What features do your instructors most like to have in a room? What classroom tools or technologies do they like to use most for teaching?
I’m frequently asked these questions at conferences and from colleagues at my own and other institutions. My response: easy-to-use, writable white or glass board surfaces are most often requested by Indiana University instructors.
Today I want to explore why IU instructors love writable surfaces by looking at how Erika Lee, Instructor for the School of Informatics and Computing, uses Steelcase Verb boards for active learning.
Verb boards are a specific type of whiteboard surface designed for student use. Due to their size, they are accessible work surfaces for both group and individual student activities. Ask students to write code, balance an equation, craft a paragraph in French, or sketch out a concept, and the results of their work can easily be seen instructors and peers.
Last spring Erika taught a coding class with 60+ students in the Mosaic Classroom known as Cedar Hall 102. Her approach demonstrates how to use Verb boards, but the concepts illustrated in the following examples can be applied to any writable surface. Erika shares a few ways that she uses Verb boards to support active learning:
Brainstorming: “We do a lot of brainstorming about design — for example, what meanings are paired with a color? They divide the board into four quadrants, and list “cultural/contextual, good/neutral”, “bad/icky”, and brands that reference the color. It’s a discussion starting point.”
Making Learning Visible: “In the visual design course, we want students to be able to play with how to visualize a concept — students are given a random adjective and verb randomly, then asked to visually combine the references; students then trade boards, add/adjust with their own ideas, then trade back.”
Collaborative Problem Solving: “I also use the boards to solve layout problems in web design. Since items on the screen often have “hidden” structural containers, using the boards keeps students thinking about problem solving (together) because if they hop into the code, they often feel overwhelmed and feel pressure to “code” stuff even if they aren’t sure what to do.”
Effective active learning requires planning and design, so Erika shares some tips on using Verb Boards or other writable surfaces:
Prepare the Boards: “When needed, I have students “set up” the boards before starting: for example, “divide the board into four squares” or “at the top of your board write the following prompt” or “on the left side… on the right side… “”
Decide on a Scribe: “I’m clear about who is writing. Do they choose a writer from the group? Do they all need to write something? This is often dependent on the activity.”
Share the Boards: “It’s not always possible, but asking students to trade boards and comment on/add to the work of their classmates is energizing. Students like to see what others have done with the same prompt.”
Erika uses Verb boards to create vibrant and engaging active learning experiences for her students. What tool or technology do you most like to use to support active learning? How do you use writable surfaces to encourage collaboration and making learning visible? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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