It wasn’t all that long ago that technology was introduced into the classroom. In fact, personal computers didn’t become mainstream until the 1980s, followed by the internet becoming widely available in 1993. Fast forward to 2009 and over 90% of classrooms had one or more internet-enabled computers.
With the fast-paced adoption of technology, Arizona State University’s Sun Devil community is using a suite of tools and services to enhance the classroom experience.
To keep up with new developments and innovate the next ones, the university’s Learning Experience (LX) team helps faculty integrate a growing suite of tools into their classrooms for increased communication, deepened collaboration and more.
“Faculty and students are constantly asked to evolve with this rapid rate of change, and our role is to help remove barriers of those transitions so they can focus on what is most important: teaching and learning,” said Allison Hall, director of LX design.
As a part of this mission, the LX team frequently hosts workshops to bring professional development opportunities to the Sun Devil faculty.
1. Slack: Amplifying class communication
When it comes to fostering active online communities, ASU is a leader in higher education.
One example includes the adoption of Slack in 2019, making ASU the first university to leverage this communication and collaboration tool enterprise-wide. Today, Slack is used to enhance course engagement – including connection, communication and collaboration – with over 23,000 weekly active users across students, faculty and staff recorded this semester.
Steve Salik, a clinical assistant professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, uses a Slack workspace to craft a customized a learning environment in which students interact with one another, ask questions, forge new connections and improve their communication skills.
"It elevates the level of social and instructional presence in the course," he noted, recalling the way in which his students’ "community of practice" channel flourished. "(The channel) is where we try to get students to collaborate with each other. Now, we see them inputting information about tools they found. We're beginning to realize the possibilities of this collaborative element."
Salik uses Slack to encourage students to assist one another and proactively seek answers to their questions. By searching their course's channel, students can locate inquiries and observations surfaced in previous conversations.
Built-in integrations can also provide easy access to support for struggling students, including “workflows” that bring up interfaces for deeper interactions, Salik said.
Salik’s “panic button” workflow allows students to submit an urgent issue, such as an emotional health concern, which bypasses TAs and goes directly to him.
“You take care of (the issue) on the spot … you address whatever the problem is, rather than a lengthy back-and-forth experience with email,” he said.
From bolstered interpersonal connections to enhanced engagement with course material, Slack is being used to further enable student success at ASU. Visit Slack as a digital campus webpage to learn more on how to integrate this tool.
2. Jamboard: Fostering visual collaborations
Another tool being used to deepen collaboration among faculty and students is Jamboard. Part of a set of Google tools, Jamboard is an online whiteboard, idea generator and collaboration space for students and faculty. Instructors open up a shared workspace for students to brainstorm, question and answer, take notes and other collaborative activities.
Karen Meyer, a clinical assistant professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, found success in implementing Jamboard into her courses. Admittedly hesitant about technology, Meyer uses Jamboard to visualize conversation in her classroom.
“I’m using it to build a relationship, to improve communication,” Meyer said.
The visual aspect of Jamboard starts with a blank canvas for collaboration. The tool uses frames to separate different digital whiteboards within one Jamboard. On each frame, there are a set of tools to draw, type, place a sticky note or even search for images within the Jamboard interface.
Meyer noted that Jamboard helps build relationships and gives students an opportunity to discuss and interpret in a fun, interactive way. For example, she likes to start her first week of class with a Jamboard icebreaker. Asking students to use the sticky note feature and the image search to discuss the icebreaker question, “What is your favorite meal?” She likes to build relationships to start, then use Jamboard as a voice for students to discuss different articles and topics covered in the course material.
As a professor at the Teachers College, Meyer is even seeing her instruction techniques brought to other classes in creative ways. One of her students teaching in a second-grade classroom is implementing Jamboard to get the elementary students to brainstorm together and have visible outputs of their conversation.
“It really helps students who love technology to go the extra mile,” Meyer said.
3. InScribe: Building a digital community
The adoption of enterprise-level technologies requires considerable review, demonstrating significant value to students and faculty.
InScribe is one of the newest tools now available to all ASU faculty and students as a feature in Canvas, the university’s learning management system (LMS). InScribe’s integration with Canvas and course materials offers students and faculty methods of engagement beyond the traditional interaction with assignments and class conversation.
The digital community-building app can be used to facilitate instructor-to-peer or peer-to-peer communication and support, offering students various features and tools, such as the ability to join channels and share topics and resources with each other and engage in discussions.
“The training that was provided on how to filter and view postings has made the system very easy to use, and allows students to receive answers to their questions in a very timely manner,” Little Crow said. “Students are able to get their questions answered quickly, and the entire class is able to access the answers,” he added.
A searchable library of topics and communities is available in InScribe, enabling the student to quickly navigate to the right resource. While adoption of this tool is still underway, benefits are already being realized by early adopters like Little Crow.
Ultimately, InScribe is a tool in which students can help each other access the answers, resources and people needed to complete their course content.
Offering choices to empower faculty and students
Today, ASU has over 200 tools available to faculty, students and staff as part of an integrated environment to improve the ways in which the Sun Devil community works, learn and lives.
The LX team’s supported integration of a suite of tools – including Slack, Jamboard and InScribe – represents the enablement of the university’s forward-thinking teaching and learning experience. Faculty are empowered with tools and the knowledge to use them, thanks to the LX team’s workshops.
And with a wide range of tools and resources to choose from, the implementation of any or all technological solutions offered to faculty and learners is a crucial part of the innovative ASU environment.
For ASU faculty interested in integrating these tools into their classroom, visit lx.asu.edu.
This story was co-authored by the University Technology Office’s editorial team, including Sophie Jones, Alisha Mendez and Mike Sanchez, and edited by Tristan Ettleman.
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