Active learning online

Active learning online

The online environment has a way of exposing pedagogy, or the lack thereof. Like there is ‘no back row’ in an online class and all students are virtually seated in front of you, similarly, a virtual classroom has pedagogical intent as its floor, walls, ceiling and furniture, laid out for all to see. You are much more reliant on your carefully arranged resources to asynchronously shape the learning journey than when you can wing it with your engaging in-person presentation style. Clinging to business as usual through live-streaming lectures as a delivery mode is resource intensive and rarely possible to implement equitably where students work off-campus. Such an approach is the equivalent of leading students through a darkened classroom with a torch. The classroom is rendered irrelevant, whether it is well appointed or bare, and student learning outcomes are at the mercy of the teacher’s performance.

The integration of active learning pedagogies with online delivery requires both pedagogical and technological knowledge (see TPK). In terms of helping out with the technical side of things, I expect significant link rot in this blog article as waves of handy cheap and cheerful platforms ebb and flow. It is best therefore to decide what you would like to achieve pedagogically, and then seek out the appropriate platform available to support your teaching at the time, regardless of the fate of the orignal platform that inspired you. Choose platforms that either have a very short and shallow learning curve so that you are able to quickly produce your artefact and start using it, or a more complex but stable open source or commercial platform that has demonstrated (or is likely to demonstrate) longevity and is worth your investment.

There are oodles of blogs sharing comprehensive lists of engaging tech. Here, I just scoop up a small collection of key resources that have floated to the top of my attention pool and parked them for future reference.

Twine – Create ‘choose your own adventure’ type stories in text (you can add images and other things if you are even cleverer) readily in a drag-n-drop type interface that will have you building your first story with optional endings in minutes (it will be lame, but you’ll get the idea for more complex and useful scenarios, even though you’ll have to commit to learning a few ways of writing things…but life wasn’t meant to be too easy).

Twine publishes directly to HTML (post your work anywhere – no outdated flash). There are no restrictions on how you use the product and you can either download the application or build online. Its very very cool and apparently used by lots of teachery folk, if the comments section I found it in is anything to go by.

Desmos – Desmos is a free, online platform that is mostly designed to make online maths more loveable. I’m no mathematician so I can’t comment on how well it succeeds in that regard, but David Petro has done a great video showing how to create a ‘Guess Who?’ style game using the ‘polygraph’ function that is useful for any subject where you want students to learn the characteristics of any set of objects. As in the game, students work in pairs and ask yes/no questions until they guess the object their partner chose. Students access the game via a URL and no login is required.

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