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Posts Tagged ‘flubaroo

Talks are the least effectiveness way to effect change, but they are a necessary evil because people still organise them and the talks can have extensive reach.

But when I conduct talks, seminars, or keynotes, I ensure that I interact with my audience richly in a few ways.

Why do this? Most speakers will use an “e” word like engagement or even entertainment. I do not play these games because I know my participants are smarter than to fall for that.

I use tools to interact so that my audience (listeners) become participants (thinkers, doers). I do not wish to merely engage, I want to participants to take ownership of learning and responsibility of action.

Beth Kanter shared some ideas last week. I am weighing in on my own and I suggest free tools combined with basic principles of educational psychology.

A backchannel is an online space for participants to comment, discuss, and ask questions while I am speaking or after I have asked them to consider an issue.

My favourite backchannel tools are Twitter and TodaysMeet.

Twitter is great when an organiser already has one or more event #hashtags that participants can use. This presumes that a sizeable number of participants already use Twitter or are willing to get on it quickly.

Twitter backchannel.

TodaysMeet is better when participants have not committed to any particular platform. If they can text or SMS, then can use TodaysMeet.

With my own free TodaysMeet account, I can create an online text-based interaction space and define how long it will be open for. I then invite participants to it by sharing the access URL. (Pro tip: Create a custom URL with and a QR code with this generator.)

One of the most recent versions of Google Slides lets you invite questions from the audience. The URL for participants to submit questions appears at the top of your slides and they can vote up the best questions. (Read my review of Google Slides audience tool.)

Audience Tool URL as overlay.

This is not quite a backchannel because it is not designed for chatter. It favours focused queries. This tool might be better for less adventurous participants who are not used to switching quickly between tasks.

Whatever the backchannel tool, its use must be guided by sound educational principles. You might want to provide participants with a space to be heard immediately instead of waiting till the end, or you want to monitor their thoughts, sense their doubts, or get feedback.

The visualisations I am referring to are not images and videos. These are show-and-tell elements which are attempts to engage, but have little to do with interacting with participants.

My most common strategy of participative visualisation is to incorporate data collecting and collating tools like Google Forms and AnswerGarden.

Both these tools require user inputs that can be visualised. For example, I could ask the room which major phone platform they are on: Android, iOS, other in a Google Form.

The data they provide is collated in a Google Sheet and can be visualised in a pie chart or bar graph. The relative proportions are more obvious to see than asking the participants to raise their hands.

There are many tools that do what Google Forms and Sheets do, possibly a bit quicker and slicker. But these normally come at a premium. The GSuite is free.

One way to visualise a group’s grasp of concepts is to use a word cloud. For example, I am fond of asking participants what they consider the most important 21st century competencies.

AnswerGarden word cloud.

I invite them to share words or short phrases in an AnswerGarden in brainstorming mode. The most commonly cited concepts appear large while the less common ones become small.

The purpose of such illustrations is not just to leverage on the fact that we are visual creatures and the visuals make an immediate impact. I want participants to get involved in real time and this helps also me illustrate how the technology enables more current forms of learning and work.

One of the worst things I could do as a speaker is talk about something that the audience has no interest in. As it is, some or most of the people there might be present as an obligation and not by choice. So I try to find out what they might want to learn.

I often use Google Forms to find out beforehand and present the popular suggested topics in the form of a chart.

With smaller seminars, I might use Dotstorming to determine which direction to take midway through the event. I ask participants to suggest areas to explore and they vote on topics each others topics.

Dotstorming is similar to Padlet in that users input ideas on online stickies. However, Dotstorming allows me to let them vote on the best ideas and arrange the notes by popularity.

Dotstorming example.

The idea here is to give the participant a say in what gets covered or uncovered. It is about providing and fulfilling user choice instead of focusing on a potentially irrelevant curriculum or plan.

My perennial favourite for quick-quizzing participants is Flubaroo, an add-on to Google Forms for auto-grading quizzes as well as providing feedback and answers to my learners.

Google Forms has since upped its game to offer quiz-like functions, but it still lags behind the leader, Flubaroo in some ways. This site provides a detailed breakdown of a Forms quiz vs a Flubaroo one.

Quiz is coming!

The point of quizzing is not just to keep participants on their toes. Some might be driven by such a challenge, but all benefit from evaluating themselves in terms of learning. The results can also be an indicator of how much my talk was understood.

I am fond of using Padlet and Google Forms for pitstops and one-minute papers.

Pitstops are pauses in my sessions for participants to collect their thoughts and think of questions. They are an opportunity for them to see if they can link the negotiated outcomes with their current state of learning, and to see where they still need to go.

A takeaway or “dabao” (in local vernacular) is a terminal activity in which I ask participants to tell me their biggest learning outcome from the session.

In both I find that there is an even mix of planned and unplanned learning outcomes. This is a good thing because the internalisation and ownership of learning is important, not just the blind reception of information.

