Monthly Archives: July 2011

“Poll the Audience” as used in the Nursing Classroom

Do you ever stare at a room full of students and wonder if there is comprehension behind the sea of faces?  I have found that the use of audience response devices helps!

I teach pathophysiology to the nursing majors. I enjoy teaching this class because it helps to answer the “WHY” question.   Some of the students find the content easy to master but for others it is challenging.  I ask them to not only understand disease but also to apply that knowledge to patient scenarios.  As we have been encouraged to admit larger classes it has become more difficult to do creative class activities which help comprehension.  I have gone from participatory activities to demonstrations and most recently to the use of audience response devices (clickers).  Each student is required to purchase a clicker.  $35.00 is billed to their student account.  They obtain clickers as sophomores so all nursing faculty can use them in class for the next two years.  The questions are inserted very easily into a PowerPoint presentation.  When a question comes up on the screen I give them a few seconds to answer the question.  When I advance to the next slide the graph pops up showing the answers selected by the class.


Using clickers in the classroom is wonderful for several reasons:

  1. You can pose a question to the class to assess understanding of a concept that you have just presented.  When half the class gets it wrong you know that it is a good time to back up and present the information in a slightly different way.
  2. It helps prepare students for tests.  They can get an idea of the type of thinking that may be required on a test.  I post my powerpoints with the questions on eCompanion so the students have access to the questions again. There is a way to show the correct answer in green and the incorrect answers in red so even as a posting the students can tell the correct answer. (I do not put them on document sharing which would give students the ability to download the whole file)
  3. Doing something active helps to keep the students involved and awake!
  4. I believe that they feel a sense of accomplishment when they get the question correct.  Maybe it helps them stay motivated to study and come to class prepared.


There are some hurdles which I have not completely overcome:

  1. When I pose a seriously easy question and someone answers it wrong I never know if they are just being funny or if someone still hasn’t a clue.  It is difficult to decide what percentage of wrong answers is sufficient to trigger a rehash of the concept.
  2. Students forget clickers!  I have tried to use the clickers for in-class quizzes but I always end up having some students use paper.  (I make them come sit up front to do the quiz with paper)
  3. When using clickers for quiz type activities there is still a risk of integrity violations.  Students can see which button their classmate pushes.  Especially since students tend to hold the clicker up and point it toward the screen.  Overall students prefer paper quizzes.

Conclusion and Next Steps

I have found clickers to be useful.  They do take a little more class time but for complex topics it is worth it.  We have discussed the possibility of using an application on a cell phone instead of having the students purchase a clicker.  That is something else to look at.  It would probably require students to have the ability to text and for some students that is a financial burden.  Campus has a sample set of 25 clickers and a receiver if you would like to try them!

Beth’s Kit

  • TurningPoint ResponseCardRF‘s
  • Microsoft Powerpoint with TurningPoint Software Loaded
  • TurningPoint RF receiver.
  • Participant Lists for each class containing student and the clicker which that student always uses.

Additional Resources

  • allows students to text an answer. You can embed response graphs into your PowerPoint presentations. There are paid versions and there is also a free version.
  • There is a 25 pack of TurningPoint clickers which you can sign out from Media Services. Call the Help Desk at 330.471.8428 to make a reservation.

The Joys and Pains of the Traditional Syllabus: Using blogs as an alternative to the traditional syllabus

Dr Andrew Rudd is a Professor of Communication Arts who teaches media and film on campus. He is “speaking” about the use of blogs and other Web 2.0 technologies as an alternative delivery method for syllabi and some course content. Below Andrew’s post you will find a glossary and some additional resources to check out if you are interested in doing a similar project. We appreciate Andrew’s willingness to share what has been working for him!


Many faculty consider the syllabus to be the cornerstone of well constructed pedagogy.  Expectations are explicit, shared and immediately available.  Regardless of how theoretical, organic or dialectical the course may be, students may take some refuge in the clarity of structure and direction that is laid out in a well-crafted syllabus.  Even if they don’t understand the idea of hegemony, but they know that they have a paper due in two weeks, and the test isn’t for two more weeks after that.

Hopefully (!?) all this structure makes the course *more* accessible and navigable for the students, allaying their fears and assisting them in progressing appropriately.

But there are pains that come with the traditional syllabus.  I find that the syllabus can make it difficult to diverge in an area of class interest, or to deepen in an area of need.  When I discover a new, better article that the students *really* should read…or hit upon an alternative assignment that would better facilitate learning and measure mastery…the calendar, the point values, the assignment structure all seem to resist this innovation.

Of course I tell students on the first day of class, that I will be re-issuing course calendars part way through the semester to match the unique path our class will forge through the semester.  But there is something about the paper and stapled version that still lingers with me in all its *finishedness* — a warning against change.

