Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

177 Students’ Tech Choices – 05.03.2019

What technologies are students using to learn? How can we align activities accordingly? In the final Active Teaching Lab of the spring semester on May 3, 2019, 21 participants shared examples of and experiences with student-selected tools for learning and collaboration.


  • Help students focus their cognitive energy on learning the content vs. learning the tool by using tools that are familiar to them.
  • Establish expectations for technology use and communicate a process for troubleshooting and solving problems ahead of time. Involve students in arriving at such a process, and provide a line of intra-class communication so that students can teach each other rather than relying solely on the instructor for help.
  • During collaborative group work, provide a template for each group instead of a single shared document for the class, which creates confusion and causes students to disengage.
  • Push students to represent content visually rather than in a paragraph. Doing so encourages creation and prioritizing of information as well as thinking about content from a different perspective. 
  • For collaborative assignments, pair students with different areas of expertise.
  • To communicate advice on study habits and useful learning tools, make it come from peers (e.g. previous students in the class) or young, relatable alumni rather than an instructor. Video testimonials from former students work great for future students.
  • Write tips for success into the assignment introduction and instructions. For example, “previous students have found [x,y,z] helpful in completing this assignment successfully.” 
  • Effective study skills and life balance go hand in hand. Help students study effectively so they have time for their lives.
  • Kahoot, Quizlet, Top Hat , ANKI, and other learning tools can be engaging and motivating, but be careful of overuse. Use them purposefully and with variety to avoid burnout. 
  • At the start of the course, tell students that assignment options and course plans are flexible, providing some examples so they know they have agency and responsibility to communicate learning needs throughout the course.

For more information on student-selected technology, 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 and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.), room 120. 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.

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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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