Digital Tech in the Classroom

Here we highlight the innovative ways in which Vantage faculty are currently incorporating technology into their teaching methods.
Click to read more on these pedogogical practices.

Online questions with randomised numerical values to encourage participation in solving lecture examples

By Ernest Goh

Why are you using this technology in your class?

We are all guilty of it: working on something else when we are at a lecture, meeting, or other similar activity where we sit down as part of a large audience and listen to a single speaker. The anonymity and concealment offered by the other members of the audience seem to give us the idea that the speaker will not notice what we are doing. To encourage full attention from students and participation in my lectures, every one on my lectures has a few online questions for students to work on as I show them the steps.

What is the technology and how have you used it?

In a typical lecture, I explain the background, theory and applications of a particular concept. Then I explain worked examples. Finally, I require students to work along with me on online questions. In UBC Canvas and in many publishers’ online resources accompanying their textbooks, it is possible to set questions whose numerical values in them are randomised. When students are presented with such questions, it becomes impossible for them to wait for the answers from either the instructor or their classmates to type into their computers. They are thus compelled to work through the same steps that I have demonstrated. They are also free to work together with the person next to them and cross-check each other’s working.

When they finally arrive at the correct answer and enter it into the computer, they are rewarded with a green highlight around their answer. One more than one occasion, I heard joyful cheering when that happened.

Who are the students for whom you have used the technology? (When?/Where?/Which stream?)

I have been using this system ever since I first started teaching APSC180 Statics to Vantage engineering students in the Summer Term of 2016 in the Okanagan campus.

What are your observations/outcomes?

From my observations of the winter term Okanagan students, they seem to prefer it to lecture that does not have the element of active participation. I am currently teaching one section of a two-section course and some students from the other section have been attending my lectures and sharing the solving of online questions together with their friends who have access.

Using interactive mobile presentations in academic writing classes: encouraging the productive use of technology in the classroom

By Daniel Riccardi

Many instructors within higher education programs seek to increase student engagement and performance both in class and on course assessments through the innovative use of technology, and research suggests that certain technological learning platforms achieve these goals (Mattei & Ennis, 2014). In the effort to better understand how my students were engaging and comprehending course material, I utilized the interactive learning platform Nearpod in my LLED 200 writing courses. Nearpod is an interactive mobile presentation that allows instructors to integrate student-centered online activities (e.g., collaborative writing tasks) during face-to-face instruction. At a more basic level, instructors can upload existing PowerPoint presentations and add multiple-choice questions between slides, which help formatively assess student engagement and understanding of material in real time. At a more elaborate level, students can complete short writing tasks, which are viewable by the instructor or the class anonymously and in real time, providing a basis for discussion and clarification.

Students simply join sessions with a code and a pseudonym and the instructor controls the pace of the presentation and display of interactive activities on their laptops or mobile devices. Student contributions are recorded and easily downloaded so that progress and participation can be measured effortlessly.

Nearpod presentations have been especially popular in my academic writing course, LLED 200, which seeks to help first-year international students compose texts in sophisticated ways that are appropriate to the disciplines they are studying. Nearpod helps me gauge interest and participation in my classes while encouraging students to use mobile technology for intentional and productive learning experiences. This platform also provides a chance for more introverted students to demonstrate their abilities. I am also excited to explore the capabilities of Nearpod for a blended course I will be teaching Management students at UBCO to provide live, online interactive lectures to students.

Using virtual reality to facilitate a better understanding, description and explanation of a scientific concept

By Neil Leveridge

First-year international science students with English as an additional language often find it difficult to visualize, describe, and explain scientific concepts or theories due to the complexity of such theories and the students’ limited linguistic abilities. In academia, the ability to describe, explain, and apply scientific concepts is often the basis of student grading. As such, student success depends on a deep understanding of essential theories, application of concepts which often includes the ability to describe and explain. In Chemistry 121, Valence Bond Theory is one such theory that students are required to understand due to its fundamental positioning in the course as it explains chemical bonding, an underpinning concept. As such, a deep understanding of this theory is preferred, if not required. However, understanding the three-dimensional structures of molecules tends to be difficult for many students as molecules are generally presented as two-dimensional images in lectures and textbooks. This difficulty may also hinder students’ ability to describe and/or explain the theory.

Our current project was designed to enable students’ exploration of Valence Bond Theory by allowing them to create 3D models of molecules in Google’s Tilt Brush painting application, including the related bonds in accordance with the Valence Bond Theory. While doing so, students were able to interact with the molecule models they created, add the bonds as per the Valence Bond Theory, while providing descriptions and explanations for the choices in their designs/creations. This allowed the instructors to focus on gaps in knowledge, providing essential linguistic features, and offering additional scaffolding as required. Early indications point to the experience as bolstering students’ understanding of how molecular bonds are positioned and an increased ability to both describe and explain the Valence Bond Theory and its application.

In class display pods can increase student/professor collaboration

By Celina Berg

The flexible learning spaces in Orchard Commons, particularly classroom 4074 provide ample technology in the form of a smart board and display screen at each of the 12 pods in the classroom.  But the set up poses challenges in terms of visibility, obstructing some student views of the whiteboard space and blocking my view of a subset of the students from the lectern. In a typical computer science lecture, I would demonstrate solutions on the lectern computer and push this to a single classroom display.

In Orchard 4074, with each pod having its own display allowed students to clearly see what I was typing as it was right in front of them, but I found the tradeoff was less verbal participation from students as the lack of eye contact lessened engagement.  To address this issue, I leveraged the ability of each pod to push content to all classroom displays and had students share their work with the classroom. This allowed me to alternate between demoing from my computer and moving around the classroom, to shifting the demonstration duties between the pods.  There became no “front” of the classroom because I was able to lecture from any point in the room while the students shared the work from their laptop to the class. This approach elicited a new form of participation with observing students identifying errors made by the demonstrator or by giving them suggestions when they appeared to be stuck.  Not only did this approach allow me to encourage participation, it highlighted more naturally the points at which students struggled in the problem solving and forced us to slow down to correct these misconceptions. Additionally, I found it encouraged students to begin the problem on their own as opposed to waiting to see the solution demonstrated as they never knew when or whose work would I choose to project to the classroom.