Thursday, February 28, 2008

I don't like to lecture

I don't like lecturing, I'd much prefer to do lots of hands on activities and have the students learn from doing. Unfortunately, I have to lecture from time to time just due to the massive amount of information I have to impart to my students. So when I recently watched a video by Professor Eric Mazur on a teaching style he class "Interactive Teaching" I was hooked.

The basic idea behind Interactive Teaching is two fold. The first part is:
  1. Students read before lecture
  2. Students go online to answer questions about the reading and to ask questions about the reading
  3. The instructor reviews answers left on the net looking for areas where most/all of the students get it or where they don't get it
  4. This data informs how lecture is done
The second part is something many of us do already. During Lecture Professor Mazur asks his students to teach each other.
  1. A question is posed to the class
  2. All students respond via clickers, whiteboards, or colored index cards marked with letters
  3. Responses quickly assessed by the instructor.
  4. If most are correct the answer is confirmed and explained briefly
  5. If there's a mix of right and wrong answers the students are asked to turn to their neighbors to defend their answers. After which the students are re-polled.
I typically do a lot of the second, but I haven't done the first. Until now I didn't have an easy way to implement it. While I was watching Professor Mazur's video the pieces started to fall into place. A few days earlier I'd read a post by Tom Woodward at Bionic Teaching on how to use the new Google Forms with Exhibit. Now, I still don't really understand Exhibit, I'll save that for the future when I have some more time. Anyway, I realized I could create a Google Form for my students to fill out and the data would be dumped directly into a Google Spreadsheet for analysis.

So, I can have them read, or I can record a lecture and have them watch it, and then answer questions before they come back to me. I get to see their responses before class and I can easily tailor my lesson to fill the holes they still have in their understanding. Or, I can use this technique for a very easy pre-assessment before I start a new unit.

Below is a quick screen-capture I did to show you how to do this and how my first such lesson looks like. (note: for ease I tried out the video upload function within Blogger, you can see the results below. Not very acceptable. For a clearer version got to my copy at falconphysics.blip.tv. There you can also download the full resolution screen capture if you want.)
video

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