One of the culture shocks experienced while offering workshops to Chinese students at Sias International University was the silence out there. They didn't ask questions. They didn't want to answer questions when asked. Turns out they didn't want to embarrass ME in case I didn't know the answer. I explained that American professors are comfortable not knowing the answer, and we encourage questions.
Now, I'm thinking, I didn't quite tell the truth. OK, I hope that I told a theoretical truth, but in practice, we know we're generally asking the few, eager, extroverted, usually attention-seeking students in the front rows. We know their questions and we know our answers. What if we really did want students in the back rows to let us know what they don't understand? There are new and interesting ways to ask them, even in large lectures and I'd like to think aloud about a few of them.
First, the infamous "clickers" or more formally "classroom response systems" (CRS). Clickers can be a great way to get low-stake feedback. For those new to these hand-held gadgets, here's Wired's take on the subject. But, the classroom setup and the individual devices can be both pricey and hard to manage. Too often purchased by the students and poorly used by the instructor, the cost and cumbersome management can cause some resentment.
Some say the
So I want to mention PollEverywhere, which is a great alternative to clickers. Web-based, it allows students to respond to questions via whatever they have:
Another way in to the participatory learner is to use
It occurs to me that "blended learning" could also be used to describe a F2F class that logs into webinar software (Adobe Connect, WebEx, GoToMeeting, ... you choose) and make use of the chat, poll, discussion notes feature of real-time participation.
Lots of choices. We'd be using them if we really want to "know that our students know what we need them to know" (Tom D'Angelo). All of them would tell us. If we asked the right questions. In the right way for our increasingly diverse learners. Assessment amplified, and delivered via a plethora of software and devices now found in our pockets, backpacks, app-ready devices.