A Virtual Conference with Songs, Dragons, and Two Minute Breaks

Virtual conference 2020 Teaching Professor Virtual Conference

A song of the day. Dungeons & Dragons. Foldable, flap notes. Plickers. This is only a glimpse of the tactics the 2020 Teaching Professor Virtual Conference covers. Here, I provide a sneak peek of tips and tricks instructors share from their own classrooms and give you the opportunity to register for a virtual conference that encompasses pedagogical passion at its peak!

Starting with Songs

In Tolulope Noah’s class, at Azusa Pacific University, she starts one particular day with the song Fever by Peggy Lee on repeat while students file in (whether online or face-to-face). With a “Song of the Day” box projected on the screen, students can reflect and process what’s playing. The song always plays in relation to the topic of the day—in this case, the song Fever reflects the acronym FEVR for effective assessments. Noah says the “Song of the Day” provides a hook that students can come back to, but sometimes she plays songs just for fun, like Survivor when students have made it to their final exam.

Noah also incorporates interactive notes in her classes, from roadmaps, six statements of true and false, Know-Want to Know-Learned (K-W-L) charts, graphic organizers, foldable flaps, and different grouping techniques. Additionally, she uses Plickers which does not require students to have or use phones when asking a normal clicker question.

Since the transition to online, Noah has successfully migrated all of these tools to her online classes (she provides instructions on how to use these tips in either modality in her plenary session, Engaging Students from Entrance to Exit: Interactive Teaching Techniques for the College Classroom).

Flipped into Flipgrid

If you haven’t used Flipgrid, Rob Beane, from William Penn University, takes you through it step-by-step in his session, Flip into Flipgrid: Engaging the Snapchat Generation of Learners. He found that in his online discussions, students’ responses seemed tedious and boring.

“It’s very stale and emotionless—that’s the general format that’s been used for years,” he says. With Flipgrid, students share responses via video with stickers and images to enhance their discussion. Beane indicates that 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds are using social media, and using Flipgrid is an easy extension of what they already know. Students can change their backgrounds to reflect a topic and foster their creativity for more engaging discussions.

“We’re able to see expression. You can see their eyes light up during certain topics, and they talk with their hands and with infliction,” says Beane. “If you’re wanting to help students empower their voice, Flipgrid is another way you’re able to do that.”

Designing with Dragons

Love video games? Your students may even if you might not. In this session, Roll for Initiative: What Dungeons & Dragons Can Teach Us about Course Design, you’ll dive into applying D&D logic to your course. You start by choosing your character. Will you be an instructor, teaching assistant, or instructional designer? And will you get your course up and running, or will your quest encounter setbacks? You’ll gain insight on how you can create Google docs, a random dice roller, and more to create your own D&D-inspired game to fit your curriculum.

Kids These Days!

Do your students know what KOM306 means? What about TR on their class schedule? Do they know that the university library and student bookstore aren’t the same thing? In the session, Stop Blaming Students! Why We Must Teach Students, Not Content, Liz Norell, from Chattanooga State Community College, explains why we can’t assume college literacy. She prompts us to remember what our “best” teachers did for us: What do you remember that teachers did for you and how can you be more effective for your own learners? Norell says teachers see something in students that students often don’t see in themselves, so you have to ask yourself, how can you draw out the best version of your students?  

A Two-Minute Break

Does your brain ever go into overdrive with work, school, or personal stress? I think we’ve all been there. Caitlin Bergendahl and Tiffany Freitas, from Virginia Commonwealth University, call this an amygdala hijack and recommend clearing your thoughts before class while mentally preparing to think during class.

Bergendahl and Freitas also mention incorporating a Two-Minute Break into your class. During this Two-Minute Break, students write down one thing they can let go of, one thing they’re grateful for, and three things they’ll focus on that day—this is actually something each of us can do every day. These writing breaks not only allow students and instructors to bridge a connection (if turned in) but can also establish goals in which students are more likely to accomplish. Bergendahl and Freitas offer more healthy tips in their session, Namaste Y’all: Preventing Faculty Burnout Through Self-Care.

The Taboo Topics

Do you have “taboo topics” that you avoid in the classroom? Antija Allen, from Pellissippi State Community College, and Anthony James and Jason James, from Miami University (Ohio), say that we’re not having relevant discussions when we avoid these taboo topics.

“Transformative learning often happens in the discomfort,” Allen says.

In their syllabus and materials, they make sure students can easily access a link to classroom discussion etiquette. Additionally, they create a list of possible topics they’ll be discussing before class, so students are better prepared and more informed. You’ll gain more insight on talking about taboo topics in the classroom in their session, Can We Talk? Academic Freedom in Classroom Discussions.

With more than 50 concurrent sessions, plenaries, and poster sessions, you’ll surely find pedagogical tools you can use in your own class—whether online or face-to-face. You can still register for the 2020 Teaching Professor Virtual Conference and have access to each conference session, Q&As, closed captioning, downloadable conference handouts, and the conference app until September 30, 2020.