Quick Feedback Pro-Tip #125

Pro-Tip to Add Interaction to a Presentation

Pro-tip: Get some green index cards and some red index cards and pass them out to your class.  Tell them that throughout the period they can hold up either card – green for “I get it,” red for “I don’t get it.”  If you have time, draw symbols on the cards for color-blind students. Now you can see immediately when people in your class are getting lost, and use that information to adapt your lecture in real time.  It’s much easier to see the cards than to analyze the body language of 30 people. Omg, lecture 2.0.

Some people will be hesitant, because this is kind of dorky and kind of risky if you don’t know it.  Prompt everyone to hold up one card or the other occasionally.  The field of color is easier to register than individual cards, plus you’ll get some more participation from shy people.

Pro-tip: at the beginning, say, “Does everyone understand how to use the cards?” and wiggle your eyebrows suggestively.  And by suggestively I of course mean, “suggesting that they should hold up the green card.”  They won’t get it at first, but then they’ll laugh and reluctantly hold up their cards.  Throw out a few more silly ones like “so everyone read the chapter on thermodynamics, right?” to prompt for the red cards.  This’ll give everyone practice with the cards and break the ice.

Pro-wrestling tips: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_wrestling_attacks

Quid-Pro-Quo tip: it means “an exchange that’s pretty much fair.”  Who knew?

I use all of these tips in my presentations (e.g. lectures about trigonometry), and they work well in ActiveGrade too.  Caution: only use the Boom Drop  in advanced classes.

“You Just Changed My Idea Of Conferences!”

As some of you know, I’m a computer nerd. I recently gave my first talk at a computer nerd conference, to maybe 40 other aficionados, and it was awesome.  I was funny.  I was charming.  I used feedback techniques from my teaching toolset (red/green index-card hold-up, anyone?).  It felt great to be teaching again.


Afterwards, my friend said that at times during my presentation he thought I was just an awesome presenter.  “Yeah,” I thought, “I know.  Go on.”

“But at other times,” he continued, “it would just get awkward, like you had forgotten what was going on. It was just dead silence.”

After I finished reeling, I was like, “uhm, you mean the times I stopped to let a point sink in, or are you talking about the times I left room for people to ask questions, even if they were uncomfortable?”

He paused for a second, and then said, “You just changed my entire idea of what a conference is for.”  Turns out, he always thought of presentations as entertaining and informative, but never as interactive learning experiences.  I guess that’s why we call students at a presentation the “audience.”  Instead of, you know, “students.”


All this is to say that we, teachers, are thebomb.com at teaching.  I forget that teaching has a lot of skills, but, attn: everyone, teachers have a lot of skills.  Three hundred people were at this conference, and all of them made eight times my teaching salary (literally)… but I was the only one who brought red and green index cards for the students.

What Am I Missing About QR Codes?

I read ideas for using QR codes in class like

QR codes can be a great voting tool allowing students to vote by simply scanning the code as they enter or exit the classroom. This can save time, and it gets your students up and moving.

Is there some secret QR code app I don’t know about? The best one I’ve seen is Google Goggles, which requires me to take my phone out, unlock it, open up Google Goggles, take a picture, and wait a second or two for it to scan the code. Then I have to click the link or whatever was in the QR code, and wait for whatever page to load in the phone’s browser.  I can’t get thirty kids to open freaking GMAIL right, you know?

If I wanted students to vote as they entered or exited the classroom, for example, I’d consider a piece of paper or the whiteboard with a few markers laid out.  The process for voting is “pick up this marker and scrape it across the board in a check mark shape.”

So what am I missing here? I see QR codes everywhere but I’m embarrassed to scan them.  The idea of hidden messages is awesome, but QR codes can’t hold any serious amount of text.  Just use a bit.ly address, right?

Codes attached to a skeleton model or dissected pig can take students to important directions or content.

Now this starts to sound useful.  I’m imagining a sort of google-maps-like layer over the textbook or over a big wall map that shows you what’s underground there or what the nervous system looks like at a particular point.  Imagine if your school had a huge mural of dinosaurs and students could take their iPhone up to the wall and see the bones, or a big mural of a car and students could go see how the different parts of the engine worked.  Is there some way I can make this happen in my own class?  I guess I could hand out an indexed list of hints and the QR code could just refer kids to the list, with no internet connection necessary. As long as they all had the app installed.  And all had devices with cameras and apps.  And were allowed to use them in class.  And wouldn’t find their facebook status more engaging than my  QR-code worksheet.

I don’t know.  They’re neat. But if I have an extra 30 minutes to enhance my lesson materials, I don’t think it’s going to be spent on a QR code.   Is there anyone out there with a good workflow that uses them to good effect?

Hands-On: What Is It Good For?

In my famous Circle Of Power post, I described a strategy I used to teach some trigonometry that involved students doing a lot of measuring by hand. They had a ruler, a protractor, and a circle physically printed on some physical paper.

What if they had used a Geogebra applet instead?  I could have whipped up a “drag the angle and measure the x- and y-coordinates” applet in 5 minutes, and saved the students 20 minutes each.  The data in class would have been accurate to three decimal places instead of (generously) one.  By a lot of objective measures, the computer would have been better.

And yet…

When do you have students do work by hand?