Add Interactivity to Live Sessions with Dotstorming

Whereas an advantage of online education for students is the flexibility to schedule their own time for their studies, there is still a place for live events in online teaching. I use them for hosting discussions in my faculty training courses on how to give students feedback. I provide various feedback examples and allow faculty to share their ideas about them, as well as provide suggestions for the best feedback for different student issues. Faculty feel that these live events add a human element to the online environment.

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Whereas an advantage of online education for students is the flexibility to schedule their own time for their studies, there is still a place for live events in online teaching. I use them for hosting discussions in my faculty training courses on how to give students feedback. I provide various feedback examples and allow faculty to share their ideas about them, as well as provide suggestions for the best feedback for different student issues. Faculty feel that these live events add a human element to the online environment.

But it is important to include interactivity with students in any live event. A one-way discussion by the instructor might as well be done as a video that students can watch on their own time. Live events are for allowing students to engage by adding thoughts, answering questions, or uploading their own content to the events.

There are a number of good systems for hosting interactivity in live online events or during the in-class portion of a flipped classroom:

Poll Everywhere allows users to add polls to PowerPoint presentations. You go to the website, create a question, and export it as a PowerPoint slide, which is then added to your deck. You broadcast the slide with the question and options, and students cast their votes in one of two ways. First, each option is assigned a texting address, which allows students to send texts to cast their votes. A website also is associated with the question, which students can visit to cast their votes. In both cases, the results are tabulated live and projected with a bar graph, which creates a fun experience when students watch the bars advance across the screen as different options accumulate votes. ParticiPoll is another free site that does much the same thing as Poll Everywhere; you can compare the features and presentation of each to determine which you prefer to use.

Socrative, Kahoot, and Infuse Learning are the most popular systems for creating Web-based polls or quizzes. All provide a range of question types, with Socrative including an interesting “space race” option that allows students alone or in groups to race one another with their answers. Kahoot allows for quizzing without registering for the site and can award points on the basis of both the accuracy and speed of answers. Infuse Learning allows students to reply with drawings or diagrams and can also provide audio narration of questions.

But one of the most exciting options for live events is Dotstorming. This free site allows teachers to create walls, similar to Pinterest or Padlet, that can contain either text boxes or images. The instructor shares the URL of the wall with students as a link or by email invitation, allowing students to view the wall in real time on their own devices. They can then vote on the options that they are given.

The visual element of the interaction is a big step up from the text-based, multiple-choice voting option of GoToMeeting or many LMSs. Images capture students' attention and keep them engaged in the material. In addition, students can add comments to the selections to defend their votes. The instructor can also allow students to add their own content to the boards and solicit votes from classmates.

Dotstorming can improve engagement in live events in a number of ways. An instructor in a philosophy course can put up images of different objects and ask the students which of them John Locke would say represents a primary quality and why. Locke's theory of primary and secondary qualities is connected to human perception, and so it is much better for students to engage in perception than just text representations.

Dotstorming is also good for hosting student brainstorming sessions. An art class can be divided into groups, with each assigned to create a presentation on an art piece that represents a particular style. The students in each group can be assigned to find a photo of a piece and explain why it is interesting. The group can vote on the options, with the winning option used for the group project.

Similarly, students in live online sessions of a chemistry course can be asked to find images that represent a particular reaction under discussion and describe it, with the class voting on the best examples. Now, instead of students texting or reading email, they are given something interesting to do on the Web that is related to course content and will use their imaginations to apply what they are covering to real-world examples.

Dotstorming is exceedingly easy to use. Take a look at this tutorial and think of the many ways that you can use it to add value to your live events: http://bit.ly/1R1Bew7.