Lectures come alive: Using technology effectively in the classroom

by Ginger Blackstone, M.A.
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

When it comes to the 21st Century classroom environment, lesson plans full of lectures and pop quizzes are often inadequate for engaging and retaining students’ attention.  In today’s electronically-saturated world, it’s all about technology.  Instructors looking for that upper edge to connect with their students can utilize a wide array of online resources and hi-tech gadgetry to grab students’ attention and keep it.  

Why is technology such a big deal?  The proper use of technology can enhance the learning experience by incorporating more of our senses, bringing “boring” topics to life, and helping to break social barriers that may keep shy or introverted students from participating in class discussions. Indeed, Dr. Curtis Bonk, a professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University, argues that instructors have an ethical obligation to incorporate technology in their courses. Not only do today’s students expect it, but so do their future hiring managers.

That said, many of us have experienced how the misuse of technology can be equally ineffective: cluttered PowerPoints with too many tiny words for the audience to read, lengthy video clips that lull viewers into a zombie-like state, malfunctioning hardware or software that steamrolls even the most well-constructed presentations, and so forth. The key to engaging the audience is to know how to properly use technology. (And always have a Plan B if something goes awry.)
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Tips for avoiding and dealing with discipline problems in the college classroom

by Lauren Darm
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

It may not be the most pleasant part of teaching, but the fact is every teacher at some point or another is going to face the looming classroom issue of disciplinary problems.

Most teachers think about problems they fear facing in the classroom, yet with hectic schedules full of lesson plans, grading papers and individual research, it’s hard to find the time to develop strategies for the different disciplinary scenarios on their minds.

However, the fact is discipline problems will happen at some point, so we as teachers need to be proactive and figure out how to face these situations in advance, starting with your course syllabus.

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Strategies for recognizing and promoting cultural differences in the college classroom

by Lynsey Saunders
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Many terms or phrases may come to mind when trying to consider what cultural diversity means.

The classroom is one of the most culturally diverse settings for students and teachers. Everyone in the classroom may share similarities, but each person’s individual differences could really help enhance the learning environment.

It’s best to look at cultural diversity in the classroom as bringing parts of a whole together. Teaching students that each one of them can contribute something innovative, unique, and worthwhile based on their backgrounds will help bring their learning experience full circle.

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Tips for handling large classes

by Nicki Karimipour
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Teaching a large class may not be ideal, but could become a necessary part of our teaching careers, especially at Research I institutions around the country. Based on the classroom poll, most of us consider a large class to range anywhere from 50 to100 (and more) students. Some auditoriums and lecture halls can accommodate hundreds of people.

I took some of the most common concerns from my classmates and organized them into five main categories.

Challenge #1 – Course organization

These are decisions you should be making before ever stepping foot into the auditorium or lecture hall – decisions about the syllabus and what topics will be covered in your course.

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Creating Rubrics: The art of evaluation

by Andrea E. Hall
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

One of the biggest issues surrounding teaching today is how to effectively evaluate students. While testing is a major component, especially for our brothers and sisters in secondary education, it isn’t the be-all and end-all of the educational system as it is often made out to be.

Wilbert McKeachie’s book McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers stresses the importance of validity in assessment. Just like in research, validity asks if the assessment is measuring what it is supposed to be measuring. The reality in teaching is some topics simply can’t be evaluated as effectively with tests, which is where papers and projects often become the choice method.

However, there are often more variables to consider when assigning a paper or project than filling in multiple-choice bubbles. This where creating a rubric as a guide for both the student and later for you, as the grading teacher, is useful.

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Developing and using group assignments: Bridging the theoretical and the practical

by Jordan Neil
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

In my presentation in Mass Communication Teaching, I looked to highlight many of the facets that comprise successful group assignments, as well as the common barriers to
achieving that success. Furthermore, against a backdrop of why group assignments are important within teaching theoretically, the presentation was structured so as to also provide real-life, practical examples to draw reference from.

Although most of my research for the presentation was based off the work by educational scholar Wilbert McKeachie, in his book “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips,” I found ancillary readings online to supplement and support the textbook.

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8 tips for developing more effective lesson plans for college teaching

by Julie Dodd

I feel like I’ve sat in on classes across the communications curriculum, as I’ve just finished reading a collection of lesson plans from the graduate students in Mass Communication Teaching.

I’ve been a part of group discussions, watched PowerPoint presentations, been assigned to a small group to compare print and digital versions of magazines, and looked for media examples to illustrate concepts discussed in class.

I’ve thought about the history of communication before iPads, televisions and newspapers. I’ve considered how best to tell a story. I’ve debated what media ethics should mean to reporters.

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