In 2011, I found myself standing in front of a room full of 2nd and 3rd grade students lecturing about digital storytelling. I explained the power of story, narrative, scripts, production and audience. There were a couple starry-eyed kiddos listening intently but for the majority of the class I watched them fidget, look around the room, play with their shoes, stare at the ceiling and occasionally tune in to me while I was talking. Did they learn anything? I was about to find out.
Once I handed out the 2-column script template, colored markers for color coding and gave instructions, a beautiful sight unfolded. Every student was deep in their creation and applying what I had been lecturing on, as if they had heard everything even though I viewed them as looking completely distracted. The takeaway from this experience was a lasting one, there is significant importance in the learning process through creating.
In the article, “Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design,” Pitfall #4: Expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it, really resonated with me. In the last eight years of teaching, this pitfall has proven to be a crucial one to consider. Much like the 2nd and 3rd grade students demonstrated to me on that day, my college students also like active learning. According to an article in the Standford Teaching Commons, “active learning is means students engage with the material, participate in the class, and collaborate with each other. Don’t expect your students simply to listen and memorize; instead, have them help demonstrate a process, analyze an argument, or apply a concept to a real-world situation.”
So, how will I avoid this pitfall in hybrid classes? Well, I plan to incorporate as much active learning as possible. Through activities, experiments and use of everyday media, there are a lot of opportunities to fold in the creation process. The process of creating is not only necessary to include in active learning but it’s also incredibly engaging and dare I say it, fun! Whether the class is face-to-face, online or hybrid, incorporating active learning will enrich the course and ultimately the student’s experience with the curriculum. Let the creating begin!
I found it important that the story you told about the 2nd and 3rd graders was a story about how you’d lectured and they still got a lot out of it, though you might not have known that if you hadn’t followed with an active learning exercise. I think it’s worth remembering that lecturing can also useful, particularly when you follow it with an activity that allows students to make sense of the content they’ve learned.
I couldn’t agree more with your comments about active learning. I tried just recently to include that in my WIC couuse and it worked much better than before. I teach students how to better write in French (via techniques, style strategies, etc.) and then I expect them to understand (and memorize) them. Now, I have students peer-review each other’s writing, applying the content. It works better and it seems to be more fun as well.