Engaging All Learners

Habits of Thought and Practice: Examining the Lecture (Part 3 of 3)

by Katie Beres, Instructional Liaison

In the first two posts in this three-part series, I examined the habit of thought related to preparing and conceptualizing the lecture experience. I shared that a major shift in my habit of thought for preparing my lecture time was to prepare for my lecture apart from any technology or tools I would use. Freeing me from the confines of bullets and text in PowerPoint gave me more creative freedom to imagine the best learning strategies for my classes. In this final post, I will address how I apply my learning outcomes and strategies to choices about tools for delivery.

Tools are the last factor in my process for planning a lecture. I save them for last because I do not want to teach to technology. Only when I have well defined learning outcomes and strategies for my lecture do I consider the tools I will use in class. “Technology” in my mind is any tool that can be used to facilitate learning. This means that tools can be simple as paper, pencil, and a minute of time, a book, or web-based like blogs, wikis, and Google docs.

The criteria I consider when evaluating a tool are:

  • The learning outcomes,
  • Strengths and weaknesses,
  • Enhancement or unnecessary complication, and
  • My confidence with the tool.

The capabilities of the tool need to align with my desired learning. The strengths and weaknesses need to be taken into consideration with the ability of the tool to enhance or complicate the learning experience. Does the ability of the tool to facilitate a quality learning experience outweigh the challenge of learning to use the tool itself? The answer to this question is influenced by my confidence; confidence in me and confidence in my students. I attempt to minimize risks that do not have a high probability of success, yet they are still risks.

What type of learning experience do you like to have in your course? As I shared in the previous post, my mental model for my lectures is that of a highly participatory workshop with me as a facilitator. I favor strategies and technologies that facilitate collaboration, reflection, and discussion. Your teaching philosophy and nature of your course may mean interaction within your lecture may look very different.

Below is a brief list of various strategies and corresponding tools. As you read through the list, consider what tools you use and how you use them. What strategies and corresponding technologies would you add? We live in an exciting time where educational technology is becoming more user-friendly, but it still takes a community to wade through it all to determine what is best for learning.


Strategy Tool Brief description
Knowledge check Clickers You set up questions and poll your students for instant feedback using clicker devices, smartphones, computers, or tablets.
PowerPoint Use a slide to pose questions to the class. Ask them to raise hands.
Paper & pen Ask students to write out any ideas that are “muddy” or “fuzzy” to them. Collect their comments to address them in class or as a follow up.
Collaborative writing Google Docs A collaborative writing tool based online via Google Apps. Students can write within the same document and post comments to each other for feedback. Can also be used solo. Looks like Word.
Reflective writing Paper & Pen Give students prompts in class to draw diagrams, make connections, write analogies, etc.
Collect questions Google Moderator Students submit a question and others can vote on it to show they agree. Do this before class to help prep or during class to encourage students to ask questions. https://www.google.com/moderator/
Visually enhanced presentation PowerPoint Create a slide deck and use visual tools to create unique graphics related to your learning. Online learning has great resources how to use PPT as a visual tool for face-to-face lectures too. http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/powerpoint-for-e-learning/
Prezi Web-based presentation tool, which uses zooming to move throughout content. http://www.prezi.com