes.  Does anyone else see the risk of technology interfering with human connection in the classroom?

“Our excitement over the latest technology has started focusing on the wrong thing. It ought to reside in the praxis of teaching, not the tool.”

Source: Taking the Tech Out of Technology


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Educational ACDC

Here’s an interesting spin on teaching!  And no, I don’t mean the band.

  • Active Learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Discovery Learning
  • Community

“ACDC Leadership and Consulting was created by Jacob Clifford in 2007. We are dedicated to creating student-focused teaching resources that make learning exciting, powerful, and fun. We offer teachers, schools, and districts a variety of programs, activities, and workshops. […] we have what you need to get students out of their seats and into the curriculum.” http://www.acdcleadership.com/

One example of a student project using the ACDC program is having the students create a music video using course content as lyrics.  I remember taking anatomy and physiology and wishing it could be converted into song lyrics…the terminology would be much easier to remember if I could sing through it!

Here’s another example of using movies/music to help student remember content that may be difficult to recall:  (I shared it with my nursing class and they loved it!)

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Virtual reality

Virtual reality = very cool!  This would be a great in nursing education.  Not only for patient simulations, practicing emergency situations, etc., but I also found this article about a virtual reality that includes Non-Player-Characters (e.g. family members, colleagues, visitors).  In this particular article, it was about dealing with the behaviors of a patient with dementia – a tricky task.  The VR allows the nursing students to practice their responses in a safe learning environment prior to testing out their techniques in the real world.small

One interesting point this article makes, is that VR may replace traditional Simulation Based Training, as it is much more cost-effective than purchasing and maintaining mannequins, employment of simulation specialists, etc.  Having gone to a nursing school that had SBT mannequins that no instructor knew how to use, I believe the addition of VR to nursing education would be very advantageous.  But I do think there would need to be a balance of VR and practicing on real people.  Nursing is a ‘people/caring’ profession – and that can’t fully be learned in a virtual setting.

What do you think?

Article Reference: http://vsgames2016.com/proceedings/papers/pid1178378.pdf

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james-stevenson-i-m-sorry-rhett-but-now-i-don-t-give-a-damn-new-yorker-cartoon_a-g-9179761-8419447Well, this is an interesting teaching concept, excerpted from Teaching Naked (Bowen, 2012), but actually referenced from another book I have previously blogged about, Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do (2004).

In short, the professor writes WGAD (who gives a damn) on the whiteboard each day.  Students can interrupt at any time during the class with “WGAD!”

No, the instructor isn’t supposed to get all flustered or offended.  The instructor couples this motivating offer to debate anything with the expectation that students keep an open mind and honestly debate both sides of every WGAD objection.  Another aspect of this technique that I like is that it really helps learners make relevance of the material.  Adult learners especially need to know why they need to know something.  Allowing them to ask WGAD helps them to make this connection.  technical-communication-futurist-by-scott-abel-25-638

I am teaching a “nursing fluff” kind of course.  Or at least, that’s how the health promotion course is perceived by the students and even by some senior faculty.  And it’s true, even without taking the course the students would probably turn out to be good nurses.  However, if I offered the WGAD opportunity, perhaps they would value the content of the course and discover how it can change their views of nursing.  It would also be a good challenge for me to be able to think on my feet and make connections between course content and nursing practice.  I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try this technique on my first time through the course….but maybe next semester!?


Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Bowen, J.A. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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Nursing school today

nursing_simulation_lab_at_hudson_valley_community_collegeA mere 8 years ago, I was finishing up nursing school.  About 2 semesters prior to my graduation, my school purchased 2 very cool, high-tech simulation mannequins.  These were supposed to be the “best” teaching tool that could be offered in a nursing lab.  The mannequins were capable of breathing, going to the bathroom, bleeding, vomiting, even giving birth.  What better way to learn than to practice as close to real-life scenarios as possible without actually practicing on real patients!?  Well, I actually wouldn’t know.

Why?  Because there were no instructors who received training to be able to operate these mannequins.  And so we missed out.  We missed out on skill acquisition, developing of critical thinking and clinical judgment, and also on dealing with complex nursing scenarios.  We got these skills and experiences in our real-life clinical experiences, but our school was putting patients at unnecessary risk by having us practice on them rather than using the new technology at the school.8399337241_52f0280326_b

Technology is a tricky thing….it requires constant learning to be able to keep up.  Unfortunately, my instructors at that time weren’t up to the task.  But instructors especially need to keep up if they want to provide the best learning possible to students.


