Technology can be used in a variety of ways to support the types of interactions that are appropriate for the learning activity, ranging from simply capturing the outputs of the activity through to being the mechanism through which the activity takes place.
Technology to capture the outputs of the activity, or record the entire activity or a summary of it, is readily available to most staff and students in the form of smartphones and tablet computers, such as iPads. These devices are equipped with increasingly high-quality cameras and microphones that can be used to take photographs of student work, such as on the whiteboards, and to make audio and video recordings of the students at work or summarising their output. These recordings can then be made available to the students via Blackboard.
An alternative currently available in Owen 222 is the use of the SMART Kapp whiteboards. These work like standard whiteboards in that you can use normal markers and erasers, however they can be linked to an app on a smartphone or tablet that displays a live update of the contents of the board and allows high-quality images of the board to be taken without needing to disturb the students by having them move aside while a photo is taken. The app can also create URL that can be used by people to view the contents of the board, regardless of whether they are in the room or halfway around the world – though they can’t directly contribute to the content. A short marketing video demonstrating the main features of the SMART Kapp boards is available online.
Technology is also available to assist in the generative activity itself and there are different tools depending on how you want the activity to run, ranging from fully online ones that are suitable when students aren’t able to physically meet through to software that can be used to support generative activities in face-to-face situations. The following is a list of some of the tools that are being used by staff and students to support generative activities, especially for activities such as concept mapping, listing and sorting:
- Blackboard Collaborate – a fully online classroom/webinar tool, Collaborate includes a whiteboard feature that allows participants to draw and write on shared space while using the audio features to have a real-time discussion. Other useful features include screen sharing, which allows everyone to remotely view a specific participant’s screen and the software they are running, and a recording feature that creates a video of all interaction and saves it in the Blackboard module.
- Padlet – an online tool that simulates using a noticeboard or whiteboard with sticky notes for brainstorming. Padlet is used to allow students to contribute ideas, often anonymously, to a shared board, which is often then sorted in a variety of different ways to show order the ideas or to cluster them by theme. Contributions can include links, images and videos, and snapshots of the different ordering or clusters can be easily exported as PDFs.
- Popplet – an online, collaborative concept mapping tool, Popplet offers many of the same features as Padlet but also allows explicit links to be made between items and for items to be colour coded according to theme. An app is also available for Apple devices, though it generally works well in a web browser.
- MindManager and Mindview – offline single-user tools available to all SHU staff and students through AppHub, these packages are designed to create much more complex concept maps than simple tools like Popplet. A primary feature of these tools is that they include templates for different types of diagrams, such as timelines, that can be useful when getting students to think about processes chronologically. While they can’t be used collaboratively online they can used by groups in face-to-face situations or online by screen sharing through Blackboard Collaborate.