Thursday, April 9, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Bob Eierman, Chemistry

Many people have fond memories of making crafts, gluing together Popsicle sticks, and coloring inside (or outside) the lines of a dinosaur coloring book either as a kid or with their kids (for you older folks in the readership). A much fewer amount of people have fond memories doing a lot of the same things when they were in Middle School and they were desperately trying to assemble a poster that could kick the crap out of Danny Jones’ poster at the science fair. And an even fewer amount have fond memories of doing the same things at the collegiate level where supplies of colored pencils, glue, and artistic motivation are often quite depleted. But the poster—an excellent learning and presentation tool—cannot be written away simply because it can often be a pain to create. Dr. Eierman, with the help of Gene Leisz, keeps the poster a part of his curriculum by introducing a digital template that the students can work on together in the active learning classroom: 

Setting: Students presented research projects with the aid of digital posters at the pod stations (15 pods total with 3 students per pod)

Setup for the activity: As part of the final project in Chem 213 (lab), each student independently selects a research question, gathers and analyzes samples in the lab, completes calculations and statistical analysis, and draws conclusions. The design and presentation of the poster is the culminating event of the research project.

How the activity unfolded in the classroom: Each student created a digital poster using a PowerPoint template designed (by Gene Leisz) to fit the pod screens in the active learning rooms. There were three students to a pod and they pulled up all three of their posters onto the desktop. The first student displayed their poster; we then spent about 30 minutes visiting the displayed posters in both rooms (CEN 3814 and CEN 3504), and non-presenters moved around viewing the posters. Next, we switched to the second student at each pod and visited them for the next 30 minutes. A final 30-minute session allowed us to visit the last of the posters. In about 2 hours, we displayed 46 posters. The poster quality was high and students said the posters were easy to create starting with the provided template.

After the activity: Students also submitted the posters through the D2L Dropbox, and I was able to grade them electronically in the comfort of my office. No printing was necessary and students were able to include graphs, photographs and other imagery that enhanced the posters. In addition, the students and I will be able to retain a copy of the poster(s).Students and faculty recognized that this was an excellent way to create and display high quality posters.

Additional comments from instructor: "I have been doing poster sessions like this for over 20 years, typically with posters mounted on cardboard. The old way was a pain for the students to create and difficult physically for me to grade. As a group, these were the best looking and highest quality posters I've ever seen. Many students commented that this was an extremely convenient way to make and display this important product of the culminating event in the course. I will definitely do this again with my Chem 213 class."

Tip provided by: Bob Eierman
Write-up by: Jon Pumper

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