Making Connections: Helping Students Remember Concepts

Helping students of different levels and learning styles connect to course concepts can be one of the most challenging obstacles any teacher faces, whether it be online or in the traditional classroom.  Here are some ways you can aid your students in remembering (and retaining!) important course concepts

Metacognition

In the simplest terms, metacognition simply means thinking about thinking. For example, if you’re teaching a literature course, as an icebreaking activity, you might ask your students to recount a positive reading experience that they’ve had previous to the course. This will get students to associate positive feelings with reading before you even assign something for them to read! If a student enters a course with negative feelings about the subject matter or their ability to achieve the course objectives, it’s incredibly difficult to overcome that negativity. Therefore, reminding students of a prior success in a certain area is an excellent way to get off on a positive footing.

Wordplay

One of the best ways to remember something is to use a mnemonic device or wordplay. No matter what walk of life you’re from, you most likely remember the following: “I before E except after C” and “30 days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31.”

Another example of a mnemonic device capitalizes on the first letter in each word. For example, in a biology class I once learned the way that species are organized by the following sentence: King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup, which stood for Kingdom-Phyla-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species.

Insight

How many times have you heard the question “When will I ever use this in my career/the future?”? A personal connection with course material is essential to student assimilation of the information. If a student believes that the material has no value in their daily life, it will be difficult to get that student to fully participate in a course. Initiating an “aha” or “lightbulb” moment for a student will help them remember a concept.

Social Interaction

Social interaction reinforces a student’s acquisition of course materials. Participating in a discussion, interactive game, or peer review activity gets students to share their ideas with others. Even simply relaying the information learned to a colleague or family member can help solidify concepts.

Pair it with Music

Do you remember certain songs from childhood with absolute clarity? Music helps our minds create unique and lasting neural pathways. If it’s possible, use a song or rhyme to illuminate ideas you want students to remember easily.

References:

Lynda.com (Producer). (2014). The Neuroscience of Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Higher-Education-tutorials/Neuroscience-Learning/188434-2.html

 

Catering to Different Learning Styles in the E-Learning Environment

Sometimes the e-learning or blended learning environment makes it easy to share things and communicate with your students. Almost all LMS (learning management systems) allow for the posting of announcements, lectures, and quizzes, etc. But this is not always enough to engage students of all the different learning types.

Caption: 7 Learning Styles – Verbal, Solitary, Visual, Aural, Social, Logical, Kinesthetic

Appealing to each of the seven learning styles has long been a challenge for educators, but never is it more challenging than in the online environment, which creates a distance between instructor and student that doesn’t occur in the traditional classroom. How can educators cater to all of these styles in the e-learning medium to provide the most enriching learning environment?

Verbal/Solitary

These types of students are usually the easiest to communicate with in the online environment. They’re usually self-starters that enjoy reading and figuring things out on their own, rather than being shown. For these reasons, verbal and solitary learners respond well to most activities in the e-learning environment. Downloadable documents, e-books, text lectures, discussion forums, group chats, etc. These types of students often excel at written assignments, which makes them ideally suited for learning online.

Visual/Aural

For visual and aural students, it’s a great idea to use instructional screencasts, videos, music or other auditory/visual stimuli. If you’re providing a text lecture, consider providing a screencast of the instructor pointing out the key points in the lecture or giving some thoughts on the material presented. This can really help learners who struggle to read all the material assigned. Try using Jing if you’d like a free application to work with. Jing limits you to a 5 minute recording.

Social

Social learners like to feel like they are part of a community of learners, and it’s sometimes easy to feel like you’re on your own little island when you’re learning in the online environment. Discussion forums and peer review activities are a good way to get class members talking to each other. It’s also a great idea to schedule a time for a live group chat, if your LMS makes this possible.

Interactive games are also another great way to challenge students to connect and compete with each other in a fun way. One of the best sites I’ve found for constructing interactive games is Educaplay. You can make everything from interactive crosswords, matching sets, maps to label, etc. Educaplay makes it easy to either link or embed the games you make into your LMS interface.  Check out this example I made to help students learn the geography of the fifty states:

US States Map Identification Game

Logical

Reach your logical students by presenting information in graphs, diagrams, or charts. If using spreadsheets is appropriate, these are also an option.

If you want to engage your logical students on a more social level, try developing a class survey or poll. For example, if you were teaching an Introduction to Film Course, you might poll the class to find out which genre was the most popular among the student population. If your LMS doesn’t provide a way to integrate a poll, you should consider using a Google Apps Form to achieve the same end. Google Apps Forms are easily customized and embedded, just like this:

Visit the Google Forms App to check it out. You do have to log in to your Google account to access this app.

Kinesthetic

By far the most difficult type of learner to engage in the e-learning environment is the kinesthetic learner. Kinesthetic learners learn by physically doing things or doing things on a physical rather than a verbal or logical plane. It’s not impossible to have your online learners participate in physical activities, but you will most likely have to get creative and assign them things that lead them there. For example, if you were teaching a Composition course, you could assign your students to visit somewhere naturally beautiful, like a park, and write a description of something in great detail, such as a tree or a river. If you were teaching a Math course, you could ask your students to make simple observations about math in their daily lives. For example, ask students to tell you (in fractions or percentages) how much pizza/pie/etc. at their last family dinner. You could even have them provide pictures as a way to verify their calculations!

 

Interactive Games in the Digital Learning Environment

If you’re using technology in the classroom, use should definitely try incorporating some interactive games into your lesson plans. As all teachers know, it’s a challenge to appeal to so many different learning styles in one classroom. But what student doesn’t like a game?? These types of activities are especially helpful for learners that respond more quickly to audio or visual stimuli. After a while text-based activities can be a bit of a bore for anyone!

