Increasing Student Engagement and Extending the Walls of the Classroom With Emerging Technologies

Increasing Student Engagement and Extending the Walls of the Classroom With Emerging Technologies

Thomas G. Wangler, Ellen M. Ziliak
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3417-4.ch049
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Some tend to view the use of technology as the panacea people have all been waiting for, and yet, if a piece of software or technology is not used properly, it can amount to little more than a high-tech pedagogical placebo. It is important to keep in mind that technology is a means to an end and not an end in itself. The goal is to impart knowledge, increase student understanding, and develop critical thinking skills. Further, if technology can be used to create learning experiences outside the classroom or enrich the educational experience inside the classroom, then it is a useful tool. This chapter reviews case studies of three emerging technologies: clickers (or audience response systems), Maple (computer algebra system), and screencasting (using a tablet PC) that have been implemented successfully on one campus to enhance student learning.
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We begin by sharing some of the literature that motivated us to incorporate these emerging technologies into our classrooms. The first technology we focus on is audience response systems, generally called clickers. This technology has been used extensively in recent years in many disciplines including mathematics. The majority of the prior work focused on students’ attitudes towards classes where clickers are used, but several studies compared the exam performance of clicker versus non-clicker classes. In our chapter we will focus on how to use clicker questions to create an environment that encourages active participation by students and meaningful discussion of essential topics in mathematics. Generally, it has been found that the majority of students enrolled in classes that use clickers enjoy using this technology. Our experience with clickers also supports this conclusion. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that clickers tend to increase students’ attendance rates and encourage classroom discussion (“Teaching with Clickers: Students’ Attitudes”, 2010). In addition, some studies have found that clickers can lead to an increase in scores on the final exam compared to traditional lecture (Miller, Santana-Vega, and Terrell, 2006). Still others find no statistically significant change in test scores over other active learning environments, but students in these classes feel that they learn more (Martyn, 2007). We are currently finding results similar to Martyn (2007), however, we believe the students benefit substantially from the use of clickers – even when we do not see an improvement in exam scores. One reason for this is that exams can be limited in the types of questions asked due to the time constraints of the exam period. We believe that students who participate in discussions motivated by clicker questions develop an understanding of how material fits into the larger picture to a greater extent than those in traditional lectures. Prior to the inclusion of clickers we were using inquiry-based learning, where we required our students to actively participate in the classroom environment. The benefit of adding clickers has been that we are able to help the students make connections with prior course material and develop examples that would have been too time consuming to present in class using other techniques.

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