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The Value of a Lecture

Baptiste Alchourroun

An opinion piece in the NY Times speaks to the value of lecturing. In a world where we encourage active learning and student-based learning and group work, it may seem that the lecture has become an ancient teaching method. In fact, the article quotes a Harvard physicist who declares that “it’s almost unethical to be lecturing.”
But the editorialist suggests that lecturing is essential for teaching the basic life skills of comprehension and reasoning.  And I agree with Molly Worthen on this…students today have difficulty focusing. There are so many distractions in the classroom, at home – everywhere. A lecture forces students to slow down, turn off technology and listen.  Lecturing helps students to understand concepts and make connections in their learning. To listen to a lecture is not passive learning, particularly if the student takes notes. I really enjoyed reading this editorial, and I think it’s a worthwhile read for all instructors – especially those who feel pressured to always “entertain” their students.


To read the full editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/opinion/sunday/lecture-me-really.html?_r=0

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Maximizing student achievement

John Hattie, an Australian professor and educational researcher delves into what factors influence student achievement.  According to his research, structural issues, student attributes, deep programs (such as problem-based learning) and technology have very little impact on the success of how well students learn.  Unfortunately, these factors generate the most attention from media, students, parents, and even teachers themselves.  Hattie calls these the “politics of distraction”.

So what has effect in our student’s achievement?  WE DO!  The teacher’s expertise and the collaboration of their expertise with other teachers has the biggest positive impact on student success.

Hattie suggests that teacher’s need to promote a ladder of excellence whereby teachers can develop and expand their expertise.  Yes, experience may be a factor, but it takes more than simply ‘years’ to become an “expert” teacher.  Teachers should be encouraged (or required?) to have a professional development plan so that they are continually striving to better themselves as educators.  For myself, the PIDP courses have been a great starting point for learning how to teach.  I don’t know if I’d ever consider myself to be an expert though!  The greatest impact of student achievement is to be a life-long learner.  I guess it’s a testament to my teachers that I have a desire to learn and always increase the level of expertise I strive for.

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Gamification of Learning

First off: What is gamification?
“It is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning.”
(Kapp, K., Lucas, B., & Rich, M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. John Wiley & Sons.)

The idea is that gamification will make learning fun, students will have increased motivation and participation, and better scores. But my one concern regarding gameification of education is knowing for which audience it would be appropriate to use, particularly in an adult learner setting.
I can see that this would be very appealing and likely very successful teaching strategy for young college students. However, I am not convinced that a middle or older-aged adult would be very amused if the course they were taking was simply turned into a game. This might give the learner the the impression that the course material isn’t serious or worthwhile, particularly if they are taking the course for job-related reasons. Additionally, knowing the struggles that some older learners have with technology, gameification may be a big turn-off, as they don’t feel confident in their technology skills. I also feel like learners might feel that they are wasting time playing games when they feel like they should be doing something more academic.

Maybe I’m not completely sold on this because I was never really into video games as a kid…? (My thumbs were always quite clumsy) 😉

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Active Learning

“Active learning [means] that to truly learn, we need to make an idea, a concept, or a solution our own by working it into our personal knowledge and experience” (Barkley, 2010, p. 16). The author describes active learning not as related to physical teaching activities, but as the mind being actively engaged. Students must be self-motivated and engaged participants in their learning, with constant assessment and reflection on the results of their learning (Barkley, 2010).
As a college instructor, I might assume that each of my learners has the motivation to be active learners. However, in my experience, this is not always the case, and I find that the presence of active learning is not always obvious. Students may appear to be active participants in learning activities, however, lively group discussions and animated presentations are not necessarily proof of active learning. And occasionally, those students who appear to be not present at all may be in fact, actively learning, with quiet concentration and focused analysis or strategizing. I feel that through continued teaching experience, I will be better able to recognize true active learning as I observe my students. I also hope to find ways in which I can promote learners active examination, questioning and reflection on both existing and new knowledge and experience.

The concept of active learning in the role of instructor causes me to reflect on the ways in which I can promote active learning in my classroom. The instructor should not be standing at the front of the classroom delivering information. Rather, we must set-up conditions where the students are creating their own learning – making information or a concept their own “by connecting it to their existing knowledge and experience” (Barkley, 2010, p. 17). Instructors must allow time for students to reflect on what is new material, and what is already known. Once the instructor has provided the opportunity to explore previous knowledge, the instructor can focus on presenting new material in a way that is relevant for the learners. Depending on the topic and the readiness of the students, many activities are suited to active learning: case study analysis, small debate groups, etc. And lastly, to emphasize active learning and collaboration with peers, the instructor may choose to alter grading criteria to place greater importance on comprehension and critical thinking, rather than just memorization.
Reflecting on active learning from the instructor point of view presents a unique challenge, whereby the instructor must step-back into a facilitator/guide role. The focus of instruction becomes more than the delivery of specific course content, rather, instructors provide learners a sense of empowerment to take new material and meld it with their existing knowledge and experience to make it their own.

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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