Hacking Class Participation: 5 Ways to Engage Every Single Student

Hack Learning
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Class participation is critical to successful learning. Sadly, we often go at it the wrong way.

When we’re engaged in something, we do better at it. That’s as true of learning as it is anything else: an engaged student is more likely to learn and succeed than a disengaged one. Technology can play a huge part in this: motivating, involving, inspiring. — TeachKit.net

What To Do Tomorrow

As Mark Barnes explains in the Hack Learning podcast episode embedded above, the best way to engage even shy students and reluctant learners, so your class participation balloons to 100 percent is to use a backchannel–a digital discussion platform.

The easiest way to digitize class participation to create a conversation with a simple online tool like TodaysMeet, Twitter or another social network.

Put students on desktops, laptops, tablets, a mobile device or a combination of these. You can build your environment for a lively online, mobile chat in seconds and have all students “talking” in minutes. Here are a few easy steps to launch this hack immediately:

  1. Decide on a platform: TodaysMeet is easy, because it requires no registration. Just create a web address, like BarnesClassPeriod1, and TodaysMeet will set up a virtual chat room. If your students are on Twitter, use a hashtag to aggregate all tweets into the same Twitter feed–something like, #CivilWarChat. Be sure all students tweet to the hashtag.
  2. Explain the activity: At first students may think it’s weird to chat online, when everyone is in the same room. No need to tell them that your goal is 100 percent participation (don’t worry, they’ll participate). If you feel the need to justify the activity, tell students you want to create a digital record of they thoughts. You can easily archive the chat. TodaysMeet has a download chat feature and there are tons of tools to help you save your Twitter hashtag conversation (Storify) is a great one.
  3. Set simple guidelines: I had two basic rules for digital chats: 1-Students must contribute at least one original thought to the chat. 2-Students must respond to at least one other comment–this doesn’t mean simply retweeting it. If you have 25 students, this gets you 50 comments immediately. Now, that’s a powerful classroom chat.
  4. Discuss appropriate use: In a couple of minutes prior to beginning your online discussion, remind students of their responsibility when chatting in cyberspace. Here’s a very simple approach that applies to everyone, including adults. Tell students to ask themselves this question before posting any comment: “Would I say this in front of everyone in a public setting?” If there’s even a moment of pause before posting, then don’t do it.
  5. Teachers talk too: For there to be legitimate 100 percent participation in this amazing mobile conversation, teachers must post to the conversation. Students love this. Ask questions. Respond to individual’s comments. Add graphics, when possible. Identify comments you love and say simple things like “Yes!” or “Hmm., can you clarify this?” Oh, and don’t forget the occasional smiley face or thumbs up. Everyone enjoys emoticons.

Tell us your “hacks” for inspiring 100 percent participation in your class.

Check out other episodes in the Hack Learning Podcast — a Spreaker Staff Favorite.

photo credit: Kathy Cassidy via Flickr

Author: Hack Learning Team

The Hack Learning Team brings you right-now solutions for teaching and learning from some of the best educators in the world. Look inside our library at http://hacklearningbooks.com

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