Part 8: Fall 2018 Labs

134 In-class Screens and Collaboration – 10.12.2018

In-class screens have changed the way the classroom — and learning — looks. In the October 12, 2018 Active Teaching Lab, attendees discussed how screens shift the manner in which students interact with instructors, course materials, and each other. Participants debated the tradeoffs of banning vs. embracing electronics and examined the constructive and destructive effects of digital devices on face-to-face collaboration.


  • Use a common image or document to guide discussion rather than as a working document to complete the assignment. On the surface level, digital tools that allow students to work together in real time, such as Google Docs, may seem like a good option for fostering collaborative learning. However, in actuality, students tend to assign responsibilities and then put their heads down to work individually. 
  • Divide students into smaller groups and provide a template for each group instead of a single Google Doc for the class, which creates confusion and causes students to disengage.  
  • Embrace students’ tendencies to divide and conquer for part of the assignment (e.g. prep, research) and use in-class screens for the steps in the process that naturally lend themselves to group collaboration (e.g. brainstorming, problem solving, final decision making).
  • Eng a jigsaw assignment with a whole-picture problem. Construct the assignment so that students are required to synthesize all of the pieces to solve the problem, encouraging experts to indeed share and teach their assigned content rather than simply pasting it onto a shared document.
  • Move review to small groups to make each student more accountable for providing answers and questions. Additionally, students often feel more comfortable pushing pause in a small group to seek clarification vs. redirecting the whole class.

For more information on digital collaboration, visit the session’s activity sheet.

The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm (room 302) and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am (room 120) in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.) during fall 2018. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

Sign up for regular Lab announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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