Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Teaching Resource Center to Demonstrate New Interactive Classroom Technology

For University of Virginia faculty members and graduate teaching assistants interested in making their classrooms more interactive – or just curious about the possibility – the Teaching Resource Center will offer three demonstrations of the Learning Catalytics online system this month. Each U.Va. professor can take advantage of a free trial for the fall or spring semester.

Think of it as “clickers on steroids,” wrote Michael Palmer, associate director at the center. Instead of a clicker, a specialized device used to conduct instant classroom polls, students use the cloud-based Learning Catalytics system to respond to questions via any Internet-linked device they already have – a laptop, smartphone or tablet – while the professor monitors the responses. Questions, class poll results and answers can be pushed back to the students’ devices and displayed in technology-enabled classrooms.

“Faculty have asked us to make this technology available and to help them use it effectively,” Palmer said.

The system can be used to engage students in any discipline by creating open-ended questions that ask for numerical, algebraic, textual or graphical responses – or just plain multiple-choice. While traditional clicker systems are mostly limited to large-enrollment, STEM and other quantitative disciplines, the Learning Catalytics system works equally well for small classes and humanities and other more qualitative disciplines, Palmer said.

Learning Catalytics also allows instructors to create student groups automatically, based on their response patterns, to foster peer instruction and productive discussions.

The demonstrations will be held Aug. 8, 13 and 14 in Rice Hall, room 032; preregistraton is required. Sign up using the following links.

  • Aug. 8, 1-3 p.m.: click here.
  • Aug. 13, 1-3 p.m.: click here.
  • Aug. 14, 10 a.m.-noon: click here.

For participants to get the most out of the session, Palmer recommends that they sign up for an instructor account on the Learning Catalytics website beforehand and bring a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The demonstration will highlight nearly 20 different types of questions instructors can ask, show how the system can automatically use seating information to assign learning groups, and allow time for participants to ask questions. For those ready to start using the system, the second hour will be devoted to a hands-on workshop. 

After the free trial semester, students would have to pay for a subscription if the professor chooses to use the system in the classroom, Palmer said.

For information, email Palmer at mpalmer@virginia.edu.

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