Agenda Description:
Revisit classroom technologies and refresh your lessons through the use of simple computer lab technology. From activating prior knowledge to assessments, this session will cover ways to engage students and energize your teaching using classroom computers. Explore ways to keep learners active, sharpen their skills, and let the technology work for you.

Today's Plan:

To start, I'll ask you to participate in one activity as an example that could be used in class.  We'll watch a one-minute commercial, and use that as the basis for an activity. This will give us a taste of how this site can be used. Throughout the session, I'll offer more activities as examples for each tab.

Next, take about 15 minutes to peruse the tabs above. Each corresponds to a typical part of a lesson and contains a few suggestions for technological ways to enhance and enliven your student's learning experiences. Take note of any activities, sites, or technology you'd like to hear more about. (Please feel free to chat while you look around.) When we reconvene as a group, I'll take questions from the group on the types of activities and technologies discussed on this site. (For example, perhaps you're curious to see how a Google webpage is built. As a group, we can take a look at a template you might use in your classroom.) We will take a closer look at your interests as a group.

Please, if you have suggestions for other techniques for active learning through technological means, share them with the group. Since most of my activities are based on composition classes, it will be helpful and interesting to add ideas for other disciplines. If you have ideas about how to adapt technology for other disciplines, please share them with the group. Later, I'll add content to the page tab titled "Further Suggestions."

Also, note that most (if  not all) of the activities discussed here can be used in parts of lessons other than the ones under which they are listed. For example, an image hunt could be effective both when activating prior knowledge and when teaching reciprocally. I've included examples that have worked for me; perhaps you can spot ways to mix and match the ideas to blend with your unique course.

Of course, having a back-up plan is always a great idea. You can never predict when a server might crash, a computer might freeze, or some other unforeseen complication may arise. Thinking about alternative ways to accomplish your goal before class can help when a problem occurs.

Finally, free free to modify and use in your courses any content you find useful on these web pages. You need not ask permission.

Thank you for attending this session.

Rationale and Philosophy:

No matter their level of experience, teachers often search for ways to keep students engaged while simultaneously sharpening their skills. This is not always an easy task.  Furthermore, many of us have taught a certain concept, lesson, unit, or course multiple times, and our lessons can begin to stale. In this session, we will explore ways to both spice up instructional strategies and sharpen skills necessary for student success. In case time does not allow us to cover each of the 10 elements listed above, I have provided separate pages (above) with ideas for activities to engage learners and enhance their technological abilities.

I have a strong interest in visual literacy and active learning, and often one leads to the other in my classroom. This is my personal teaching style, and it works for me. However, by no means do I assume it works for you, too, or that anyone needs to change their strategies. My hope is to provide you with some concrete ideas for engaging students using simple classroom technology. I wish to provide useful, practical, and widely applicable examples of ways to explore course material with technology that works equally for the teacher and learners.
While visually dazzling students can be fun, it may not lead to a true learning experience. Instead of putting on the horse-and-pony show that often seems to stem from over-reliance on technology, this session focuses on quick and easy ways instructors can guide learners through the use of the electronics at our fingertips.

Visual literacy, contrary to what some of us may initially believe, is a learned skill. Although many of us are inundated with images almost from birth, learning to decode them takes practice and a certain skill set. Lynn Burnell, in her book Visual Literacy, quotes Jerry Christopherson's definition of a visually literate person: One who can "interpret, understand, and appreciate the meaning of visual images" (3). Furthermore, the visually  literate learner must be able to "communicate...by applying the  basic principles and concepts of visual design, produce visual messages using computers and other technologies, and use visual thinking to conceptualize solutions to problems" (3).  Clearly, while many students may innately grasp one or more of these concepts, in our heavily visual culture, it is imperative they learn to assess what they view, not just blindly accept it. No matter the course, one area I emphasize is visual literacy (whether students explicitly realize it or not). Visual literacy, which plays into the critical thinking skills so often lacking in learners, is crucial in the way our students relate to, understand, and participate in the world.

On the same note, my teaching philosophy and style rely on the active learner. For years, studies of teaching strategies have concluded that students learn best when actively engaged with the material. Carol Santa, Lynn Havens, and Bonnie Valdes, in their teaching guide Creating Independence Through Student-owned Strategies, observe that "in order to learn, we must be actively involved. Neural connections are made when we act on incoming information and do something with it...Learning happens when students actively process information through writing, talking, and transforming...Strategies involving instructional conversations and writing provide the cornerstone for successful, engaged learning" (8-9).  In my class, "instructional conversation" tends to be the cornerstone of most lessons. Since I usually teach in a computer lab, I like to tie in our active learning activity for the day with some kind of technology. Sometimes, I use it to present. Most often, however, students use it to teach each other. I frequently use visual imagery and cues (via classroom technologies) to engage the students with our material. In this way, I aim to both keep the learners engaged and sharpen their visual literacy.

Reinventing even a portion of a lesson to focus on active learning through technology can lead to stimulating and valuable classroom experiences both for the learner and the instructor. Whether you hope to enliven your own instruction or invigorate your students' learning experience, active learning and visual literacy  can reanimate the teaching and learning experience for everyone involved.