Five ideas on how to use Chromebooks in the Classroom By Daniela Standen FHEA

As part of my quest to encourage students to learn broadly as well as encouraging them to engage with Italian deeply (J. Biggs, 2003), I have experimented with using the Chromebooks, which have been recently purchased by ISLI (International Study and Language Institute), in the classroom. Chromebooks are a great tool: they are quick to set up, instinctive to use and create an immediate buzz in the class.  If you don’t have Chromebooks available, these activities can also be done by asking students to bring their own laptops.

I have been using them with my IWLP Italian stage 3 class (students transitioning from A2 to B1 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and my stage 1 (complete beginner class).

I found that through this work students were pushed to explore language away from their comfort zone and to apply language to practical purposes. More generally though, students worked collaboratively and reflected on own and fellow students’ work.

Read on for 5 suggestions on in-class activities with Chrome books. They are specific for language learning but could be adapted easily. Most are quick to prepare as it is the students that do the work, others require more preparation:  for example the creation of a class google account.

Really good learning came out of these activities and students found them interesting and engaging. I’d be interested to hear from you if you decide to try/adapt some of these activities in your classes d.standen@reading.ac.uk


Activity 1: Working together / Peer learning

Topic:    Preparing a set of common questions for an interview

Procedure:         Students develop a common set of questions to interview native speakers individually.  Students share the results of interviews and draw conclusions. In pairs, working from the class google account, students work on a different aspect of the interview. Students then read through the questions written by the other pairs and give each other feedback on accuracy and content.  A final set of question is agreed.

Learning outcomes:        Formulating questions, proof reading, giving and receiving peer feedback.


Activity 2: Using Tutor Feedback to improve writing skills

Topic:    Replying to a question on an on-line forum

Procedure:         Decide on the question you want to ask. Students work individually. Using Chrome books and the class google account.  Students start working on their answer, the teacher also logs into the account from the main computer. The teacher can access each student’s piece of work and using the ‘suggesting tool’ can make suggestions onto the student document in real time.  Work can be flashed on the smartboard to highlight common errors or share good work.  Students continue working on their piece from home and demonstrate how they have used the feedback to improve it. Students have access to each other’s documents and can also learn from looking at each other’s work.

Learning outcomes:        Writing (replying to a forum), improving work following feedback 


Activity 3: Using software in a foreign language

Topic:    Advertising an event

Procedure:         Decide on the type of event.  Students work in groups to gather information and make decisions. Using Chrome books and the class google account, which had been set up to be in Italian students create a poster using ‘google slides’ student create a poster.  All the commands within google are in Italian and students have to navigate the software in the target language.  While working on the poster, students compile a glossary of the various commands and create a Quizlet set. As the students are creating the posters, the teacher also logs into the google account and can flash the posters on the Smart board suggesting corrections and showing good examples of work. Students present their poster to the class.

Learning outcomes:        Developing vocabulary relating to operating software, agreeing and disagreeing, expressing a point of view, IT literacy and employability 


Activity 4:  Fact finding

Topic:    Music.

Procedure:         Before working on a song give the Chrome books to the students, and ask them to work in pairs to find some specific information about the song and the singer. Suggest a couple of websites but leave them free to choose other sources so long as they are in the target language.  Students share with the class the information they have found.

Learning outcomes:        Reading to find specific information, summarise, speaking, peer learning 


Activity 5: Fact finding

Topic:    Applying for a volunteering position.

Procedure:         Find a website with volunteering opportunities. Give the Chromebooks out and ask the students to find an opportunity they would like to apply for.  Students discuss why they have chosen that opportunity; complete an application form; and role play interviewing for the role.

Learning outcomes:        Reading skimming and finding specific information, talking about interests and their own abilities, completing forms, development of pragmatic skills, employability


 Presented at the ISLI Technology Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group 14th March 2017

 

Subject specific English, academic, and professional skills for NUIST students in Chemistry

Professor Elizabeth Page, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy; Aaron Woodcock, International Study and Language Institute
e.m.page@reading.ac.uk, a.e.w.woodcock@reading.ac.uk

Overview

16399Two complementary modules within the Department of Chemistry, English Language for Chemists (CH3ENG) and Health and Safety and Professional Skills (CH3NUI), were created to support students recruited from the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST) on the BSc Applied Chemistry 3+1 programme.

