There are many participants in an education process. There are students, instructors, content, different types of media and technology. These participants are in constant contact and they have their roles to play in order to achieve a certain goal. The goal for all participants is common – student learning. If everyone fulfills their role effectively, the common goal is something that happens naturally. All roles must act together and in balance in order to reach that goal. Often though, it seems that there is a discrepancy or imbalance that causes learning to suffer.
In an environment where there is lots of inter acting, is there enough interaction?
Have you ever attended a presentation or a webinar where you wondered why you were there? Were you thinking of anything else but the subject of that session? You are not alone. Personally, I have experienced this a lot too. So here’s the gist of interaction.
There are generally two types of interaction: passive & active. Passive interaction is when the participants do not provide feedback to each other. This was the prevalent type in the 19th and 20th centuries. And unfortunately it can still be seen in many presentations and on/offline events. To understand it better, imagine reading a book. Communication is only one way. You read the book and receive the information it contains. You can’t talk back or change that information as you read. In other words, passive interaction is literally the inability to argue with a radio. It can only go one way.
Active interaction on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. Communication flows freely between participants. They constantly provide feedback to each other and the conversation evolves constantly rather than stall and stop. Imagine a group project, in which all participants have their roles and they need to find a way to work together in order to complete the project. Their interaction has to include constant discussion, feedback, and coordination. Participants need to find resources and include them in the interaction, they need to share and evaluate together as a team. Eventually they will create a final material full of information that is a result of their collaboration and active interaction.
Both types of interaction have their place at the right time and the right circumstances. As I always remind my student-teachers: If you use a tool or method appropriately and in the right context, you can’t go wrong. The overuse of anything is going to have a negative impact on the learning process. Too much lecturing will limit the opportunity to hear from your students. Too much active interaction without any straight-forward knowledge transfer, may prevent your students from learning and understanding the curriculum. So the old cliche of “balance is the key” really is… key.
The picture below illustrates some tools and methods that create both passive and active interaction. Combining a few of these tools will create a rich and comfortable environment both for you and your students. Combinations I have used in the past:
1. Weekly webcast + class wiki + live chat + materials posted by me
2. Peer review + screencast + forum + social media + podcast
3. Read materials by me + webinar + wiki + presentations + live chat
What are your choices?