I currently TA for comprehensive biochemistry I at Big State University. It’s semester four for me. The course usually enrolls about 120 students, about 20 or so drop before the end of the semester. Generally, students attend lectures where they follow along with pre-printed power points. The professor I work for leaves strategic blanks so students will attend class. After lecture, the students will generally study their notes prior to recitation (which I teach) before the quiz is administered. Sometimes they come to recitation with questions, and sometimes our discussion generates a question. This pattern is very familiar at lots of universities.
Recently I have been working to develop my teaching skills through some on-campus workshops/seminars/etc. You might be asking yourself, why do I want to spend time developing my teaching skills when I don’t have a defined career goal? Its part of my overall strategy to increase marketability. I have traditionally considered it likely I would enter teaching, and so many things I do set me up for this goal as I explore options.
Anyway, recently I attended a seminar discussing teaching with technology. I thought there were some really interesting (somewhat) free programs that could potentially make lecture courses more engaging for more students. There were platforms that allowed student polling via text message or browser, that allowed remote management of slides via tablet or phone, and even chat sessions for students to interact with each other. I think these tools could have really interesting application.
And so I brainstormed a bit and tried some of the programs out. I set up some test situations and played with them at home. Then I brought in my mini-quizlet to the prof to pitch about integrating this at the end of the class today. I initially emailed after the seminar and got a mostly positive response. The prof suggested questions indicative of the grade level students were seeking. So three questions, A, B, C level. And today the prof doesn’t want to do anything with tech because it must take time from somewhere, and we couldn’t cut anything out. Prof even went as far as to describe the tech tools as likely distraction.
Sigh. For the record, this prof is 32. Not that it really matters, but for those of you following along at home who would imagine a greybeard. I did get some free rein to experiment in recitation, which is going to be my next experiment. I think I’ll start with some poll questions and see if I can use them to help out the students. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not the students like them or show any better understanding (I know, quantitative metrics), after Spring Break is over anyways.