While many of our students are “digital natives,” research shows that they often don’t know how to use the technology we work with in teaching. Things like Blackboard, Voiceboard, Wikis, Discussion Boards, online tests, and other tools that we’ve learned to use and integrate into our courses, often pose a steep learning curve for students. Other aspects of everyday technologies also pose a challenge: both checking and composing emails is often something students seem to struggle with.
Student difficulty in using tech is frustrating, both for them and for us. Help alleviate this frustration by teaching them to work with the technology you expect them to use. Before your first tech assignment, create a low-stakes/no-stakes assignment using the same tools so they can work out all the kinks before it really matters:
- Create a practice Voiceboard where students just say their name. Make them play it back and check that everything worked, then answer a one question quiz to verify they’ve done it.
- Create a practice blog where students post the poster and IMDb link of their favorite film.
- Create a practice test on a commonly-known or easy-to-Google topic (Chicago facts, the UIC campus, etc.) that uses all the question types you expect students to see.
- Have students watch a short Sharestream video (like a TV commercial) and take a short quiz or write a brief summary.
To encourage students to complete these practice assignments, grade them for completeness or the attempt, count them as participation, or give bonus points.