Last time, I wrote about the tactics I was planning on trying out in my lecture series this year. Well, the lectures are done, I’ve collected some feedback and so here are the results.
- Live polling. Around three-quarters of the students had a smartphone or tablet and knew how to connect it to the Wifi, so there were enough for “think, pair, share” questions. I ran the quizzes using Socrative typically half-way through the lecture and the questions were simple, the idea was just to reinforce what I had just gone through, not to challenge them. Overall, 75% of the students agreed that “the quizzes helped me remember the key concepts from each lecture” and only 8% agreed that “the electronic polling is unfair as not everyone has a smartphone”. So, I’d say it went pretty well. There were the odd random problem running a quiz, which is inevitable given the technology involved. Also, the lecture theatres I was in didn’t have dual projection which would have made it a bit easier. So quizzes are definitely a good idea but I’m not sure how much the technology adds. If I can get my hands on some clickers, I will use these in preference next year, but using smartphones is certainly now possible.
- Online reading lists. I explained about the reading list on Mendeley at the start of the first lecture and I said we’d have a competition with a prize for whoever improved the Public Group the most. By the penultimate lecture …. no-one had done anything so I think they were a bit non-plussed. Over half (54%) of the students were not sure whether “it was useful having references in Mendeley”. I still think it is worth doing as, whilst it might not be of immediate use, I believe it is helpful to introduce them early on (this is a first-year course) to both references and reference managers as by the time they reach the fourth year they will have to be reading the primary literature.
- Videos. I showed them Linus Pauling explaining how he discovered the geometry of an alpha-helix and I started and ended the course with a very nice video showing a small protein folding, courtesy of Folding@home. I also introduced them to FoldIt which is a great game where you get to fold proteins. All of this went down very well and 85% of the students disagreed when I said that “the videos and other material were a waste of time.”. This does rely on the lecture theatre having speakers you can plug your laptop into, mind you. Will definitely do this next year.
- Stretches. I can still remember how sleepy I felt in many of my lectures after about 40 min. So I got my students to stand-up and have a stretch about half-way through, often just before a quiz. This is a no-brainer: 90% of the students agreed that “”the half-way break and stretch helped my concentration. It turns out there is a lot of material about breaks in lectures on the internet. I’m not sure if I will follow the advice of one student who suggested that “when doing the stretch in the middle of the lecture [you should] lead a routine.”.