Objectives

  • Create bespoke modules that would build upon and refine BSc Applied Chemistry 3+1 programme students’ skills for the practice of Applied Chemistry in a UK academic context and future employment.
  • Improve students’ subject-specific English skills.
  • Ensure strong collaboration between the Department of Chemistry and the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI).

Context

While students from NUIST undertake the Pre-sessional English Programme and have access to in-sessional tuition through the Academic English Programme (AEP) within ISLI, these programmes provide an understanding of general academic English, but are unable to provide students with subject specific English skills. For the study of Applied Chemistry students recruited from NUIST require an understanding of a highly specialised lexis and communicative skills suitable for the context of working in a laboratory and writing reports.

Implementation

A strong collaborative approach between the Department of Chemistry and ISLI was taken in order to set up the modules and ensure that the modules were constructed in such a way that best supports students from NUIST. The core design of the modules was undertaken by the Programme Director of the BSc Applied Chemistry programme, the AEP Programme Director, and the Programme Director of the Visiting Student Programme.

Initially a single 20-credit module incorporating health and safety training, professional skills and academic English for chemists was conceived. As this module was developed, however, it was decided that as English language proficiency is a central element of all these components, it would be optimal to divide the module into two complementary 10-credit modules, with tutors from ISLI leading on instruction in English language for academic Chemistry and tutors from the Department of Chemistry leading on health and safety training and professional skills.

Within CH3ENG students were provided with training in Chemistry-specific English language. As CH3ENG was specifically designed in conjunction with CH3NUI, it was able to be mapped onto the module, supporting its delivery and ensuring that students were provided with the language skills necessary to achieve CH3NUI’s learning outcomes. The module sought to improve students’ written and oral communication, as well as their lexis. In terms of summative assessments, students completed a written project, an oral presentation and a class test. In addition to these, students were provided with multiple feedback opportunities from formative assessments across the duration of the module.

CH3NUI provided students with training for working in a UK chemical laboratory and carrying out independent research in a practical-based investigation.  Assessment was conducted through a test on health and safety and risk assessment, the creation of a summary of an article, group work activity culminating in the production of a video and accompanying report, and the writing of a letter of application. In addition, students were invited to receive summative feedback on drafts of their assessments.

Impact

The collaboration between the Department of Chemistry and ISLI produced two successful modules which have eased the transition of international students to studying Applied Chemistry. Student feedback on the modules has demonstrated that students have noticed an improvement in their language, academic, and professional skills.

Reflections

The delivery of successful modules was only possible as a result of the close collaboration that occurred between the Department of Chemistry and ISLI, allowing two strongly complementary modules to be designed. While coordinating across two departments can be difficult to achieve, the efforts of staff members from both ensured that synergy was able to be achieved. Anyone seeking to establish a similar set of modules to aid the transition of international students should be aware that it is necessary to engage in the collaborative process fully with partners across the University.

By collaborating it was possible to ensure that the modules developed in ways that were of most benefit to its students: tutors on CH3NUI were able to regularly feedback to tutors on CH3ENG students’ needs regarding academic English skills, allowing needs to be responded to as they emerged.

CH3NUI prepared students for the expectations of the UK academic and professional contexts, providing skills that will assist students in not only their academic study, but also their careers after graduation.

The use of these modules to develop the skills of students on the BSc Applied Chemistry 3+1 programme has been beneficial across the programme, allowing students to perform confidently and precisely in other modules, and to work well with students enrolled on programmes other than the BSc Applied Chemistry 3+1 programme.

Follow up

Since the first running of these modules there have been some small adjustments made, with some of the learning outcomes originally within CH3ENG being assigned for coverage by CH3NUI, allowing CH3ENG to focus primarily on developing students’ communication skills. Assessment on CH3ENG has also been refined, with the written project being replaced by three written tasks, allowing students access to increased opportunity for feedback.

Legal Seagulls : Experience Plan for overseas students

Shweta Band, Law
s.band@reading.ac.uk
Year of activity: 2015-16

Overview

The name ‘Legal Seagulls’ represents all overseas students in the School of Law. I initiated the Legal Seagulls Experience Plan in 2015-16 as a three-step support initiative to enhance the academic and university-life experience for our overseas students.

