The Right Tool for the Job

Over the term holidays, 170 of our students were expected to read Sycorax, a novel created for our students by the English Faculty I lead. The novel requires students to infer, and to seek out information when things don’t make sense. It’s a good challenge, and where we can, we use technology to assist the students.

We have recorded the text for our students, endeavouring to help them along by providing a soundscape for the narrative. This has proven to be extremely popular, especially at the start of the book when everything feels unfamiliar.

Otto M narrates an action-packed opening to ‘Sycorax’.

We also use Canvas, our LMS, to assist the students’ mastery of the text. Many of my favourite tools in Canvas lie on the right-hand side of the page when editing course content. Cidi Labs’ design tools add many interactive elements which foster good learning. Today, I was reading about spaced retrieval; it’s been around for a long time, but is making a resurgence as a result of an overwhelming amount of digital content being launched at students. At its simplest, it’s about giving students opportunities to move newly introduced ideas into long-term memory. Slicing up a text-heavy web page with interactive elements, such as questions that pop up to check for understanding, is well worth considering.

In the examples displayed below, we have inserted additional information that should augment the students’ movement through the content. The bright students get an opportunity to explore further, and struggling students get a break, and perhaps some short-form content that may spark their curiosity. At the very least, the character illustrations assist the students in visualising the inhabitants of the book. These visual popups have proven to be extremely helpful in History (with maps, charts, timelines etc.) and in my Film Study class. It’s a simple tool but highly effective.

Pop-up illustration of a character from the studied novel.
Additional text adds meaning for students who want to go further.
Using pop-ups to deepen students understanding of poetic devices. The advantage here is the explanation is given in context.
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