Internet Imperfection as Pedagogical Improvement

David Weinberger in his helpful book Small Pieces Loosely Joined writes about several qualities that the define the internet and the ways that those qualities influence and shape our own lives and thinking.  One of these qualities is *imperfection*.  In a society over-saturated with the sheen of advertising and the competitive corporate drive to maximize potential, achieve standards and demonstrate excellence, he points out all of the ways that *imperfection* works well for humans.

Imperfection invites participation, invites work, invites change, invites improvement.

Web communication is necessarily unfinished and imperfect, and in some ways — I like it that way.  (And finally, I come to the topic of this blog.)  Blogging is one of the many new forms of communication that have emerged on the web; I started blogging as a way to keep in touch with family and friends who lived far away.  It quickly became clear that blogging could be used for multiple other uses.

I started using blogging as a form of web supplement to my classes over five years ago. I now use a class blog (an example of my last class can be found here) for each of the classes that I teach and each of them includes all of the sections of my syllabus, menus that allow students to navigate the sections of the syllabi more fluidly, announcements about class ideas, assignments, due dates and information, links to other web-based materials and an embedded Google Calendar that includes due dates and class times.   On some of the blogs I also include more information about assignments, exemplary work that students have done in other semesters and study guides for exams. In some classes, I’ll even publish the outcomes of a group deliberation *while* the class is watching.

Some of the features I appreciate most about blogs include:

  • the ways that menus offer easy navigation,
  • the ability of students to subscribe to the RSS feed of the blogs,
  • the organization of posts that keeps the most recent post at the top of the blog,
  • and the ease and flexibility of the publishing platforms.

Most of the changes I make in any course have to do with due dates, a change in reading schedule or, occasionally, the addition of supplemental materials stemming from a conversation that emerged during class.

I use blogger, but have also used other platforms with success.  I’ve occasionally published remotely from my iPad which was widened the mobility of my own access.  While I have used class blogs with almost all of the classes I teach, I find that the content and structure of some makes the blogs more central to the life of the class while it simply serves as an ancillary resource for others.  I do not use class blogs for the classes where my effort is more collaborative than individuated (The College Experience or Faith in the World Seminar).

During a few semesters, I have integrated the course blog with an assignment to the students to blog.  In those cases, I found the blog traffic to be significantly higher and the menus I used to link their blogs together were a core resource students used.

As is the case with most technological innovations in pedagogy, the biggest drawback for developing this ancillary resource is the time that it takes to transfer the resources into the blog shell, to add various resources and then to update the blog entries appropriately.  I started by moving just one class into a blog form; I simply cut and pasted the elements of the syllabi into different posts and then built the sidebar menus. Over the course of the years, I’ve added various resources — sometimes to just one blog, sometimes to all the course blogs.   Each summer, after I update and tweak my syllabi, I have a second level of revisions to make, as I need to make sure that my posts are dated correctly, some of them poised to be published when appropriate, and altered based on any courses I’m making in the course.

Ultimately it is the temporality and the ongoing-ness of the blog that works well for my teaching style;  I believe that the centrality and ease accessing information is what makes the blogs work well for many students.



Andrew’s Kit

  • Personal Gmail account with credentials set up for Blogger (you could also use eCompanion or your Malone Google Apps account for similar ends).
  • Multiple and regular access to the Internet using laptop/iPad/SmartPhone.

Glossary of Terms

  • Blog: A web page (like this one) which contains regular entries by a person or group of people which is centered around a particular subject area, theme, or topic. A blog would be analogous to a public journal or diary. Wikipedia’s Explanation is here.
  • Web 2.0: Also called the Semantic Web. Are pages whose values is determined not necessarily by the content of the page but instead by the people and relationships which revolve around the page. Here is wikipedia’s explanation of Web 2.0 Technologies.

Other Resources

Admission or Prohibition of Laptops and Other Technology in the Classroom by Julia Frankland

Welcome to week two of the “Faculty Speak Classroom Geek” series. Dr. Julia Frankland, Chair of the Department of Business and a Professor of Business Administration discusses when she allows and doesn’t allow students to BYOD (bring your own device) into the classroom.

In the web resources I follow about technology and teaching, there is a lot of chatter about whether devices should be allowed or disallowed in the classroom. This is the case not only in higher ed but the whole P-20 education spectrum. I appreciate Julia’s balanced approach to this problem/opportunity. Under Julia’s post you will find additional blogs and scholarly articles which are related to this discussion.

Take it away Julia!

As someone who has embraced the use of audio and video presentations as frequent components of pedagogical methods, I’ve struggled with knowing how much technology the students should have access to during class.

Upperclassmen and Graduate Students

I teach freshmen in the Micro/Macroeconomics sequence, upper division business/econ courses to juniors and seniors and graduate level economics in the MBA.  For graduate courses, I allow students to bring in any technology they wish as long as it is used appropriately.   Classes are 4 hours long, and as long as they are focused on the topic at hand most of the time I find that an occasional glance at a sports score or email helps the commitment to 4 hours in economics to be an easier burden to bear.  Of course if the policy is abused it is changeable mid-term and the students are aware.  Thus far I haven’t had any problems with this group and this policy.


