Going to the Polls

I had the opportunity to participate at a conference intended to highlight current use of Polling/Voting technology in Teaching and Learning at the University of Birmingham.

The keynote speech was given by Dr Fabio Arico, a senior lecturer in Economics at the University of East Anglia. He talked about how he uses polling data to produce learning analytics and pedagogical research. He has actively adopted the active learning approach in his practice which he says took him 3 years to get it to work. He emphasized that planning is key. The participants were able to practically participate in the demonstration of this methodology. Some Economics questions were presented on the screen and participants were given time to respond using TurningPoint / Responseware, and then the results were displayed on the screen. Then participants were given the opportunity to discuss their responses with their peers or neighbours in the conference room then the same question was asked and participants selected the answers again this time influenced by their discussions. It was interesting to notice the change in results graph with more participants actually getting the answers right after the discussions. Dr Fabio Arico has been able to successfully influence more than 50% of his colleagues to use the peer learning approach. He uses the students’ feedback to improve his teaching.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Professor Prem Kumar, Professor of Physiological Science at the University of Birmingham. He talked about his journey from traditional teaching to using the flipping approach hence the title of his presentation: ‘If in doubt, try, try and then try again: the very real perils and pleasures of adopting a flipped approach’. He particularly mentioned his use of this approach with medical students. Some of the key points from his talk included the fact that, to successfully use the flipped approach, a lot of preparation has to be invested before the session and that the lecturer has to be self-confident and believe in the methodology and be very knowledgeable of their subject. He also advised to ensure there is value added to the session after students have already seen the Panopto videos in their own time.

Other contributors included Bob Ridge-Stearn from Newman University who talked about their attempt to use OMBEA voting tool to run exams of which they experienced some challenges. David Mathew from the University of Berdfordshire talked about using TexWall to help shy students to participate. Annette Margolis from the University of Birmingham talked about her use of Socrative in her classes to provoke debate and to get students’ feedback. I presented on a few quick case studies to highlight the different ways technology is used here at Derby and that includes for: recapping, revision, mock tests, to provoke discussion and to get feedback among other uses. Both TurningPoint and Socrative are popularly used at the University of Derby. Socrative has also been used with collaborative partners in Malaysia.

Those who are using voting technology are clearly seeing the benefits of it in helping students to learn and engage with learning material. While flipping approach is upheld, a point was also raised that different learning styles should be considered as some people still preferred the traditional approach.

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