As of the writing of this blog, I’m remaining at home and our campuses are quiet as we all practice social distancing. I’m missing the energy of each of Indiana University’s campuses and the buzz of students. One of the things helping me with the current state of uncertainty is working on the support we will all need for when we get together on campus, under normal circumstances again.
Today, I want to write about the Catchbox microphone, a tool to promote in-class discussion. There will be two Catchboxes in the three Mosaic classrooms that are part of Innovation Hall, currently under construction on the IUPUI campus.
Those new Mosaic classrooms are:
- a 215-seat tiered lecture hall
- an 81-seat SCALE-UP-style classroom with movable chairs and tables
- a 125-seat, football-shaped “active learning theatre,” with two tiers of seats that swivel to encourage variable grouping collaboration
A Catchbox microphone is made of soft durable foam. This makes it light enough (weighing just under 10 ounces) and soft enough (made of squeezable foam and stain-resistant fabric) to make it safe and easy to throw. The Catchbox even has a mechanism that senses the motion and temporarily switches “off” the audio when the device is thrown, caught, or dropped. It’s built to be thrown to anyone in a classroom space and, once caught, it gives a student the chance to be heard by the entire class, since the microphone amplifies wirelessly through the room’s audio system. By tossing the Catchbox to others, students and instructors can encourage student contributions to class.
Suggestions for instructors for using the Catchbox:
- Set expectations: Be sure to explain what the Catchbox is, how it functions, and how you expect it to be used in your course. An example communication could be:
- “This is a Catchbox, we will use it during in-class discussion. It’s lightweight and has a speaker at the top. When the Catchbox is thrown to you, speak into the microphone at the top so everyone can hear you. When prompted, you’ll toss the Catchbox to one of your classmates so they can share an idea.”
- Icebreaker: The first day you use the Catchbox, try holding a discussion about possible classroom Catchbox uses or about student expectations about the class. Possible icebreakers could be: What is your biggest question about this course? What is your biggest concern about speaking to this class? How might this Catchbox be used to facilitate discussion?
- Don’t use it like an instructor’s microphone: I recommend not using the Catchbox as your microphone, i.e., asking a question then tossing it to a student with a raised hand, or walking it to a student (such an approach is potentially time consuming and defeats the collaborative, informal appeal of Catchbox)
- Stay student-centered: Encourage your students to throw the Catchbox so that the device becomes a student-driven tool. Consider giving both Catchboxes to different students before class starts. Then, at the appropriate time, invite those students to toss the Catchbox for the first response. In this way, the instructor might not control the microphones for the entire class; instead, their path would be dictated by the students.
- Mix it up: Give your students a prompt, throw the Catchbox to a student and announce that the student holding the Catchbox (or their table or their row) must refrain from comment. This is a good way to encourage all students to engage in class, especially if the conversation gets focused on one group of students.
Have you already taught with a Catchbox? Share your experiences with the Catchbox in the comments below. For help with developing activities for Catchbox, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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