Author: Shawn Orr

Icebreakers and Topic Starters

By: Shawn Orr, Director of the Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence, Faculty in Communication Studies at Ashland University – Ohio Icebreakers often come with a dreaded connotation that implies frivolous activities done on the first day of class with limited benefits to student learning. Consider that one icebreaker—”introduce yourself and tell us one interesting thing about yourself”—that is used over and over while yielding little enthusiasm or class engagement. Yet, semester after semester, we pull that icebreaker out and use it again. Why? Because we want to start the semester off by fostering student connection and community. This Read More…


APPlause for APPS! Five Great Apps to Create Meaningful Connections Inside (and Outside) the Classroom

I love technology! I guess if I’m being completely honest, what I really love is the engagement, excitement, and interactivity that technology brings to my college classroom. I’m not talking about the bells and whistles (although that’s fun too), but the true engagement that happens when I utilize a technology that really resonates with my digitally native students, that connects them to each other, and (most importantly) helps them master course content. So, whether you are new to using technology in the classroom or an old technology-pro, here are five of my favorite apps and technologies to engage students Read More…


Challenging to Champion: Working with Difficult Online Students

I’ve had the privilege of teaching thousands of enthusiastic, motivated, successful online students. I’ve also had the frustration of working with online students that display what I call “non-learning behaviors.” These behaviors include taking over the discussion board with irrelevant comments and topics; lurking in the background but rarely participating; overestimating his/her ability to utilize technology (or being afraid to use it at all); constantly challenging the course content, his/her peers, and/or me; and obsessing over grades. In my twenty years as a college professor, I’ve discovered two things about these non-learning behaviors: they negatively impact learning and the Read More…


Integrating Technology into My Classroom: One Instructor’s Perspective

So much about my students has changed over the last twenty years, but much remains the same. My students still have a strong desire to succeed and an innate interest in learning. They still miss class, argue over late assignments, groan at the mention of a research paper, and love being actively involved in the learning process. They still challenge and amaze me as they share unique insights and ideas about the topics we’re studying. I still feel like I learn more from my students each semester than they could possibly learn from me. However, my students have changed Read More…