Posts tagged EdTech

Packback Webinar: Using Technology to Improve Critical Thinking and Engagement

Packback CEO Mike Shannon was joined by Dr. Kathleen West of UNC Charlotte and Dr. Kaston Anderson-Carpenter of Michigan State University. These two psychology professors shared how they’re using technology and positive reinforcement to improve students’ critical thinking skills, engagement and written communication.

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Inspiring Students with Online Discussion

How online discussions helped students understand the importance of class concepts, build connections and improve their writing on exams.

Throughout 12 years of teaching at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Dr. Kathleen West noticed a growing trend among her students. Students who don’t understand why they need to learn about a topic often express a lack of interest in the course and become disengaged. And it wasn’t just in her classes. As the lead academic advisor in the psychology department, Dr. West heard this concern from colleagues who also struggled to keep their students engaged.

“I think students have always worked this way, but there is a huge trend toward verbalizing it nowadays, that they don’t want to learn it if they don’t understand why they need it” explains Dr. West. “ That’s a big challenge for some of our heavy content disciplines because, you’ll get there eventually, in your higher up classes, but there is X amount of material that [students have] to learn first or that connection piece just isn’t going to make sense. Where I struggle as a professor and I know others do too, is how can we have that [connection] happen at this lower level so that they hang with us and get to that higher level content where it’s really going to make sense to them?”

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Engaging Students with Technology

How one professor at Michigan State University utilized technology in the classroom to increase student engagement, promote critical thinking and improve student exam grades. 

Students walk into Dr. Kaston Anderson-Carpenter’s psychology course at Michigan State University, take their seat and pull out their laptops, tablets and smartphones. His classroom quickly fills with rows of students interacting with their devices. However, what fills their screens is not the social media or text messages that many professors notice distracting their students. Instead, students in Dr. Anderson-Carpenter’s class are opening education applications such as Packback to review their posts in preparation for the day’s class.

Dr. Anderson-Carpenter recognizes that today’s young adults depend on technology to do everything from communicating with their professors to conducting research and accessing their textbooks. His goal is not to discourage students from using their devices, but to use their devices to keep them engaged during lectures. “For me, it’s about being innovative in the classroom, whatever that looks like,” says Dr. Anderson-Carpenter. “I know that students are going to use technology in the classroom, whether it’s Facebooking [or] online shopping while the instructor is giving the lecture, it happens. So, I asked myself, ‘What can I do to get them using technology in a more engaging way so that I could minimize them getting off track?'”

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Creating An Active Learning Environment in College Classrooms

College enrollment for the 2018 fall academic term in the United States is expected to hit more than 20 million students according to a report from Statista. The rapid enrollment growth is putting a burden directly on professors to innovate in overcrowded lecture halls and meet the needs of Gen Z students.

These overcrowded lectures, where devices can be as much of a distraction as they are a tool, are a challenging setting to engage students. But students who don’t actively engage often lose interest in material and become less willing to apply themselves on assignments and exams. These students are also less likely to have a positive perception of their learning experience, which can be reflected in semester evaluations.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple addition or change in class structure that will empower students and encourage them to participate. However, one popular method professors in top colleges and universities are successfully incorporating is active learning. In fact, many different active learning techniques can be tailored to fit any classroom and can lead to increased engagement and a better understanding of class materials.

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