Personally speaking, I am not a big fan of online courses. Yes, I often promote digital resources on the higher education level but teaching online often does not give me the opportunity to teach the content like it would be in a traditional face-to-face classroom. I also lose the connection with my students.
However, I have found ways to integrate digital resources into my coursework, even in the face-to-face format, that enriches the coursework for digital natives. These are simple tools that I want to present in this article. These tools aren’t groundbreaking by any means but they are simple ways that professors, and teachers, can integrate technology into their coursework.
Twitter Chat Sessions:
This is not a new strategy but is a great way to hold students accountable with rich discussion. Establish a hashtag for your course and designate that for all discussions you generate. Start the discussion with a probing question and tweet that question using your class hashtag. Allow students to have organic, natural conversations without setting parameters like “respond to at least two students” or “send a minimum of three tweets”. Look for critical thinking and thoughtful discussion and tweet at your students with your own thoughts and suggestions on the topic. Use this strategy for designated days to hold your class online or for an assignment outside of class.
I used Flipboard in my class as a way for students to “flip” news articles related to our course into a class magazine used for discussion. Students find current event news articles and flip the articles into the magazine. This gives us a designated placeholder for the articles we will discuss in class and students can refer back to them later if necessary.
Develop Your Own Blog Site:
Again, this is not a new strategy for many professors, but there are many that I have spoken to who feel like they don’t have the time to maintain a weekly or bi-weekly blog. My suggestion is to create a blog site that relates to the content that you primarily teach. My blog site is a place for my irregular blogs but also a placeholder for course content information, syllabi, course materials, and presentations. Students can easily remember the website and know to review the content regularly for information about the courses as well as the program and the university. I can also refer the site to people outside the university if they are interested in trainings that I do for school districts or our university programming.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel:
Are you short on time and short on content for a course you are writing or a lesson you are creating? Use Google to help you. If you need a PowerPoint on a book presentation that you are using in your class, the likelihood that someone has already created that content is strong and most likely on the web. This is not an endorsement for plagiarism by any means. This is simply a way for you to have an arsenal of common resources you can pull from and credit when you need to develop a concept in your classroom. YouTube is a great resource as well for quick video overviews to help you generate discussion.
I have only just recently started using concepts maps in class to help students generate concepts around single discussion or lecture. A great resource to use is bubbl.us. This easy-to-use site allows students to create graphic organizers using bubbles, colors, and connecting lines. The final products can be downloaded in a PDF format or shared on social media channels.
There are many other ways to bring digital resources into your classroom that are free and fun to use. Although these suggestions are relatively simple, they aren’t commonly used among professors in the higher education setting. With a large influx of digital natives flooding our universities, integrating digital learning tools into the coursework will make assignments and discussions more exciting and generate stronger engagement for students.