Join Kevin Kelly for an in-depth discussion in this video Facilitating small-group work in the classroom, part of Teaching with Technology.
- Small group activities are a great way to engage students in the classroom. Often, the activities are designed to capture background knowledge, recall what students have reviewed before a class, and build on content you just shared via lecture. When we think about small group activities, first, we have to pick the best activities for what we want students to do, how much time is available, and how many students should be in each group. Exercises related to learning outcomes can help students in multiple ways, which I'll mention in a minute. With, or without technology, small group activities can be as short as three minutes, or as long as 20 minutes or more.
Typically, small group activities involve two to four students. In the movie on active learning, I discussed strategies for different levels of access to technology. If not many students have technology, it can be as simple as showing a video that they discuss after. Basically, you supply the technology. If a quarter or more of your class has a device, you might decide to include a technologist role. After all, small groups often assign roles to each student. That way, only one person in each group needs to have technology.
This could be a scribe who takes notes, or a researcher who looks up information for the small group. If you want to get students to quickly generate ideas, then, maybe you want to use buzz groups. If you want students to learn concepts in more depth, then, perhaps, have them teach each other in jigsaw groups. Let's look at those two examples more closely. In buzz groups, students turn to two or three neighbors to come up with group answers based on a prompt you provide. You can use clickers or twitter on mobile devices or laptops to have students share what they think.
Have you ever thought of using this technology to start small group discussions? You can have the small groups discuss what they think about how the results break down. For example, if you ask some demographic questions like male-female, at the beginning of a class session, then you can cross-tabulate other responses with that data. Have the small groups answer why they think the females in the room answered differently than the males. Or, why the people native to your state answered differently than people who moved there less than five years ago.
Jigsaw exercises break large amounts of content into three or four smaller chunks. Each student in a group is responsible for one of the chunks. First, they review their content, usually before the class meeting. When they break into groups in the classroom, they join students from other groups who had the same chunk. All the ones get together, all the twos get together, and so on. They should use a Google Doc or Wiki to take notes about what's important for the other students to know. As the instructor, you might add comments. Last, they break into their original groups, and teach each other the respective chunks.
The Google Docs for each chunk might be a good resource for everyone to review afterward. In this movie, I've shown you some basics, as well as how to use technology for two small group activities, one shorter, one longer. Before reviewing the next movie, take a minute to answer the following questions: What do you want students to accomplish through small group activities? How much time will they have? And, how many students will have access to technology in the classroom?
Author Kevin Kelly explains how learning outcomes can be adapted to support technology in the classroom, and guides educators through selecting the appropriate technology for their activity, module, or class. Then he shows how to apply technology in three key areas: finding, creating, and sharing content with students; facilitating classroom activities; and assessing learning inside the classroom or online.
- Including technology in your learning outcomes
- Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles
- Finding and creating content and instructional materials
- Enhancing lectures and presentations with technology
- Getting students involved
- Facilitating in-class activities
- Assessing learning
- Teaching effectively online