This includes the Pre-arrival Academic Welcome Kit (PAWK), on-arrival Academic Bridging Course Induction Programme and weekly in-sessional support sessions in the form of GOALLS (Global Outlook Activities and Learning for Legal Seagulls)

Objectives

  • To model an experience initiative for overseas students as a symbol of real academic and social integration.
  • To develop, deliver and evaluate a structured and continual pre-arrival and in-sessional mechanism.
  • To provide a comprehensive academic transition information at the pre-arrival stage in an endeavour to bridge the gap between the home and overseas legal academic environments.
  • To foster a global outlook towards social integration and employability skills.

Context

The School of Law has a significant number of international students – close to 47% of current students. To establish a single point of contact for them, a new office was established and I was appointed as the first International Support Tutor in the School of Law in February 2015.

I was assigned the task of providing academic and pastoral care to international students. In order to understand the experience of international students in the UK, I began by studying some of the recent research on the topic published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), and Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) Guidance.

This research revealed that there is consistent feedback from international students for the need of a structured approach to respond to two of the biggest concerns that they have: difficulties in transition (socio-cultural-academic), and employability attributes. This corroborated with the feedback I had received in a number of meetings with members of the academic staff, support services and overseas students in the School of Law.

This inspired me to develop the Legal Seagulls Experience Plan with the objective being that it will positively change the quality of overall experience for the students during the period of study with us, and also allow them to attain their academic potential and maximize their grades.

Implementation

For an international student, the journey of studying in a foreign country doesn’t begin in the Welcome Week; it actually begins on the day the offer is accepted. To bridge the gap between this period, I send a series of pre-arrival weekly emails in the form of academic bridging e-course to all confirmed offer holders. The PAWK includes guidance and online resources for a smoother academic transition.

During Welcome Week, the School of Law organizes three different Academic Bridging Course Induction Programmes for Postgraduate students, Part One students and Credit-transfer students.

This includes a session each on Academic Calendar, Teaching and Learning Methodology, Course Objectives, Good Academic Practice, Managing Academic Transition, Learning Technology, etc.

Our in-sessional support project, begun in 2015-16, is titled GOALLS : Global Outlook Activities and Learning for Legal Seagulls: free and open weekly sessions delivered by subject experts and based largely on games and group activities. A Certificate of Participation is awarded for attending five or more sessions and this counts toward the Research Experience and Development (RED) Award.

The Autumn term GOALLS focussed on cultural and academic integration and included sessions on topics such as Know Your Host (British Ways of Life), Know the British Legal Academia, and Cross-cultural Communication Training. The Spring GOALLS series was focused entirely on support for careers and examinations.

The students can register for the Academic Induction Programme and for GOALLS via an online registration form on the Legal Seagulls website which is made available from early August.

Impact

In 2015-16, 192 students received the PAWK. I could measure the successful response to this by the number of pre-arrival online registrations received for the Induction Programme (101), GOALLS (55) and Academic English Programme for Law Classes (70)

A total of 131 students attended the Induction sessions in the Welcome Week. This was a positive increase from the previous years. Of the students surveyed, 79% rated the Undergraduate Induction Programme as 4* or 5* and 92% rated the Postgraduate Induction Programme as 4* or 5*.

Close to 300 students benefited from the fourteen GOALLS sessions spread across the Autumn and Spring Terms. Of the 1505 total number of responses received for seven sections, 78% students marked the sessions as Outstanding (5*) or Very Good (4*).

This three-point Legal Seagulls Experience Plan has been able to lay the foundation to:

  • Respond to the early stages of culture shock and novelty for overseas students.
  • Introduce the overseas students thoroughly to UK as a host and to Reading as the host University.
  • Strengthen global graduate attributes and skills for overseas students.
  • Foster intercultural understanding and communication.

A few encouraging responses quoted from the student feedback are indicative of the positive impact: “Interaction with people of a different ethnicity other than mine rebuts my initial mindset about them”; “It was brilliant learning the debate mechanism and how to structure an oral argument properly”; “Today’s session has been tremendously useful for law students who are preparing for the upcoming exam. I have learnt a number of ways to study effectively.”

Reflections

The Pre-arrival Academic Welcome Kit (PAWK) and the Academic Bridging Course Induction Programme have been continued almost in the same format for 2016-17.

I have added a team-building activity session for the credit-transfer students’ Induction Programme. The PG Induction will now be live-streamed for the students arriving late and for students on the distance learning programme.

