Moving from being “lectured to” to encouraging student interaction and meaning making

  • How is learning presumed to occur within the context of Web 2.0?

In the context of Web 2.0, learning is through a community of engagement, which allows students to participate with other learners about the material.  In this process, they are able to construct their own understanding of the content and understand it at a deeper level.  In this way, Web 2.0 learning is a form of constructivist learning or as described by The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism, by Terry Heick (, a form of connectivism in which learning is occurring in informal ways with others through the use of technology.  This is an interesting article as an introduction to the concept of connectivism, which is a term that is very new to me.  I was intrigued by the concept of bricolage from the John Seely Brown article, Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age.  I have students who share with the class a particular site, video, or article that they found helpful in understanding of applying the lecture material.  I have other students who design their own lecture outlines, study guides, and Facebook pages and share these with other students.  They learn and  continue to learn how to learn from each other.

  • What are the differences in the role of the learner and the facilitator as compared to ‘traditional’ learning environments? (Do you consider these roles and processes viable/valid given your philosophy of learning?)

As a facilitator, I often need to take a step back and allow the students to apply the material on their own.  In my online courses, I do this by encouraging discussion and assigning research assignments on the material.  These assignments encourage the students to find articles that relate to a particular topic or apply textbook concepts to real life situations.  For example, in describing the process of mitosis, I encourage discussion about cancer and assign individual research projects about cancer.  Since most have personal experience within their family, this allows them to understand better why the process of mitosis is important and how problems with this process can lead to cancer.  I like to call these activities, meaning-making, or “Why do I care?” activities.  In my on campus, face to face courses, I have very large lecture sections that tend more towards a traditional learning environment with presentation of content to the students.  However, I incorporate discussion, video segments, and short quizzes to encourage interaction and learning.  My face to face course does break into smaller 16 person lab sections in which I can lean more towards a facilitator as the students work in small groups to apply the material from lecture.  I often have students say that they learn much more in the lab setting, as they can utilize higher order thinking by working together on the lab.  Becoming a facilitator of learning was difficult for me when I first started teaching about ten years ago, since my models of college instruction came from the traditional large lecture setting, such as my freshman 8AM biology lecture with 800 people in Schwab Auditorium!  However, looking back, I see that I was simply memorizing material instead of truly understanding or learning that material.   I have had to turn my own perception of learning around as I have developed my teaching style over the years.

  • What implications do these shifts have for how we think about designing learning environments?

Brown describes how attention spans of managers (and most kids!) ranges between 30 seconds to five minutes.  Students are used to constantly checking their phones for text messages and emails.  Sitting through a 50 minute traditional lecture would lead to boredom and loss of attention.  I have tried to format my “lectures” with constant questions and interaction to maintain my students’ attention.  In lab, I allow them to use their phones, tablets, and laptops to help them as they work together on the material.  For anatomy lessons using lab models, many students take pictures of the models with their phones and make digital flashcards to use to study whenever they have a few minutes available.  Some students make videos of themselves pointing out parts of anatomical models that they can watch again and again until they have the material mastered.  I promote the use of these tools and encourage the students to develop the best method to learn the material that works for them.  In this way, I also learn new methods to use in my future teaching!  A major implication of Web 2.0 is that educators need to not be afraid of using these tools, but instead develop the  best ways to use the evolving tools in their own learning environments.

6 thoughts on “Moving from being “lectured to” to encouraging student interaction and meaning making

  1. Cheryl Burris

    Hannah, I was struck by your remark “I find that a lot of instructors are scared of letting go of their control over the flow of content…” This seems to be even more now based on what I hear teachers discuss with the standardization of curriculum.

    Melissa, What a wonderful way to embrace technology in the classroom. There seems to be a trust you have in both using the technology in the classroom as well as in the students to use the technology in the classroom. That was a strong point of reflection for me. Thanks.

  2. Melissa Glenn Post author

    I didn’t create the videos for the students, they simply made the videos themselves using the video recorder on their phones. I have many students who take pictures of models with their phones and cameras, but this was the first time students decided that videos would be more helpful. When I asked them about it, they said that hearing someone say a term in a video while pointing to that structure was more helpful that just having a picture of it. It sort of started a little discussion in my department as some instructors strictly forbid the use of cell phones in class. I do patrol around lab to be sure they are using their phones/tablets for educational purposes, but I really don’t have many problems with the students getting distracted by using their phones.

  3. eimpagliatelli

    Although holding students’ attention is one important reason for embracing Web 2.0 and technological tools as we create our learning environments, it is almost more important that we embrace these tools for the sake of our students’ futures. They need to be prepared for their future careers, which can be done by incorporating phones, laptops, and tablets into classroom activities to be completed in collaborative learning groups as you’ve described in your classroom.

    As an aside, what do you use for their video recordings? Are you familiar with EduCreations?

    Thanks for sharing, have a fabulous weekend 🙂


  4. Hannah Inzko

    I really appreciate the fact that you are finding ways to make the content matter (the cancer example) and allowing the students to teach each other. I find that a lot of instructors are scared of letting go of their control over the flow of content, when in most cases students can really take ownership of their learning when they’re in the position to share what they know.
    I also really like that you are using the web 2.0 tools to your advantage. If students are comfortable using their mobile devices to help them learn, who are we to take that away. I know so many faculty that to this day refuse to let their students bring in their laptops, fearing that the Facebook virus will run rampant in class. If the students aren’t engaged in class they will find ways to be distracted regardless of whether they have a computer in front of them.

  5. Melissa Glenn Post author

    This was a fairly recent occurrence–about two weeks ago. I had a group of about 5 students who were using a pointer to point to structures on an anatomy model and were then taking video of one student pointing and saying and spelling the appropriate structure (they have to be able to spell the structures correctly on the quiz). Sometimes they would ask me to clarify that they were pointing to the correct structure, but otherwise, I left them to their work as I hoped the process of making the videos would help them learn the material. From what I understand, they used these in their out of class study group and the videos were shared with multiple students. There quiz is Monday afternoon, so I’ll have to find out then if it was helpful for them!

  6. Phil

    I like how you enable your students to better understand the significance of mitosis by relating it to cancer, which unfortunately so many families have familiarity with. Making it relevant or providing them an access point is critical especially when it comes to more complex or abstract concepts that students may struggle with. I’m also intrigued with how your students use video in their lab sessions – e.g., Some students make videos of themselves pointing out parts of anatomical models that they can watch again and again until they have the material mastered Do you know if they share that with their lab partners and/or other students?

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