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12 tools for engaging students during teacher presentations in the group space

In the past couple of months, because of the pandemic, there was a surge of web articles that provided tips about effective remote teaching and learning. At the same time, a couple of my teacher friends had expressed a related concern: Whether flipped learning would be hampered by lessons that had to be conducted online.

The concern has arisen from the cognizance that under a flipped learning approach, class time should be spent as much on active learning as possible. Hence, the question of how to facilitate active learning in a remote teaching environment does deserve attention. Nevertheless, the same question will also be present in face-to-face teaching.

There are many ways to go about active learning in the in-class stage (the Group Space) of a flipped lesson unit. One major direction is definitely student engagement – how to engage students throughout the active learning phase. The pedagogy literature is not short of classroom strategies that engage students. Student engagement is not only about designing tasks and activities that keep students busy. It is not just about group work. It also refers to how teachers can keep students engaged when they are presenting something. In the in-class stage of a flipped learning lesson, it does not mean that teachers should refrain from presenting further lesson content. Of course, teachers should refrain from repeating the concepts already presented in the pre-class work (individual space activities). But in the ensuing in-class stage (group space), sometimes teachers may still have to present further learning content, or develop from the basic concepts that students have learnt in the individual space stage.

Thanks to advances in educational technology, teacher presentations do not have to be simply chalk-and-talk any more. Today, there are scores of tools that facilitate teachers’ content presentations, while engaging students in the process. While the traditional Powerpoint contains teaching content only, these new presentation tools also have built-in tools for teachers to insert polls, quizzes, tasks, and so on. At the start of a presentation, the teacher will open the prepared resource, and give students the ‘join code’. The students will go to the Student version of the same app, and input the join code. Once the teacher has started the presentation, the students will respond to the tasks when they appear in the course of the presentation. Their responses will then appear on the teacher’s screen, either individually or as a summary. This gives students a strong sense of being part of the goings-on of a lesson.

I should mention that some of these apps also allow for activity-inserted presentations that can be followed by students on their own. In this way, the whole presentation will be in the form of a short learning journey – students go through the resource, learn the content, and respond to the questions and tasks that have been planted into various points of the learning journey.

The picture below embodies 12 such apps that I personally like and often use in my teaching. When you click on the picture, you will be taken to an interactive image. When you click on each yellow star, you will see the name of the app, as well as a link that takes you to the homepage of the app.

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