Educating Generation Z

It's your turnConsider the characteristics of Gen Z students coming into your classes, comfortable in their digital world, and ready to fully engage online to prepare for their future career.

Are your courses providing the kinds of experiences, projects, and skills-based practice that will motivate and challenge these students? Or are you playing it safe with old-school lecture and testing?

Taking risks with collaborative group work learning models or using new technologies is worth it, not just because digital natives will benefit. It also models a love of learning on your part, and a willingness to make change, to fail and keep trying.

Some risks; many rewards.

4 Easy Ways to Integrate Multimedia

New tools are making it easier than ever to incorporate great multimedia online; not just for lecture content and tutorials, but also for students projects and assignments.

Meet the free and friendly tools of Web 2.0 – many allow simple one-click sign up via Facebook, and a very short learning curve. Assigning your students cloud-tool based projects can help them build 21st century skills, and offers creative alternatives for formal written papers.

Here are 5 resources to help you design and deliver multimedia learning options:

  1. Podcasting with Soundcloud – Podcasts offer busy students the ability to listen to your lecture while walking or driving to work. Soundcloud embeds look terrific in BbLearn, and a podcasting assignment will teach students scripting and recording skills valued in the digital workplace. Quick example:
  2. Using Google Slides? Try SlidesCarnival for slick, highly readable presentation templates.
  3. With Zaption, you can easily integrate gradable quizzes into your YouTube video content. Invite deeper learning by ‘pausing the video’ to reinforce an important concept.
  4. Brainstorm with Google Docs: Engage, inspire, and conjure brilliant ideas or solve problems using Google’s collaborative sharing applications, and then organize results or assess using concept mapping.


What is academic rigor?

RobynJacksonAcademic rigor is something we hear thrown around with other educational buzzwords, but not often defined. What does it mean in a practical sense? Rigor is not just about giving harder tests, assigning more homework, or providing extra credit for overachievers. Academic rigor is about creating challenging, engaging, and engrossing lessons that encourage each student to think in new ways.

Dr. Robyn Jackson, an educational author and speaker, breaks it down into 4 principles:

“Rigorous instruction requires students to:

  1. Construct meaning for themselves
  2. Impose structure on information
  3. Integrate skills into processes
  4. Apply their skills in more than one context, and to unpredictable situations”

She distinguishes real rigor from “rigor mortis,” where more difficult work is simply taken on by the instructor, leading to burnout. Ask yourself: Are you working harder than your students? Are student tasks aligned with these 4 principles? Are students doing the thinking? Or is the instructor telling them how and what to think?

Learn more about how Robyn defines rigor in her MindSteps website.

Improve Lectures With Stories

TreesLightWith Summer here, and light at the end of the tunnel, maybe there’s time to think about course improvements for Fall. With better lectures, you can enhance both online and face-to-face courses. Here are 3 easy ways to make your lectures more effective and memorable:

  1. Improve lectures with personal stories:
    Humans are wired to hear and remember stories. Adding your own personal anecdotes can perk up attention, bolster credibility, and more importantly, increase student recall. In his book “Teaching That Sticks,” Stanford University’s Chip Heath describes a student presentation experiment where he found the following:

    In the average one-minute speech, the typical student uses 2.5 statistics. Only one student in ten tells a story. When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63% remember the stories. Only 5% remember any individual statistic.

  2. Chunk lectures into small, coherent segments.
    Even the most energetic and entertaining lecturers can create too much of a good thing. If your presentations go longer than 15 minutes, students can zone out and their attention can wander. Breaking up lectures into smaller, topic-based segments is much more effective for learning.
  3. Target specific knowledge and skills with screencast lectures.
    Rather than going to the whiteboard or chalkboard to work through problems or examples, try creating a screencast or tutorial to demonstrate topics using computer software. This may save you time in the long run; you can often use these for multiple lessons and classes, and they will benefit confused students who can watch again (and again). The success of Khan Academy is built on this model, breaking down complex topics into visual step-by-step examples.

No Syllabus Needed

Imagine a course with no syllabus, where students run the class, create their own learning projects, and, essentially determine their own outcomes. What would that look like? Prof_Syllabus

For University of Idaho Business majors, it looks like the “Vandal Solutions” course. Students enroll and run the class as an actual business. They hire and train student employees and managers. They determine the viability of project proposals, develop business plans, make bids, perform the work, and generate revenue. Entrepreneurship and risk-taking are built-in components of these classes: success, and failure, are real.

Innovative course design that emphasizes student experience, service learning, and collaborative projects where students apply real-world skills, can create powerful teaching moments…without the standard syllabus.

Winners of the 2014 “Education Oscars”

ReimagineEdStarsThe winners of the 2014 University of Pennsylvania Re-imagine Education contest (considered by some to be “Oscars” of course design) have been busy innovating and developing new data-driven student engagement models to help students succeed.

Even if you’re not ready to buy into to the winning companies’ services, you can employ similar pedagogical strategies to improve learning outcomes.

From the winners list below, we’ve gleaned some easy, practical takeaways you can use in your own courses.

  • ForClass: Students ponder case-study based scenarios and send answers in before class, incentivizing engagement and allowing instructors to identify and praise those who answer correctly. Pedagogy takeaway: Use real-world scenarios to craft engaging questions – this challenges students to apply learning in new ways.
  • PhET Interactive Simulations University of Colorado Boulder has developed hundreds of free interactive simulations to teach students fundamental principles of science and math. Pedagogy takeaway: Explaining complex concepts is often easier and more effective with visuals, multimedia and examples.
  • PaGamO: National Taiwan University is pioneering a multi-student social game where students compete to accumulate virtual wealth and buy protective defense mechanisms by answering questions correctly. Pedagogy takeaway: Competitive team projects can provide engaging student learning options.
  • University of Utah’s Design Laboratory: (Hybrid Award) Blend of online content, simulations, lectures, and collaborative projects between freshmen and seniors designed to assist students into eventual employment and progress. Pedagogy takeaway: Collaborative projects; are we seeing a theme here?

These are just a few of the winners profiled.

2 Useful, Painless Video Creation Tools

Creating great interactive videos doesn’t need to come with a huge learning curve. Try these 2 pain-free cloud tools.
1. HapYak:
Are you using online video in your class, but you’d like to enhance it with specific questions, links, maybe a quiz, or highlight important points? HapYak is an easy way to edit almost any video for targeted interactive learning. If your video is on YouTube, you can enhance it with HapYak. Watch their feature video (link below) to learn more about HapYak’s capabilities. Cost: You can do 5 videos per month with the free version.

2. Animoto:
Animoto might be the easiest application I’ve ever used to create fun, compelling videos. It makes adding great music a breeze, so even those who struggle with technology will enjoy doing multimedia presentations. Students should appreciate Animoto’s plugins to Facebook and Instagram if they’re adding photos. I created a very basic video in about ten minutes. Cost: You’re limited to 30-second videos with the free version.