The setting was a guest lecture on microbiology to our first year Medical Sciences students (~100). Several days before the lecture I asked the students to bring a personal internet device (laptop, netbook or smartphone) with them to the lecture. I set up my presentation on Google Docs and prepared a Powerpoint splash slide to set up the lecture:
So far as I could tell, the majority of people in the room had brought some form of internet device. There was a little delay as people accessed the document, but this was quite short and would reduce if the exercise was run more than once. Several questions were asked via the chat window during the lecture but not as many as I was expecting. It was quite difficult to monitor the chat window for questions while talking (Emma runs this as a two-person process, one speaking, one (remote) fielding questions), so I found myself backtracking to answer questions about previous slides, but overall the technology was not too distracting (for me). I thought the content of the chat window was persistent, but seemingly not as it was gone the next time I logged in. There are pluses and minuses to persistent/transient content in this context, so I'm not sure what to make of this (unless I've missed a setting somewhere?).
After the lecture I asked the students for feedback (using a Google Form, obviously) and their responses are given below. Overall, this interactive lecture format has considerable potential and is worth investigating further. Familiarity of use would reduce some of the first-time barriers, but as with all interactive gizmos (such as PRS), over use would reduce the value. As to whether the format is distracting, this is an extension of the Great Twitterfall Debate - with an important twist. I hardly ever teach in places with dual projection facilities, so commenting via a hashtag would mean heads down in the lecture. Although some students said they found the chat window distracting, at least this is a heads up and all look at the same screen situation, which is probably better for formal lectures.
Medical Sciences Google Docs Trial Lecture
26.11.2010(n = 39/~100)
1. Did you like the use of Google Docs in the MB1030 Microbiology lecture?
Don't care: 20%
2. Were you able to access the Google Document on your internet device?
No: 13% (problems with smartphones)
3. Were you able to access the chat window?
No: 44% (mostly problems with smartphones)
4. Describe how you felt about the use of the Google Document in the lecture:
Lots of potential | Interactive, exciting, fun | Interactive, keeps intrested, distracting | Easy to use | Clear and convenient | Different, engaging | Productive, useful | Don't care | Very modern | It was good, it felt like I was more involved. Also although I didn't have a question, if I did I would have felt more comfortable typing it than raising my hand to interupt the lecture. | Fun, useful | Engaging Innovative Exciting | Helpful, interesting, distracting | Fun, useful, different | I couldn't set it up and you didn't make sure everyone was ready. | Could be effective. | Off-putting | Easy to follow | Innovative | Wasn't used, unnecessary | Disappointingly unnecessary | Indifferent, impartial | Not very useful | Useful | Could be better | Interesting helpful different | It was good | Casual learning | Easy to ask questions when you use Google Chat | Liked chat window | Helpful distracting | OK | Useful, easy, open | Allowed partcipation | No point, on-screen | Interactive, easy, fun | New hence distracting | Engaging, interesting, informative | Interactive useful fun
5. Any other comments?
- This technology has great use, you can interact with each other and ask questions of the lecturer when it suited them best to answer. This might help engage and allow other students to get an insight into someone else's perspective of the material. If more questions had have been asked then clearly it would have been more beneficial. It also makes the lecturer aware of any issues students have with specific slides so they can be improved or reworded if required.
- Was unsure what to write in the instant messenger chat window i.e. what was really relevant.
- Was very good because no all information was not on the slide, so one was made to listen and make more effective notes. It allowed more interaction with the lecture. Only problem being allowed on the internet or to have our phone out, was very distracting.
- The chat was useful because it allowed you to easily ask a question without having to wait till the end of a lecture.
- It was good because people could ask questions as soon as any came into their head rather than trying to remember them and then forgetting them. Also, it was only used as and when people wanted to use it and it didn't seem to be an interruption.
- I couldn't make the chat work so I didn't get to benefit from that. The use of google docs in the lecture was interesting but as I couldn't make the chat work I didn't see the importance of using it.
- It's quite interactive and nice use of technology.
- I liked the chat box and if more people were to use it it would probably be more beneficial.
- I liked that we could use the chat window to ask questions or to add comments, though the novelty could prove distracting. If it was used frequently the novelty would wear off and I think it could be very useful.
- Useful to ask questions without interrupting the lecturer "mid-flow".
- More useful with laptops instead of phones as I couldn't use the chat with mine.
- I felt I was put off by having the chat window and didn't concentrate on the lecture as much as I normally would.
- The lecture could have made more use of the chat window.
- Google documents has surprised me again. Asking questions through the chat window is quite innovative. Now I won't feel guilty stopping a lecturer in the middle of an explanation to ask questions.
- Good premise for more confusing lectures to promote questions being asked about content.
- I didn't bring an internet device
- We didn't really use the Google Docs feature much, just for posting questions. It would have been great if we were made to do some problem solving together using google docs as it allows everyone to take part (at least those who are interested).
- It is very useful as we don't hesitate when thinking about asking a question. I don't like having everyone's attention on me when I ask a question so this way was much more easier and it was a nice change from the usual.
- Should be done again, maybe involve the students a bit more by setting compulsory tasks or activities.
- It has the potential to be used well, but was quite distracting to the lecture at times. It helps those that want to ask questions, but are too shy to do so ask something.
- It was useful and easy for people to ask questions as we went along as they sometimes do get forgotten. It was good to see what the rest of the class was thinking.
- I felt as though the idea was good because it meant that people could ask questions without being scared to. For example, some people may have wondered "what exactly IS the picture on the MRSA slide showing?" all through the lecture without knowing and without wanting to ask what they thought could have been a stupid question. However, I felt that setting up everyone's devices took a bit of time. I had to explain over and over again to different people what the link was to get onto the document in the first place, or type it in to their address bar for them, while the lecturer was talking, and I feel as though because of this, I missed some important points at the beginning about how we were supposed to use the chat feature. Perhaps having the link written down on the board or somewhere convenient for the duration of the talk may have helped.
- Unfortunately I could not get onto it because I did not have the latest version of flash player but it was still good to be able to see the conversations on my screen and also on the projection.