Part 2 – A Few More New Things I Am Trying

I will be trying a couple of more new things this school year. One of them can be said to be “new tech” and the other can be called “old school”.

The New Tech Idea:  Socrative

Ironically, my new tech idea is named after a very ancient Greek philosopher.  I stumbled upon Socrative ( during the last Christmas holidays.  It is a free online tool to get instant feedback from students in the classroom.  The instructor poses a question (multiple choice, true/false, or short answer) to students, and the students input their answers via Socrative using their laptops, smartphones, or tablets.

Socrative screenshot - choices

Then, the results are tabulated in bar graph form as so:

Socrative screenshot - results bars

When  I first saw Socrative, it reminded me of  the “ask the audience” lifeline in the game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.

I used Socrative last winter on a limited basis in two of my classes.  It was helpful in giving me real time feedback on how well my students were understanding the material being covered in class.  For my students, I believe it made their classroom experience more of an active learning process.  An extra plus is that Socrative keeps students’ electronic devices busy with class-related activities, instead texting, tweeting, etc.

If you have ever used iClickers,  Socrative is very similar except with minimal set up time and without the bulky, expensive hardware.  Did I already mention that Socrative is FREE!

The Old School Idea:  Case Method

I love old school ideas, especially if they work.  I want my students to learn how to “think”, instead of just memorize.  Memorization may last a semester, but thinking skills may last a lifetime.  The case method of teaching challenges students to think in creative and disciplined ways.

The case method was made famous by Harvard Business School and – here in Canada – by the Richard Ivey School of Business.  A few months ago, I attended an excellent workshop on case method teaching conducted by Professors James Erskine and Michiel Leenders from Ivey.  They impressed upon me the importance of planning and preparation in applying the case method properly.

This semester, I will try the case method in a few of my business law classes.  Since the focus of my course is on legal analysis of case problems instead of developing business strategy for business cases, I will need to modify the case method somewhat. As well, it is a bit of a challenge to teach using the case method in a course that was not designed with case method in mind.  For example, ideally, the assessment structure of a course should reward students for their participation in class discussions of cases.  Wish me luck!


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Spring in the Fall: New things I am trying this school year (Part 1)

As an educator, fall always feels like spring to me. It is a time of new beginnings, renewal, optimism and endless possibilities.  Every new semester is a clean slate with new students and new challenges – even if it is a course I have taught dozens of times before.  This fall and winter semesters, I am going to try a few new things to engage my students.  Here are a couple of them:

1.  Use Twitter in the classroom – It is always a challenge to stimulate discussion in class that involves as many students as possible. Speaking in a classroom in front of others does not come naturally or is downright scary for many people – especially introverts (like me).  Why not have students communicate using a medium that they are comfortable with? I am inspired by this video of a history professor at the University of Texas using Twitter to engage more of her students in classroom discussion.  

An extra benefit – students will be using their smartphones for tweeting instead of texting in class. 🙂

2.  Create crossword puzzles – Giving review questions to students is a tool to help them learn material before or after a lecture.  How about getting students to do these questions during class to create more active learning? I will be giving my students a crossword puzzle at the beginning of some classes.  I am creating the puzzles by converting review questions into crossword clues.  There are many online crossword puzzle generators.  A good free one that I found is at The Teacher’s Corner.  It took me all of half an hour to reword the questions into clues, input the clues and answers, and – presto – a crossword puzzle was generated.  Here’s what my first puzzle looks like:

My next blog will be Part 2 – a few more new things I will be trying.


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Welcome to The Reflective Prof!

Welcome to my new blog!  As a college professor, I am always thinking of ways of helping my students learn and succeed. How can I get my students more engaged?  How can I get them actively learning in my classroom?  How can I develop their creativity and problem solving skills? These are challenges all educators face. Through this blog, I will share my thoughts and experiences in facing these challenges.


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