Things get trickier with undergrads. I would love to believe that if undergrads have access to laptops, iPads and smartphones during class – that they would only use them for appointed purposes (researching the Federal Reserve’s policies and the like). The trouble is that experience has shown me otherwise.

Not all technology is created equal.  Laptops are the worst in my opinion, because not only does the person using them see the screen, so does everyone behind them.  It is too easy to be distracted by a moving image and to be sucked in to whatever is on the screen. In my principles level courses (Econ 202/203) I do not allow laptops at all. We do a LOT of graphs, and they are hard to draw quickly on a laptop and students fall behind trying to get that downward sloping line ‘just so’. For exams and quizzes they will need to draw the pictures themselves, not cut and paste an existing image. Here pencil and paper is most valuable.   I want their full attention all the time, and since these are mostly 18 year-olds every bit of concentration assistance helps.

In upper division business/economics I have allowed laptops to be used in class when there is a legitimate need.  In Public Finance I can throw a website up on the screen and students can access it at their seats as well — same for Money and Banking.  It’s a different learning environment, and with consistent guidance about appropriate use this policy seems to work.

Electronic Textbooks and eReaders, specifically the iPad

In the last year I’ve faced some dilemmas that I’m still working through in terms of technology use, and they come about due to the coolest gadget I’ve seen in years – the iPad.   Clever students are figuring out how to download chapters or whole books onto the iPad and carry it with them everywhere. Knowing that I would never prohibit a textbook being brought to class, how can I prohibit an electronic copy of the textbook?   I’m sure you see the problem.

iPads are delightful in that they allow instant access to email, news and an occasional game of Harbor Master.  There is great temptation to squirrel around with the iPad and not do what we’re supposed to do (yours truly is guilty as well).  How do I find a balance here?  So far, I have allowed an occasional iPad in any class when the student can show me that they have downloaded the text onto the iPad instead of purchasing the book.  Luckily, so far only very good students have brought in iPads, so I’m able to put off the inevitable a bit.  What happens next though when this technology becomes commonplace? I’m not sure.


I can’t be everywhere in the classroom and I don’t want to be a room-monitor. I just want to be a professor. So I’m working on finding that balance between encouraging appropriate technology use and limiting access to distraction.   I’d love to hear if you agree with the way I’ve done this or if you have suggestions on better ways.


Additional Resources

Classroom Backchannel Through Texting: One Use of the iPad in the Classroom by Randi Pahlau

For our first guest, I would like to welcome Randi Pahlau from the Language and Literature Department. Randi is speaking to how she uses the iPad as a method of collecting backchannel communication from her students through texting (SMS).

Backchannel communication refers to communication that takes place OTHER than spoken word. Traditionally this meant non-verbal cues which take place in normal face-to-face communication. The definition has been borrowed and repurposed to chat, sms (texting) or other communication that takes place in the classroom (whether the faculty is aware or not).

Embracing the backchannel is a method for connecting to students.  A more complete definition can be found here.

Welcome! I am an Instructor of English here at Malone and have taught a wide range of classes in the Language and Literature Department, including Principles of Composition, Literature in Society, World literature, and Jane Austen on Film.

As a guest blogger, I want to share one of the ways I have used the iPad in the classroom. For freshmen taking general education courses I have capitalized on our students’ love of texting, trying to channel that interest into classroom discussion by downloading a free texting app, complete with my own phone number. (So students do NOT get my private cell phone number.)

Students Finding their Voice

Students text for different purposes, depending on their personality. Shy students ask questions without having to assert themselves. I see their names, along with the texts, so I can answer their questions directly, trying to gently encourage them to find a voice in the classroom. Texting can be a step towards finding that voice. Class clowns text humorous statements about the literature or our discussion. It is easy to glance at these texts during discussions and I am able to smile or nod at the student to acknowledge their comment without disrupting the class.

Engaged in the Classroom Conversation

Their comments show me that the students are engaged in the conversation. I also encourage students to text comments and questions while watching videos. Because they like to text, I find that they pay more attention to the video rather than less because they are looking for reasons to text. Plus, I am able to address any confusion immediately. Without that texting, some students get confused along the way and then get even more confused as the video continues. If we are watching Ibsen’s A Doll House, I will get questions like, “Did Nora just say she was going to commit suicide?” I can answer yes and the student understands the context of Nora’s comments and can participate in the class discussion knowledgeably. And the class was not disrupted.

Even seemingly unimportant comments like one I got as I was walking into a classroom about how a student likes my belt are important. No, my belt does not pertain to writing or literature, but it is one link in a bond between us that makes it easier for that student to approach me later with questions or problems. I enjoy having that backchannel throughout class time as another avenue for reaching my students.

Do you have thoughts on this kind of backchannel that you would like to share? Please feel free to join the conversation and let me know what you think.

Randi’s kit: