Interaction: What Every Digital-Age Classroom Needs!


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The most important key to good e-learning is not a particular tool or technology - it’s interaction! Learn how to take advantage of today’s digital trends toward 1:1, flipped classrooms, and personalized learning environments with practical tips, examples, and strategies that any teacher can use to reach all students.

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  • Hello and welcome to the Learning with Millennial Students workshop!
  • This workshop focuses on understanding our students and where they’re coming from. We often teach the way we were taught, which is not always in a way that appeals to or even fully reaches students of Generation Y, or the “Millennial Generation,” which is where the majority of our undergraduate students now fall in the generational spectrum. Sometimes there is a disconnect between what we do in class and what we expect of students, so how can we approach and fix that rift?
  • The research on the Millennial generation shows that it is very much one of the most studied generations, leaving us with quite a lot of information to review. And, many of the findings have been consistent, providing us with an overall “personality” of those people born roughly between 1980 and 2000. Some studies actually include people a little younger and a little younger in this group as well, within 3-5 years each way. Of course, it is important to remember that we are not trying to stereotype, and there are certainly many individuals who do not fit what the research says is the “typical Millennial”. This is true of persons in every generation.
  • So, with that in mind, there are some general characteristics found in the Millennial Generation, including the fact that they are very diverse, and include more ethnic diversity and multiracial members than any previous group. This means that learning styles, family backgrounds, and home and work responsibilities may be broader and present more challenges for students in college than ever before.
    These students are also noted to be somewhat “sheltered” – many have been well cared for (and are often still being cared for) by “helicopter parents” who have tried throughout their children’s lives to provide them with the best educational and social opportunities. These are the kids who have been shuttled between 7 different sports and clubs after school, after all, since scholarships and many colleges have begun to demand that prospective students spend meaningful time in extracurricular activities. These students are very achievement-oriented due to this as well, often to the point of being motivated most by external rewards such as grades, prizes, praise and recognition, and of course scholarships and promises of future employment. They tend to be optimistic and confident in their future due to this goal-oriented attitude.
    Another interesting characteristic is that many Millennials enjoy collaborating with peers in work and learning situations. They are, in fact, often used to working in teams and making decisions with a group. They enjoy the chance to discuss and work together, provided they are working toward a common goal, and they often have a low tolerance for group members who do not pull their weight. I have seen this up close and personal in my own classes – these students can be very demanding and hard on one another in group situations!
  • For the classroom, Millennials need clarity and structure when they’re learning, especially in online courses. Their lives, including their schooling up until college, have been filled with rules, and not often have they had the chance to think for themselves. Society has thought for them in many cases, and when they get to college, they are often shocked at how much independent learning skill they need in order to do well. This may not be very different from young people of previous generations, but then again, maybe it is if you consider the number of rules, regulations, and laws that have arisen around all kinds of routine parts of life over the past 20-30 years. Many of us remember when it was ok to smoke – anywhere – or take liquids on an airplane, but our students do not. Many of us also did not go to elementary and high school at a time when there were literally dozens of proctored, standardized tests happening over the course of each school year.

    Millennials also favor content that is chunked into “bite-sized pieces”, rather than being bombarded with every fact about a subject all at once. Reducing individual facts in favor of overall understanding of concepts is not always something we agree with as educators, but it is something that has been shown to be effective as a teaching strategy, and one that does not compromise overall performance in a field or program of study. Our world is filled with shorter, more concise messages that contain more images and visuals than ever, and as a result, many students do not have as firm a grip on text comprehension as those of previous generations.

    We also know that students are achievement-oriented, which means that they will often do whatever it takes to reach their goals. If that means cheating, so be it. Cheating and plagiarism are means to an end for many students and they have a hard time recognizing the problem if it gets them to the goal of satisfying the objectives placed in front of them. Because of this, ethics training built into a course is crucial to help them understand the issues, and hopefully help them see the value of learning for its own sake rather than simply as a means toward getting a grade to move on to the next course and eventually get a degree.

    Millennials also appreciate a lot of variety and flexibility in what they are asked to do. They have grown up in a world with dozens of choices for everything from ways to watch TV to places to eat. They enjoy the opportunity to choose projects and ways of presenting what they have learned based on their own creativity and learning style, and allowing for such flexibility can create a great deal more engagement in the course.

    Finally, Millennials are used to anytime-anywhere communication, including text messaging, social media, email, and more. They are interested in socializing with peers and with professors, and tend to be more engaged in courses that promote at least some peer-peer and student-teacher interaction and collaboration.
  • So what does this mean for us in planning our courses? It means that varying activities and assessments should be a regular part of any course – rather than keep everything static or only use one type of assessment measure (such as chapter tests or a research paper), allow for some variety. Include some discussions along with those tests, and include some opportunity for group work or the creation of a presentation to go along with research, for example. These will help students not only learn more, but also will engage them more deeply in the content.

    With that in mind, however, make sure that all assessments and activities are clearly written. All requirements should be easy to follow, and students should be able to understand exactly what is expected of them. That puts their minds at ease, and gives them the framework they need in order to get started. When they are “searching” for what you want is when they are more likely to cheat and plagiarize.

    Use modules and units to help keep things nicely organized. Rather than present course topics all at once, consider separating them into topic modules, or if you prefer, separate activities into weekly modules. This helps students stay on track and makes the path to success clearer.

    Also, consider presenting students with examples of what exemplary projects look like, or a practice test to help them know what to look for in the actual test. Doing this will help students understand what they really need to do and give them a baseline to shoot for. Again, they will be far less likely to plagiarize or cheat when they feel more comfortable understanding what it is that you want from them. Millennials do not like mystery, even more than previous generations of students, so providing them with examples helps them tremendously. In addition, providing them with multiple avenues to study needed information also helps them a great deal, and appeals to multiple learning styles, as well as reduces the stress on textual literacy for those with less developed reading comprehension skills.
  • Tools that you can use to help you accomplish these tasks include many tools in your LMS such as discussion, wiki, blog, and journal tools which all allow students to post their own work and share with others in a collaborative and social environment. Provide them with a prompt and they can answer questions, solve a problem or offer opinions on any number of topics, and all of this can be easily graded. You may want to use a rubric to grade work like this. Rubrics can be added to any assignment, discussion, or other gradable item that is not a test. You can actually get a lot of wherever you need.

    As mentioned previously, using learning modules will help you organize and modularize your content in a useful way, to help students stay organized and on track.
    Also, using practice tests and giving students multiple opportunities to see what exemplary work looks like will help them both achieve success and learn something along the way, instead of simply trying to reach for what will get them the A. Contrary to what we may think, research on worked examples has shown that they do not limit creativity or achievement; instead they reduce confusion and fear and allow students to more forward with the activity more readily.

    For maintaining ethical standards in testing and in written work, you can use ProctorU and setting the various test options in your LMSto ensure that students have a limited ability to cheat, even while they are online. If they are online and you’re not using ProctorU (which does cost the student a small sum), limiting the time available, forcing completion, and randomizing questions helps ensure that even if they do use the book for reference while working, they will not have enough time to look up every answer, and are more likely to do better if they just take the test without help. SafeAssign and TurnItIn, of course, can check work for plagiarism to help ensure that students are indeed using their own original writing. If they know that you will be using this tool and understand how it works, they will also be less likely to plagiarize – you can even have a conversation with them about it so that everyone is on the same page.

    As far as tools outside of the LMS, consider putting up a Facebook, Twitter, or Google group for your students, or using Google hangouts for virtual office hours, or even scheduled online meeting days. Even in a hybrid course, taking your class online in a live setting may help you extend your class time, and help students who are not comfortable talking in class to talk more directly to you in a less public setting. You can also record lectures, presentations, and demonstrations through either Camtasia or another video tool, taking things you might have talked about in class to the online realm for either refreshers or even to replace lecture time with discussions and other more dynamic in-class activities. Another thing to consider might be asking students to create and publish online portfolios of their work through a website like Wix or Weebly, instead of (or in addition to, perhaps) using a research paper or other more traditional form of assessment.
  • Hybrid and flipped classroom models are by far quite popular ways to get high-quality interaction between students, as they will have the chance to see each other face to face in addition to seeing each other online. The only caveat to this is that sometimes, students who see each other fact to face are not that interested in discussing or working together online, and wish to spend most of their “interaction” time in person. For example, in my own hybrid class my students must participate in online discussions. The corresponding section of the class that is online-only has far richer and more in-depth discussions than my class, as my students already see each other, and they feel that they “don’t have as much to say” online. This might be partly because they already said a lot of what they wanted to say in the classroom, whereas online, there are no such options.