The GOALLS sessions have been reorganized in response to the feedback from the students that most of them were busy with exams and submissions in the Spring term and therefore could not attend the sessions in spite of being interested. This was reflected in the dwindling attendance. In view of this, for 2016-17, I have re-structured GOALLS.

The sessions on academic and cultural integration, career advice and exam support have now been scheduled during the Autumn Term. Electronic feedback has been added to the paper version. As an academic value addition to GOALLS, Professor Susan Breau, Head of School, has very kindly accepted my proposal to start an academic competition, the World Constitutions Showcase, to be delivered by Legal Seagulls under the Public Law Lecture series.

My efforts will also be see a renewed focus on activities reflecting on integration of home and overseas students.

Follow up

I honestly hope to create a well-founded sense of trust amongst our international students that we are absolutely keen on giving them the best possible support and services that any foreign academic institution can think of. We have a vibrant body of overseas students and we benefit in more ways than one from their presence and participation on campus.

The Legal Seagulls Experience Plan will strive to create, nurture and award an environment of mutual learning among the home students, overseas students and staff in the School of Law.

Our long-term aim is to create an ethos of a real and open acceptance of, and support to, the academic and cultural diversity brought to us by our international students.

Links

Take Home Exam by Dr Stuart Lakin, School of Law

This post has been uploaded to the T&L Exchange, and can now be found at:

http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/t-and-l-exchange/take-home-exam/

Assessing the impact of internationalisation on students, from both a UK student perspective and a NUIST student perspective

Dr Philippa Cranwell, School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy
p.b.cranwell@reading.ac.uk
Year(s) of activity: 2014/15

Overview

8437The project assessed the impact of the intake of a cohort of 16 3+1 BSc Applied Chemistry students on the existing undergraduate students on programmes within the Department of Chemistry (approximately 72 students, on both BSc and MChem programmes), and determined any preconceptions each cohort may have had about each other or the course.

Objectives

  • Determine the impact of intake of students from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST) on existing Part Three Chemistry students.
  • Discover what preconceptions current Chemistry students held.
  • Determine what aspects of their year at the University of Reading students from NUIST found the most challenging, and what support could be offered to future students.

Context

The 3+1 BSc Applied Chemistry is a dual award degree delivered in partnership by the University of Reading and the NUIST. Students currently study for three years at NUIST in the People’s Republic of China before transferring to the University of Reading to complete their final year, with successful students being awarded a Bachelor of Science from each institution. This study was undertaken because integration of two cohorts on this scale had not been undertaken before in Chemistry at the University of Reading. There was a desire to ensure that existing students were not adversely affected by the intake of Chinese students because they would have to share resources, such as lectures, workshops and tutorials, and also to ensure the Chinese students felt they were adequately supported whilst in the UK.

Implementation

The findings were derived from focus groups held with Part Two students (30 students), Part Three domestic students (30 students) and the Part Three NUIST students (12 students). During the focus groups, the students were posed questions about different aspects of the year and wrote responses on giant sticky notes. The questions were designed such that they were open and allowed students to give as much information as they wanted. In the case of the NUIST students the focus groups were not very successful due to a reluctance to speak out. In addition, therefore, anonymous questionnaires that the students could fill in and return were distributed. During the focus group session, lunch was provided to thank the students for their time.

Impact

The study achieved its objectives, although not in the manner originally perceived. It had not been anticipated that the NUIST students would be so reluctant to speak out. It was quickly realised, however, that the best way to obtain meaningful data from the NUIST cohort was to offer anonymised questionnaires. This approach will be used in the future. Additionally, the study was useful in that it showed that there was one overriding theme for good integration; the importance of language skills. Although it was known that the students all fulfilled the University’s requirement for English language proficiency, it had not been anticipated how difficult it would be for them in a lecture situation.

Reflections

This project was successful in that it managed to gather the necessary information. If the project were to be repeated again, there would be more awareness of the fact that the Chinese students were less forthcoming with their views and anonymous questionnaires would have been used from the beginning. It might also have been useful to pose the questions in Mandarin, therefore avoiding any confusion or misunderstandings. With regards to the UK students, the session was well-received and students were happy to have the opportunity to give their opinions so no changes to this are necessary.

Outcomes from the activity have led to a reassessment of the way the initial three years of the programme are taught in the People’s Republic of China, and an emphasis on the importance of a good grasp of the English language; both in academic and in social situations. The Department of Chemistry is working towards providing:

  • Additional exam-style questions for the students to practice while they are in the UK.
  • Input into exam questions in the People’s Republic of China so students are better prepared for what to expect when in the UK.
  • A greater emphasis on the technical language required for the study of Chemistry.

