There are a number of ways to work through assigned readings with our students, but we’ve always gravitated towards open-discussions. Though we prefer these over delivering lectures, seminar-style classrooms are not entirely unproblematic. Here are a few of the challenges we regularly encounter:
- Not everyone feels comfortable speaking in front of the class
- Not everyone actually reads the assigned text
- The same five or six students (whether they done the assigned reading or not) end up carrying the discussion
- Assessing student understanding is challenging
Recently, one of our colleagues told us about Highlighter, a free web application that actually addresses all of the challenges we mentioned above. Here’s how it works:
- Teachers upload course materials to highlight —PDF files, Word docs and webpage links—and students access them on their computer, laptop, iPad or smartphone
- Teachers assign students to virtual groups
- Students read the uploaded documents, highlight and bookmark important sections, and make comments directly on them. Each group will only be able to see what other students in their group are highlighting.
- Teachers receive email notifications when students make notations
Highlighter lets teachers know exactly what sections of the course material is most engaging—or most confusing. Knowing this allows teachers to plan accordingly, clarify confusing sections, or expand on key concepts. No longer will you wonder if students have read the course material — now you’ll see they have highlighted, commented, shared and saved.
To learn more about Highlighter, check out the video below.