Friday, April 25, 2014

Empower Introverts with BYOD

Image credit: Susan Cain
Last night I participated in a #BYOTchat moderated by Steve Hayes and Nathan Stevens about introvert students. It was based largely on the work of Susan Cain, the author of Quiet.  She also gave an incredible TED Talk on the Power of Introverts.  The chat questions focused on the strengths of introverts, misconceptions about them as students, and how teachers and schools can better serve introverts.




The chat got me thinking about how my students use their own technology (smartphones, tablets, and laptops) to participate in class. Although we still do sometimes have traditional discussions that require them to raise their hands, much of our collaborative work happens via technology. The former is unnatural to the introvert students. Volunteering to share their inner thoughts and insights with others to gain notice and credit is uncomfortable.  The latter, sharing via technology, is more comfortable. Everyone is sharing and introverts have more time to shape their words and ideas the way they'd like. Fast paced out loud class discussions often have less depth than the online version. Here are a few ways to empower the introverts in your classroom using student technology.

Backchannel

There are a few platforms that allow your classes to backchannel, or have an online discussion while watching a video or presentation in the classroom. Since all one has to do to participate in the backchannel discussion is type ideas, it feels less threatening and unnatural to an introvert.  One way that would be even more comfortable for introverts is to make the backchannel anonymous. While this might be hard for teachers, because inappropriate comments cannot be traced back to any particular student, it is possible if the right class rules and culture are previously established.  Here are the guidelines I recommend:

  • Everyone must participate.
  • Participation may include bringing up a new idea, pointing out interesting or shocking information, posing a question, answering a classmate's question, or agreeing/disagreeing with an idea.
  • Provide guiding questions that students can discuss using the content that the video/presentation will cover.
A few tools I recommend for backchannel are TodaysMeet and Backchannel Chat.

Socrative

I often use Socrative, a student response tool, for activators. Activators are thoughtful reflective questions that get my students into the right mindset at the start of class before we start digging into the content and activities of the day. Often there is no real right or wrong answer and students are required to consider a little of their own opinion and preferences. Sharing ideas this personal is especially difficult for introverts. If the only way to discuss their activator responses were via hand raising, I would never hear from my introverts. Socrative allows them to submit answers anonymously. My favorite way to leverage this for class collaboration is to allow the class to read everyone's responses anonymously and then vote for the best one. Here's how:

  1. Once you've entered using the Teacher Login, choose the 'Short Answer' option under 'Single Question Activities'
  2. Students enter the room using the room number you give them.
  3. As students answer the activator, you see their answers on your teacher screen. You can eliminate answers that are silly or out in left field by clicking the red X next to the answer.
  4. Once everyone has answered, tap the 'Vote on Responses' button on the bottom of the screen.
  5. All of the student responses will appear on student screens and they will have a chance to vote for the best one.
  6. You reveal the winner!

The introverts are the students who are most often the winners of the votes in these cases because they've put more thought and depth into their answers.  While being publicly celebrated might make them uncomfortable for a minute when I announce that they are the winner, it also is short lived and assures them that everyone in the classroom knows their quiet nature is not a reflection of how much is going on in the minds.

Padlet

Another way to share ideas without hand raising is Padlet. I love Padlet's flexibilty because students can share images, links, and text. This means they can share ideas with the sources and evidence behind those ideas.  The process is pretty simple.

  1. Create a free Padlet account and click "Create a New Padlet"
  2. Click the gear icon on the right edge of the screen to choose your wallpaper, give your wall a title and description, adjust posting permissions and sharing settings.
  3. Give your students the URL of the wall.
  4. They go to the URL and then just double tap the screen on their devices and to type responses, add URLS, or upload images to post on the wall. Posts can be labeled with names or can be made anonymously.
  5. If necessary, you can move the posts around so that all of them are visible.  You can even delete posts that might not be helpful.
  6. When the activity is over, go back to the gear icon and change the posting permission so that the wall can be viewed, but no more posts can be added. This way students can still see what they learned as a class, but no one can make changes or delete anything.

After a class activity in which students have sifted through content, they can post evidence they think is relevant to the essential question. Here's an example on battles from the Civil War. The combined efforts of all of the students results in a higher quality answer than any of them might be able to arrive at alone.  Also, I've had students make drawings that interpret ideas from primary or secondary scholarly sources and post them on the Padlet wall.  Here's an example of drawings that interpret the varying roles of women in the Civil War.  Not surprisingly, the most insightful and creative imagery comes from my introvert students in these instances.

Of course, these ideas do not answer the bigger question about why schools seem to value the qualities of extroverts over introverts and how that can be changed over time.  After all, as Susan Cain says, 30-50% of the population are introverts.  These strategies do help teachers at the classroom level send a message to their introvert students that their thoughts and contributions are important. Using these tools can send a message that the teacher knows introverts have a lot to contribute when given the right opportunity.