Teaching in a divided classroom: the impact of internationalisation and marketisation on business education

Dr John Latsis, Henley Business School
j.s.latsis@henley.ac.uk
Year(s) of activity: 2013-14

Overview

9337In the postgraduate module Managing People and Organisations (MMM048), provided by the School of Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour, assessment methods were altered in a manner that was mindful of the increased internationalisation and marketisation of UK Higher Education, in order to assist the transition of international students.

Objectives

  • To provide a method of assessment that fit the needs of international students less acculturated to UK Higher Education
  • To design this method of assessment so that it does not disadvantage more culturally expert students.
  • To have the first assessment of the module prepare students for essay-writing for further assessments.

Context

Results from previous years of MMM048 revealed that students on the module struggled with the first assessed essay, but showed significant improvement for their second assessed essay. In particular, the results suggested a difficulty for international students, who constituted over 80% of module students, to acculturate themselves to the expectations of UK Higher Education. Specifically, linguistic competence in written coursework, understanding of the requirements of critical engagement and argumentation in essay writing, and the needs of some students for individual follow-up meetings to discuss module content, were issues that needed to be addressed.

Implementation

Potential solutions, such as engaging in targeted small group tutoring, or simplifying the content of the module, were unacceptable. Engaging in targeted small group tutoring would negatively impact the workload of teaching staff, to the detriment of other duties, and would result in those groups that received said teaching having an unfair advantage. Simplifying the intellectual content of the module was undesirable, as the content of the module consistently received good feedback, and to do so would give a false impression of what was expected of students in their postgraduate study. Additionally, as students in the bottom quartile of the mark distribution generally showed evidence of improvement over the course of the module, this suggested that the content was not itself too difficult.

What was developed was an extended essay plan as a form of assessment, a hybrid solution that maintained the essay-writing element of the first part of the module, but allowed students to gain a hands-on insight into the expectations of UK postgraduate Higher Education. Students were provided with an essay plan handbook, explaining the expectations of how an essay would be written, providing a ready-made generic structure, with subheadings, approximate word counts for each section, and the usual guidelines with which students are provided. The essay plan is shorter than the full essay which previously formed the first assessment of the module (1000 words rather than 2500 words), and is worth less (15% rather than 30%). Additionally, the requirement for students to write in continuous English prose, which students might initially find difficult, is softened, as students are allowed to develop their ideas in bullet points in order to save space. The development of the extended essay plan format was carried out in consultation with the In-Sessional English Support team, in order to assure that the template was worded as clearly as possible.

Impact

The net effect of the change was significant. The failure rate for the first assessment dropped to 0%, and there was a reduced failure rate in the module as a whole. Student satisfaction surveys for the module achieved higher scores than previously, and students reported in casual conversation that they would continue to use the template and accompanying handbook to help them write their essays for other modules, as they found it a very useful tool to organise their thoughts and keep their arguments on track.

Reflections

The essay plan format is beneficial for the following reasons:

  1. It replaced the need for coaching to be provided in the context of a large class size with a variety of individual needs.
  2. It makes explicit the cultural clues that students with experience of the UK Higher Education system understand through verbal communication, but that have proved difficult to communicate verbally to students without this experience.
  3. It provides an explicit performance standard with instructions and mark-breakdowns that makes assessment clear and maintains standards of fairness across all levels of ability.
  4. As a result of the format including multiples questions, one of which is more difficult than the others, there is still the possibility for the most able students to demonstrate their ability by effectively addressing a difficult topic.
  5. It draws the markers’ attention away from linguistic ability and puts the emphasis on clarity of argument and quality of ideas, re-uniting a divided classroom.

While the new approach does reduce the flexibility that students have to express themselves within the constraints of the template, and benefits non-native English users more than it does native English users, the format allows students to be assessed on their understanding of the module content, and their ability to reflect critically upon it and construct a coherent argument.

Follow up

The essay plan assessment format has continued to be utilised within MMM048. There have been some minor changes to the wording of the essay plan and associated guidance as a result of input from the University Study Advice team. While comparisons between cohorts are difficult to perform, it is encouraging that marks on MMM048 improved last academic year.