E.P.I.C. Students – 7 Tips for Implementing Classroom Technology

It was 20 years ago that I first stepped foot onto a college campus. As I spend more time on college campuses, it’s amazing how much students and classrooms have changed over the last 2 decades. We had little access to technology, and if we wanted to call home, we had to wait in line at the one pay phone in the dorm.Technology Blog Pic

Contrast this experience with what students see today.  Almost all students step on campus with at least one connected device, and most have access to two or more. Classrooms and buildings have been updated with WiFi to keep students connected. Instructors plan and design lectures to be interactive as technology has allowed us to communicate and engage students.

Since becoming a teacher in 2004, I have seen various technologies come and go. Sometimes technology changes the way we do things for the better, and sometimes technology just changes how we do things. Our students today come with a different perspective and background even compared to those from just 10 years ago.

Dr. Tim Elmore has done a vast amount of research on today’s students (http://growingleaders.com/tim-elmore/). He describes today’s students as E.P.I.C.

Experiential – students prefer a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage.

Participatory – these students grew up with American Idol and are accustomed to having a “vote”.

Image Rich – “Screenagers” – this is the language of the 21st century.

Connected – they view technology as vital – comparable to air and water.

As we think about this EPIC generation, we can begin to plan new ways of instruction and engagement in our classes. One of the most powerful ways that I’ve used technology to impact students is by incorporating a student response system. In my time at i>clicker / REEF Polling, I have seen how students can participate and stay connected, while using technology in an intentional and purposeful way.

The rest of this blog will look at 7 ways to get the most out of your student response system.

Explain Why

Author Simon Sinek, discusses the importance of “Why” in his book Start with Why. When we explain the why, we plant the seeds for success and students begin to buy in to what we are trying to accomplish. As you share your goals with students, your “why” may include the following:

  • Promote participation and attendance
  • Provide and receive instant feedback
  • Foster community
  • Increase engagement
  • Assess comprehension
  • Generate discussions
  • Enhance conceptual understanding
  • Provide students with additional resources.

These are just a few ideas of why we would want to use a student response system with our EPIC students.


Set Expectations Early

To be clear is to be kind. By letting know students what to expect, we remove surprises and set ourselves up for success. Let students know what they need to bring – i>clicker, phone, or laptop – and let them know early on how to access. Use your syllabus and Blackboard to share useful tips and information as well as resources and support.

You might also consider dropping the lowest 5-10 scores. This encourages participation and allows for challenges that arise over the course of a semester (i.e. forgot their i>clicker or phone). This is also a great time to discuss academic integrity and cheating.

By setting expectations early on, we help set students up for success and lay a solid foundation for a successful semester.


Use for more than attendance

Use for more than just a replacement of a sign-in sheet. The SAMR model is a great illustration of the hierarchy and goal of technology. If we simply use technology as a substitute for an older way of doing things, then we fail to get the most out of technology.

As we move along the spectrum, from Augmentation, to Modification, and the ultimate goal of Redefinition, we have a chance to do things with technology that were not possible prior to that technology being available.

For example, in a class of 200 students, if we only use a clicker to take attendance, we’ve simply substituted what we used to do with pencil and paper. However, if we ask questions, allow time for discussion, and provide instant feedback for students, then we begin to redefine teaching and learning with technology.

If we leverage the technology available, we can help students learn and succeed, and we ultimately create more engaging classrooms.


Allow time for discussions

One of the best examples of discussions comes from an instructor using REEF Polling at the University of North Texas. She gives students a question about the best choices of breakfast foods. She then presents new information and allows students time for discussions. Finally she asks the same question again to students. She is able to see the shift in students’ thinking, and students are able to see their progress.

Breakfast pic question

Use for more than just multiple choice

While mobile technology sometimes allows for more types of questions (target and open-ended), physical clickers can also allow students to answer numeric and short answer questions. While may not ask students to type “War and Peace” with their a clicker, if we can have them answer different types of questions, we’re more likely for them to be engaged and participate.

Short answer question


Review/Recap or Exit Poll

As class ends, ask students a final question to assess whether or not they got the main point. You can also allow students to ask their own questions or provide feedback on what they’d like to see next class.

  • Did students get it?
  • Are we ready to move on?
  • Did the activity work?
  • How did I do?


Extend use beyond the classroom

Encourage students to access information and review after class. If you sync your scores to Blackboard, remind students to check to see how many points they received. If students are using REEF Polling, have them review sessions to see questions that were asked.

Student Review


Looking ahead to a new semester

Technology, when used effectively, increases the chances of making a difference with our students. As we look to a new semester, we have a new opportunity to reach students and impact future generations. Technology opens doors and allows us to do new things with our students.

Our students today are Experiential, Participatory, Image rich, and Connected. Knowing this will allow us to plan, prepare, and implement technology in a powerful way to engage our students and transform the landscape of education.


Note: The above article was modified from a webinar I recently hosted entitled 7 Strategies for a Successful Student Response Experience.

Webinar pic


How to Lose a Sale and Gain a Customer (for life)

Are we serving our customers or just selling to them?

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes the heat and the mosquitoes. With the recent rains we’ve received over the last 6 months, mosquitoes have set their sights on any who venture outdoors. As we prepare to wage war against these pesky pests, we recently contacted our pest control company to see how they could help. Lawn

My wife called our pest control company and talked to the sales rep. She asked about the mosquito treatment we’d recently seen advertised. The sales rep had a hot lead and could have sold us on any package he wanted. He could have zinged us with the Zika virus or warned us about West Nile. Instead, he asked us questions, told us the truth, and didn’t sell us a thing.

He asked questions about our house and location, and he realized that an additional service was not a good fit. The truth is that they could sell us an something extra, but it would not do help any more than what we were already doing.

The sales rep could have easily sold us a service and made a commission. However, by telling us that we might not benefit from what they provide, he gained our trust, and more importantly our loyalty and referrals. We were happy with their service before, but by telling us the truth and NOT selling us a product, they created a customer for life and one who will refer others.

How many of us would walk away from a sell or a deal because we value our customers and seek to serve them? If we add value, serve our customers, and seek to solve their problems, we may not always make the initial sale. But if our goal is long-term success and relationships, the sell we turn down today may lead to the customer that sticks with you for life.