Teacher and tech expert says retention comes easiest with visual understanding

visual-technology-retentionAs teaching moves from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side,’ educators are still mulling over exactly how technology tools can best help guide student learning. The problem is, as faculty is quickly coming to understand, technology for its own sake is not enough.

Nowhere is this more evident than in MOOCs and the current crisis with retention. Plopping a student in front of a video lecture provides a new medium, but a boring lecture will still be a boring lecture on video.

The key to student engagement (and therefore, retention) says one teaching and technology expert, is to use technology to make the information relevant and understandable.

One effective way to do this is with visuals. Specifically, with annotated visual technology.

“Lecture is not enough. The dropout rate in schools is embarrassing,” said Alice Keeler, teacher and technology coach at California State University at Fresno. “Lecture has been a way to transmit information, however times have changed and using class time to transmit facts is not transmitting learning. Almost anything a teacher wants to lecture is already available on YouTube. Rather than boring students with information they know they can easily obtain in the moment, we should shift to what  students can do with this information.”

According to Keeler, students become disinterested in school for a lot of reasons, but a major one is that they do not find it relevant.

“The lecture is not provided in a context the individual student finds value in. It would be impossible to lecture to a diverse room of learners and have each student find the value in the content,” she explained. “When students are active with their learning, they can apply it in unique ways… in particular to ways that are of interest to them; then, we can give them lifelong skills and hopefully maintain their interest so they do not drop out of school.”

(Next page: Ways visual tech can help with retention)

Keeler, a Mac user, said that though her Mac provides a screen capture tool, she prefers to use Snagit http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html by TechSmith, which offers a wider range of options.

Watch a teacher tutorial on how to use Snagit:

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And even though Keeler doesn’t have any hard data on whether or not the use of annotated visual technology improves achievement, students have indicated multiple times that they want and appreciate the technology.

The reason? One of the first rules most writers learn: Show, don’t tell.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when someone is frustrated and struggling, because an image of what they should be looking at is invaluable,” emphasized Keeler.

Keeler explained that when communicating—not just with students, but also parents and colleagues—it’s important not to tell them, but show them, since, as a teacher trained in specific curriculum, it’s her job to draw attention to the elements they may not see.

“An annotated screen capture helps me to be specific. I need to be able to clearly communicate my perspective and knowledge, and [annotated visuals] get beyond the jargon to helping them to understand what I am looking at,” she said.

The reason why this tech, more so than MOOCs, may better retain students is because the use of the tool is relevant. By taking screen captures or images pulled from literally anywhere around the web, Keeler can provide current context for students while guiding them through its meaning in their learning.

“No one likes to be bored,” she explained. “Tools are tools, and videos and images can bore and disengage students just as much, if not more, as a boring lesson. However, when we take advantage of the shifts that technology allows us to do to change what is possible in the classroom and to provide meaning to each student, then we can help every student love to learn.”

Keeler noted that though the learning curve for using annotated visual technology wasn’t bad for her, she is a technology specialist. However, “an annotated image is quick. It is embedded on the spot. No need to download, launch, wait for, scrub, or search. It can be included in an email, as part of a PowerPoint or video, and dragged into documents to bring clarity to writing. In short, it is easy to share, quick to use, quick to view. It is effective.”

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