One of the best sites I’ve found for making games for almost any level of student is Educaplay. You can make interactive crosswords, word searches, word jumbles, matching, fill in the blanks, scrambled sentences, and many more. Each activity can be customized to align with your lesson objectives. You can also control other attributes, such as the length of the game, and how many times a student is allowed to choose the answer.

Here’s an example of an interactive map I made of the United States which asks the student to correctly identify each state. The ease with which this was created astounded me! I simply uploaded the map I wanted to use, and then input the correct answers. This kind of interactive map game has a number of applications in the sciences and social sciences, as well.

US States Map Identification Game

Unfortunately, there are a few advertisements when you use a free account to create games. But overall, the functionality is great and there are numerous applications for the games created at this site. Another awesome thing about Educaplay – thousands of other educators from around the world have created interactive games for their classes, and you can easily search and use these games in your own classroom. Why do the work if somebody’s already done it for you?!

As for method of delivery to your students, it really depends on how much technology you have available to you in the classroom. If you have your own class website that you update yourself, you probably already know how to use an embed tag to host the game. But if you’re not that technologically inclined, you can also just email a link to the game to your students that leads them it at the Educaplay site.

Kendall

Finding Online Teaching Jobs

Teaching online can be a personally and financially fulfilling career. If you already have “on-the-ground” teaching experience, that’s certainly a plus, but it’s not impossible to find online teaching jobs with little or no teaching experience. The requirements vary widely amongst institutions, but most universities require that their adjunct faculty have completed at least 18 graduate level course hours in the subject they wish to teach.

Like most fields, competition for online teaching jobs can be fierce. These days, many people want the added benefits of telecommuting, which means that it may be even more difficult to get a job with an online university than it is to get a job teaching in a traditional classroom. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that your résumé and cover letter are up to date and reflect accurate information about your skills and work history.

Once you’ve updated your résumé, you can begin your job search online. Here are some of the first places you should visit:

  • HigherEdJobs – Whether teaching online or in the classroom, this is the “go to” website for the seasoned academic professional. This site lists hundreds of new positions each day and even has a special section for Online/Remote positions. You can create an account which allows you to develop an online résumé, create multiple job search agents that notify you via email of suitable positions, and upload pertinent documents, such as transcripts, etc.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education – Although it seems more geared towards finding traditional teaching jobs, The Chronicle of Higher Education is a fabulous source of information on the educational industry in general and has an extensive job search database (Vitae) that lists thousands of adjunct positions.
  • FlexJobs – This site is useful for anyone who is looking for a telecommuting position. Although they do offer a free account, if you’re a serious jobseeker, it’s probably best to opt for the Premium account. In the Premium Account, you can build multiple résumés to apply to a variety of career fields. This is great if you have many different skills that don’t necessarily fall under the same umbrella. You can also set up alerts for specific jobs or industries so you can apply quickly if you feel you have the right qualifications. Finally, FlexJobs offers a testing service where you can showcase your skills by completing an online examination. This is a great way to highlight your proficiency in the skills you listed on your résumé.
  • LinkedIn – As with any other profession these days, it’s of crucial importance to your career that you network as much as possible! Fill in your LinkedIn profile with as much information about your education, experience, and skills as possible. Join groups related to your field of expertise, and don’t be afraid to ask other professionals in your field for advice about where to find the best online positions.

In addition to all of these sites, be sure to look at the individual websites of universities you might be interested in working with. Most schools have online programs of some sort, so it’s a great idea to check out the Human Resources section of a university’s website to see if they’re hiring online adjuncts in your field.

Happy job hunting!

~ Kendall

Video Screencasts – How to use them and why you should be

If you’re new to online teaching or work collaboratively in a digital environment, you may be searching for additional ways to make your classes more interactive for your students or help explain things to colleagues. Choosing to work or study online doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone wants to read a text-only lecture every week! In order to cater to a variety of learning  and working styles, you’ll need to include some “extras” to keep your audience engaged.

One of the best and easiest ways to explain a concept in the digital environment is to use a video screen capture. Screen captures can be used in many ways, but here are a few ideas:

  • Describing how to do something in an external program, such as MS Office (example: format a document using APA style)
  • Articulating your grading procedure more clearly (example: show how students are scored using a rubric; show students how grades are entered into the gradebook)
  • “Shout outs” to students who have done well on a task as an example for other students of how to “get it right”

This may all sound great! But how can it be accomplished? Well, if you have access to Adobe Creative Suite, then you’re all set. However, many teachers don’t have access to Adobe and simply can’t afford it. Here’s where a program called Jing steps in. Jing is a free program that creates screencasts of up to five minutes. Its produced by a company called TechSmith, which also produces many other paid-for software, such as Camtasia and Snagit.

Jing can be downloaded by clicking here. It’s easy to use, so creating your first few screencasts should be  a breeze. Check out the video below about making your first screen capture:

Hopefully this gets you started with video screen captures. Be sure to check out the Jing Tutorials at the TechSmith site for more tips and tricks!

~ Kendall

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

The posts in this area will mainly be focused on education, e-learning, funding for educational research/expansion, and how best to assimilate to the ever-increasing use of technology in both traditional and online university settings.

There will also be quite a few posts about writing. If you teach English Literature or Composition and Rhetoric, you may find these posts useful in your classroom or in a professional sense. It seems like today’s teachers are asked to be experts in a number of fields other than the one in which they’ve been educated.

I will also be using this space to chronicle some of the charity work I’ve been doing using my skills as an educator and writer. In just a few hours a week, it’s possible to make a genuine difference in the lives of many.

If you’re interested in using your skills in a charitable way, be sure to check out the website Catchafire. It’s a social media portal that connects charities with people willing to donate their time and effort.

~ Kendall