    A flipped model that might work better may involve limited online interaction between students and more group interaction in the classroom. This Chemistry course for high school students shows how such a course might be set up, with videos and PowerPoints to review online, and many more activities, labs, and other interaction experiences to take place face-to-face.

    In early childhood, students can get involved in discussions and can even find them quite enjoyable. Here is an example of students getting involved in online discussion at a young age.

    In Middle School, interaction can take place a little more broadly. Students can even use tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to discuss and work on projects together in groups. This example shows an in-depth scenario (or problem) based learning project where students must work together in groups, which could be adapted for either hybrid or completely online settings.

    By high school, students can really begin to use a lot of the tools available to them to work and collaborate together. Having them record themselves gives them a chance to try out their speeches (language learning or otherwise) and share them with others. Social media can be used to play games, inspire learning, and open up the teacher’s ability to answer all questions that might come her way, as shown in this early college Writing course.
  • There are many resources available about this subject, and various aspects of it, but here are some that are particularly interesting and worth investigating.
  • Interaction: What Every Digital-Age Classroom Needs!

    1. 1. Anastasia M. Trekles, Ph.D. Slides available:
    2. 2. • Develop assignments and projects that encourage productive student-student interaction online • Use simple tools and strategies to reach digital native students in online environments and engage them in the content, rather than just on “getting the work done”
    3. 3. • We teach the way we were taught • But, students don’t always respond the way we did to the same strategies • Consider where your students are coming from
    4. 4. • Otherwise known as digital natives (thanks Marc Presnky!) • One of the most-studied generations • Generalizations come mostly from research – but, still important to not stereotype! • Overall “personality” of those who fit the Millennial group – including students with birthdates roughly from 1980 to today
    5. 5. • Diverse • “Largest, healthiest, and most cared-for generation” • Strive to achieve – motivated by grades, recognition, external awards • Grew up with technology as commonplace • Optimistic and confident • Collaborative and team-oriented
    6. 6. • Clarity • Chunked content • Achievement • Ethics training • Variety • Flexibility and Choice • Social engagement • Millennials are often very rules- oriented • Many are more visually literate and less textually literate • Expect to achieve the grades they want and will do whatever it takes to get them • Expect a greater array of selections in all things, including learning • Live in a transparent world where communication is constant
    7. 7. • Variety – vary your activities and assessments, and provide choice where you can • Clarity – explain everything that is required as thoroughly as possible • Chunk information – smaller packages of material lead to deeper conversations • Examples and resources – offer examples of good work, practice tests, and different ways to study, including through video, summary articles, websites
    8. 8. • How do you get kids excited when learning online? • What has been successful? • What has not been so successful?
    9. 9. • More and more colleges are expecting students to be able to learn online • In turn, more and more students expect to be able to take online courses when they get to college • But, are they prepared?
    10. 10. • Simple Read-and-respond activities are not enough • When students engage with others, they gain additional insight • We know that digital natives appreciate collaboration, so give them a chance!
    11. 11. • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc) • Skype, Google Hangouts, webinar software • Video lectures (Camtasia, Jing, Screencast-o-Matic, etc) with accompanying discussions or assignments • Online portfolios and peer review (Wix, Weebly, Google) • Wikis, Discussions, Blogs • Learning management systems (Moodle, Canvas, etc) • Rubrics (Rubistar helps!)
    12. 12. • Hybrid and flipped class models • Early Childhood interaction example - discussions • Middle school interaction example -scenario- based learning • High school/College interaction example -audio recording and social media
    13. 13. • Please share your ideas, experiences, questions, and resources!
    14. 14. • Great selection of videos on online teaching: • Big list of collaborative tools: e+Tools • Building community online: interaction-online
    15. 15. • Wilson, W., & Gerber, L.E. (2008). How generational theory can improve teaching: Strategies for working with the “millennials.” Currents in Teaching and Learning, 1(1), 29-44. Retrieved from /currentsv1n1wilsonp29.pdf • The writings of Marc Prensky: • Nicholas, A. (2008). Preferred learning methods of the millennial generation. Faculty and Staff - Articles & Papers. Paper 18. • Carr, N. (2011). The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton.
    16. 16. • Reach me at: – –Twitter and Facebook: @PNCOLT and @instruct_tech – –