I do not only like to connect with participants before and during a talk, but also after it. I do so a few ways.

I leave my social media information in one of the final slides.

Contact me.

If I use a backchannel, participants can contact me indefinitely on Twitter and up to several days or weeks after on TodaysMeet.

I also use my blog to reflect on the events and to answer questions I might not have been able to address during the session.

Video source

I think I tested the limits of what Flubaroo and Google Forms can do in a ‘live’ grading of a large number of participants. I used the two tools to create a quiz near the end of interactive talks. Some background on my talks [1] [2].

The positive things I took away from the implementation was that the quiz:

  • was a means of taking attendance in situ
  • kept learners on their toes
  • reminded them of some key concepts

But there were also things that could have worked better.

I do not think that Flubaroo was designed to process so many submissions so quickly. The sign-ups for each of the five sessions ranged from 50 to over 200 student teachers.

The Flubaroo “wizard” reminded me that the grading could take a minute or two. But that is an eternity when you need the results in real time so that the audience can see the results and I can immediately give out prizes to the five who answered the questions correctly and quickly.

I have concluded that a few things might have held this process back.

  • Flubaroo is not designed with large crowds and immediate feedback in mind
  • The constant influx of submissions slows the process down
  • The lecture theatre’s wifi cannot handle the all the simultaneous connections

I cannot confirm or change the first factor. I can only look for another tool designed specifically for that purpose.

In order to mitigate the second factor, I can close access to the quiz and remind participants to stop submissions while data is analyzed in real time.

The least likely factor is wifi as the bottleneck because quiz submission is a quick, one-off step. I doubt many were doing anything data-intensive at that time.

I noticed that Flubaroo worked very quickly at my first session that was attended by about 50 participants. The second day saw 340 participants over two sessions. The processing time was obvious. The last two sessions drew a very similar number of participants but the processing time was even longer.

I do not blame the tool. I can only blame myself for the choice of the tool and the design of the task.

A tool designed to do one thing but appropriated to do something even bit different (or not used properly) will not perform as expected.

I opted to risk a quiz at the end of a lecture knowing that the processing time might be speed bump. But in this case, I do not blame the quiz component. (Warning: Rant ahead!)

I stepped up to fill a void in content because the topic of open learning is something I believe in. But under the circumstances, the only instructional option was delivery by lectures. So I merely softened the blow by making them interactive.

I blame our reliance on face-to-face lectures. I will say this again: Face-to-face lectures are one time, one size, one circumstance, one need fits all. They are out of sync with the times and learner expectations.

Giving a lecture techno bells and whistles will not pull them into the 21st century when they are 15th century relics (lectios by medieval Schoolmen, see article). Some Aussie unversities are rethinking lecture halls and even the term “lecturer”.

This week I stepped back in time and was reminded by why I moved with the times. I am going to refrain from looking and walking back.

What we need is change. We need to chip away at mindsets do not challenge lectures. We need to stop giving the excuse that they are efficient or that other ways are difficult. Doing that is like Noah complaining that it is too cold and wet to work on the ark.

Do or drown.

I am halfway through conducting a series of talks on Creative Commons for the PGDE cohort of student teachers in NIE.

[SlideShare] [Google Presentation]

I am almost enjoying the practice of lecturing, a strategy that I thought I had long abandoned.

I have to remind myself that didactic teaching has its moments provided it is used sparingly and only if you are a charismatic storyteller.

I do not consider myself to be in that last category even if a few enjoy listening to me. But I am an experimenter and risk-taker. I have tried to create more interactive lectures, “participates” instead of “talks”.

Of the three backchannels I have used, Facebook has been the most successful if you go by the number of responses. Most participants are not on Twitter or do not know how to use hashtags.

LinoIt is in the middle and the quality of responses there is better. One sticky on LinoIt reads: Much prefer linoit/twitter as a platform than facebook. Less intrusive.

What did I learn? Provide more than one backchannel. But when you do that, it gets harder to monitor and respond. Future implementation? I might consider using just Facebook and LinoIt (for choice) or LinoIt alone (to provide a neutral platform).

The five-question online quiz I included at the end offered a bonus I did not plan on. It was a way of taking attendance! I know that at least 50, 139, and 210 student teachers attended sessions 1, 2 and 3 respectively. I know who attended and how many times they attempted the quiz.

Could participants use some other name in the quiz? Yes, but only if they wanted to get singled out or have their integrity questioned as teachers-to-be. They would also lose a chance to win a small prize for getting all the answers right and quickly.

Some might say that lecturing as a dying art. They should try designing and implementing an interactive lecture.

Others might just point out that lectures should just die. Or be put to death. (Not good storytelling though, because that is different.)

In this day and age and with the new expectations of learners, boring face-to-face lectures are on death row. Making them interactive just gives them a last meal to make them feel good one last time.

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