Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to Make Demonstrations Interactive

“If you use application sharing only for instructor-presented demonstrations, participant attention will soon drift. Instead, make demonstrations interactive by creating a series of completion examples that lead to a full practice exercise.” (Clark and Kwinn, The New Virtual Classroom: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Synchronous e-Learning, 2007, p. 115)

Instructors use interactive demonstrations to help students master a concept or technique that is eluding them, either because of misunderstandings, ambiguity, or the need for real-world or "concrete" examples. Application sharing is a tool in the Confer classroom that provides this kind of capability, and it can be used effectively to allow students to become involved in the subject matter, experience it by performing specified tasks, and reflect on the outcome.

If you're unfamiliar with application sharing, review the options in this video tutorial. As an instructor, you can request control of a student's desktop, and you can even decide to give control of your own desktop to a student. This is a great way to involve your students in real-time problem solving, demonstrations, and practice, but it requires some preparation on your part to make it work well.  Here are some tips:

  1. Decide what you want students to see on your desktop, in what order, and how much of any given application (or document, screen, etc.) you want them to see. Here's a good explanation of why this is important.
  2. As you share your applications, explain to students what they're seeing and what you're doing. This also applies when students are sharing their (or your) applications. As the screen changes, students can become disoriented by pixellation or sudden moves, so it's important to interpret these changes by relating them to the actions that caused the screen changes. See this video for more information.
  3. Define the area of your desktop that will be seen by students. (This relates to the first point.) You want them to see certain areas, but not (usually) your Confer desktop. You can define this area in advance.
  4. Allow students to do what you're doing. Give one student control of your application, so that the other students will see these actions and hear your explanations along with those of the students. This approach keeps students "on their toes" because it makes everyone realize that they may be required to help demonstrate the application at any point during your class session.
Here are some examples of instructors who use application sharing for various instructional purposes.

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