Rethinking Class Time Using Accessible Technology

Robert Talbert, Grand Valley State University

This talk located at:

There has never been a better time to be a learner than now.

Accessible Technology

Economically accessible (free or cheap)

Physically accessible (portable, multi-platform, hardware-agnostic)

Intellectually accessible (easy to learn and use)

Three experiences with accessible technology

Ring theory

What these experiences have in common

Class can be a barrier

Class can be a maker space

Traditional class time configuration and the case for active learning

Meta-analysis of 225 separate studies on active learning versus lecture.

Students in lecture courses were 55% more likely to fail the course than students in active-learning focused courses.

Students in active learning courses scored about half a standard deviation higher on exams than students in lecture courses.

"If the experiments analyzed here had been conducted as randomized controlled trials of medical interventions, they may have been stopped for benefit—meaning that enrolling patients in the control condition might be discontinued because the treatment being tested was clearly more beneficial."

Recentering education on active learning is an ethical and economic issue.

Not an academic freedom issue.

PNAS is not the only study

Hake, 2006: Physics students in active learning classes outperform students in lecture classes by 2 SD's

Lorenzo, Crouch, and Mazur, 2006:Gender differences in performance on physics concept inventories eliminated when using peer instruction

Poh, Swenson, and Picard, 2010:Students in lecture courses show flatline phyisological arousal

Two questions:

How do we reconfigure class time to enable active learning?

How can accessible technology help enable active learning?

Flipped learning design

Traditional class structure

Flipped learning class structure

The "Four Pillars of F-L-I-P"

Flexible Environment

Learning Culture

Intentional Content

Professional Educator

Flipped learning >>> "flipped classroom"

Using accessible technology to engage students in their individual learning spaces

Using interactive Sage code

Using accessible technology to engage students in the group learning space

Interactives using Desmos

Interactives using SageMath Cloud (

Peer instruction

The first derivative of a function f is shown below. What are the critical values of f? Select all that apply.

  1. x = -4
  2. x = -1
  3. x = 0
  4. x = 1

Eric Mazur, peer instruction in Physics at Harvard

This is your learning space


Ensuring access

To students with physical disabilities

To students with financial or logistical challenges

To adjunct and contingent faculty who lack equipment and time

Overcoming misconceptions

Teaching = lecturing

Math = Getting right answers efficiently

Technology = gimmick

Making adjustments

Learning to be guide, coach, data scientist

Learning to say no to some technology

Helping students adjust to becoming math makers

Some things aren't challenging

Personal challenges for the conference

Think creatively about class time

Remember: Active learning is an ethical issue, tech can help

Have an optimistic agenda


Thank you

Robert Talbert, Associate Professor of Mathematics

Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan USA


Image credits