Friday, February 25, 2011

Using Students Experts

"An expert knows all the answers - if you ask the right questions." - Levi Strauss. "Have you heard of this new thing called the internet? It's giving people new expectations. It's allowing them to become their own expert. Knowledge lies anxious at their fingertips." - Roy H. Williams

Angie Thompson's "daily experts" technique is a simple way to encourage student participation - both in traditional and online classes. "I list five or six students’ names on a PowerPoint slide at the beginning of my classes.... These individuals, assuming they are in class, then become my daily experts—the first ones I ask questions to or opinions of before opening discussion to the whole class. " Thompson says this technique breaks the ice and helps students realize that she is approachable. Other benefits she cites are providing for one-on-one interaction in large classes, encouraging class preparation, allowing all students at least one chance to speak in class, helping the instructor to learn names, and offering engagement to the entire class. I suspect that the accountability for class attendance - knowing that your name may be on the board today - may be positively affected as well. 

Anonymity in the Confer classroom is both a good and bad thing. It's good when students don't feel embarrassed about their opinions or lack of skill. It's bad when students become disengaged, alienated, and feel that their performance and/or participation are unimportant or ignored. Having a technique like "daily experts" - which reinforces accountability - allows you as an instructor to make sure that your students feel individually responsible for paying attention, coming to class prepared, and participating in their own learning experience. 

Since you have a class roster with the names of students always available, you don't have to prepare a PowerPoint slide before class with the names of the day's experts. Instead, you can select from the list of those present. Using the whiteboard tools, you can have the experts posted (see the image above) as an initial class activity, which will add to the intrigue and anticipation of the session. Doing this acknowledges students' presence and helps you (and the other students) get to know them as individuals. Students will begin to appreciate that there is no "hiding" in your classroom. And you'll benefit from the insights they give you into how well the material is being absorbed and understanding is growing.

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