Monday, May 11, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Biology Department

Much like iClickers, Google Docs, or water gun carnival games, Padlet is a technology that allows people to see real-time effects. Probably most professors who have used iClickers before have noticed that a lot of their power resides in this “real-time effect,” as students reconsider and debate over answers when they see what the majority of the class is thinking.  Padlet is another user-friendly tool to engage in this type of teaching, and the featured technology in this active learning activity post provided by the Biology department:  

Setting: 10-minute activity implemented in a 100-level course;8 pods with 4 students per pod

Purpose of the activity: The activity was designed to allow students to report back their individual results to their group-mates, to compare and evaluate these results, and to discuss patterns and differences among group members and in comparison with an average American.  They were asked to reflect on solutions –based on previous class material.

Setup for the activity:
  1. In-class time the week prior was spent introducing students to the technology –Padlet (  Students were given a simple, fun task to explore using the technology –answering "What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?"  Each member was asked to write a text response, including his/her name and students were encourage to add images in order to learn how to do so.

    *Note, this activity occurred late in the semester when group rapport was already well-established. Issues of consumption and waste were previously covered in class.
  2. Students completed an online Ecological Footprint inventory.  Each student took a screen shot of the output data and graphs and saved the picture.
  3. Each student accessed their group's Padlet via a link provided on D2L and inserted the screenshot into the page .I also posted mine.
How the activity unfolded in the classroom: After comparing the results, students then addressed several questions about their own and other group members' results:
  1. How does your footprint compare to the US average?  To your instructor and/or classmates?
  2. What accounts for the greatest proportion of your footprint? Is this surprising? Why or why not?
  3. What could you do in order to decrease your footprint?
After the activity: Students were assessed based on their written answers to the prompts using our standard rubric for class activities (shared below).

5 pts
4 pts
3 pts
2 pts
Needs work
1 pt
0 pts
·meets all format standards
·key points clearly summarized
·thorough and thoughtful analysis provided
·reflection includes appropriate references to background info, opinion, connections to other class material
·1 minor issue with format or content
·2 minor issues with format or content
·Several minor issue with content or format
·1 major issue with format or content
·Numerous issues
·Reflects minimal understanding or effort
·Does not meet standards
·Does not reflect understanding

 Additional comments from instructor: Padlet was an effective means of sharing information among group members and by having it online students had more time to reflect than they might if the results were shared during a face-to-face discussion in class.  However, in retrospect I think the Padlet was not best suited for an out-of-class activity.  During our practice with Padlet the students seemed most excited about how the page updated in real-time during class as different class members added things and updated it.  Since they worked on this assignment outside of class it was unlikely that students were updating their page simultaneously and thus the 'real-time' effect was lost.  The Padlet was still a sufficient way of reporting back to the group but I think many other technologies might have worked equally well –such as a Google doc, etc… I would consider using Padlet for something like this again, though, as it is user-friendly and visual, so I do still think it's useful.

I think using Padlet is best suited-for a project/activity when students are simultaneously working on a project in-class together.  This Ecological Footprint Activity isn't necessarily something we would want to produce into a large document as it would likely be overwhelming – so I don't think I would do that with this assignment.  I am still not sure the best way to have students share and reflect on their Ecological Footprints – or if sharing is necessary.

Note that I do still recommend Padlet as a tool –and think it can be useful for both real-time activities and as a more general repository for information.

To check out Padlet, visit the Padlet website here

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