Author: Kristin Olofsson, Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University
How do we capitalize on the fast-moving nature of information in modern society? Our information no longer comes in daily consumables, on a 24-hour cycle. We get news the instant it happens, and the internet is relentless in its memory.
Instead of lamenting the deterioration of the news cycle, we can use those changes to capture our students’ attention and integrate new information in an informal and approachable way.
What happens when you encounter new information?
Frame new information according to what you already know. As teachers, we’re experts for our students. We provide the lens through which they may process information.
My tip is simple: pass along your reaction to an event to your students. Think of it as “water cooler talk.” Consider how you might say to a colleague, “Did you see…?” Remark on what made that information or event notable. Then tell your students.
Make intentionally short and informal reaction videos or blog posts noting the current event and how it relates to what they’re learning. Your take as their expert brings current events into the classroom in a way that speaks to users of new media.
This can be powerful, particularly in an online learning environment. Online may be an even better format as that’s how younger students consume information. It humanizes you and brings relevance to their studies, both of which can feel detached in an online classroom.
As a political scientist, I’m provided with plenty of fodder these days. But, I also look in unexpected places, like Nobel prize announcements or book and movie releases. If it strikes you, it might also be interesting for your students.
Tip 1: Avoid a mini lecture.
Don’t spend excessive time preparing your content. You’re the expert—this should be your informed reaction to an event. Bonus points if you integrate course content. Be sure the subject matter is germane to the overall course. The length should be very short, no more than a few minutes.
Tip 2: Be informal.
Think of this as the informal, off-the-cuff conversations you’d have with students in the minutes before class.
Tip 3: Don’t force something or be someone you’re not.
If you want to make a TikTok, and more importantly, feel comfortable making a TikTok, that’s fine. If you don’t want to dance, you don’t have to.
You’re their teacher, so you can be educated in your delivery. But recognize the power of showing students you’re thinking about and prioritizing their learning enough to add short-form content as real-world developments occur.
Tip 4: It doesn’t have to be regular, but it does have to be timely.
If you post a reaction every Tuesday, you aren’t reacting. Maybe the first couple of times you are but posting on a regular schedule implies you’re searching. It also removes some of the excitement from what you do.
If your post is unexpected, students are more likely to take notice. Be prepared to make a video while the news is still newsworthy. To capture attention, you can’t react to Monday’s news on Friday. We’ve moved past that.
Tip 5: Reward participation.
If it’s in your teaching pedagogy, consider offering a nominal amount of extra credit to reward watching to the end of the video.
In many online learning management systems, you can embed a quiz at the end of the video, something very easy that amounts to (extra credit) participation points.
You could also add an extra credit question to an exam about the video. This rewards students who consume your content. I guarantee views will go up after that. Don’t announce it though (see tips about keeping it unexpected above).
Once word gets out that there’s extra credit available, students will take notice. You don’t have to offer extra credit every time, either.
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