Use of Word Clouds for Interaction in Lectures- Constraints, Benefits and Future Use #cmaltcmooc #CMALT

Description
I do find it difficult, at times, to engage students during a large lecture. Teaching a class of 120 to 190 physiotherapy students can be daunting- especially if I have got the “lunchtime lull” slot or are following on from a previous lecture that was content heavy. Asking questions to the students during a lecture sometimes feels… …forced, and at times it is the same students who are confident enough to answer, rather than a broad indicator of what the cohort are thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to have something that all students in the lecture theatre could contribute to? To have something that responds as answers are added? To have something that was visually appealing and could give a break to the didactic voice of the lecturer? So I entered “word cloud” into google and came up with MentiMeter (www.mentimeter.com).
Reflection on Benefits
The use of word clouds provides a way for students to anonymously present their thoughts and “see” the collective priorities or important features of a given topic. It can also promote critical reasoning and be used as a platform for the lecturer to focus on the audience’s impression of a given topic. Word clouds have been utilised in healthcare education to provide reflection, integration of learning, critical thinking and development of interpersonal skills including online discussion (deNoyelles & Reyers-Foster, 2015; Volkert, 2018). The completed word cloud can then be provided to students as a study tool that summarises the discussed topic (Filatova, 2016).
I chose to use Mentimeter- a free online platform that produces interactive word clouds that are easily accessed by student’s smart devices, tablets or laptops via wifi. Any time that you want to ask the students a question, Mentimeter can be used to capture their responses on mass- live. A question is posed to the students, a code is provided, and students use the code to enter their answers. As answers are entered, they are pushed to the lecturers Mentimeter account and word cloud presentation. This immediately responds by centering the more “common” responses, while the less common (and sometimes irrelevant…) answers are pushed out to the edges.
Mentimeter does not limit the number of interactions or votes unlike other polling-type of platforms. Other than having word clouds used to open class discussion, the Mentimeter platform could be used for checking the student’s previous knowledge (quiz), reflect on their own knowledge (Likert scale), which when transferred to the lecturer account can provide an overview of feedback to help improve the next lecture.
Reflection on Constraints
You are able to have THREE free Menti’s for your account, otherwise, you would need to upgrade (USD$7.99/ month billed annually as at July 2018). As the MentiMetor presentation is presented through the web, it, unfortunately, means that you need to keep swapping to/ from alternative presentation software (i.e. PowerPoint), rather than being embedded into a slide- though this is not too much of an issue.
There is also the requirement that in order to interact with the word cloud at the time of the lecture, students require appropriate smart devices/ laptops and reliable internet connection. While this might limit some students, there is the opportunity to use a peer’s devices and discussion can still be enabled with a few respondents to a given word cloud.
Reflection on Deployment and Support
In a recent lecture with the physiotherapy students this year, I used menti.com  to encourage the students to engage- in this case, responding to the question- “how does the neuromuscular system change as we age?”. I positioned a slide with the link and code, which I left up while organising my end (www.mentimeter.com). This gave them some time to respond, though the link and code were still available when I swapped over to MultiMeter and hit “present”. While not all answered the question,  the number of student response was pleasing, especially as this was novel to them. It was also reassuring that as the more common (and appropriate) responses were gathered and centralised, with those that less relevant made smaller (and insignificant). When the question was closed down, I was then able to talk to the centralised concepts which lead on nicely to the next section of the lecture (see MentiMeter responses).
Impact on Teaching and/ or Learning
I have since utilised Mentimeter on a number of occasions to promote engagement in large class settings (see POMF II responses) as well as during small group discussion. This has prompted other lecturers to consider the survey tool and used it in their own teaching and presentations (NT and NSW). It has been interesting to “hear from the masses” compared to the “regular few” when the audience is verbally asked to contribute in the large class environment (150- 180 students). There is a need to (1) establish the common foundation of knowledge in the group; (2) promote engagement, and (3) respond to questions that the audience may have. Mentimeter seems to have accomplished this for myself, and for my colleagues.
For future reference, I have created a tutorial video on how to create a word cloud using Menti (see below or http://bit.ly/MentiWordCloud). I would be interesting to hear from others who have used Menti in their teaching and learning…
References
deNoyelles, A. & Reyers-Foster, B. (2015). Using word clouds in online discussions to support critical thinking and engagement. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, 19(4).
Filatova, O. (2016). More Than a Word Cloud. TESOL Journal 7(2), 438-448. Doi: 10.1002/tesj.251.
Volkert, D.R. (2018). Building Reflection with Word Clouds for Online RN to BSN Students. Nursing Education Perspectives, 39(1), 53-54. Doi: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000159.

 

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