A small retrieval exercise I did with my students using their cell phones

Yesterday I was finally allowed to teach again ‘IRL’, I have to admit, it was great to see my students again in the flesh and not behind a screen.

For the past years, I have been doing a little exercise with my students to have some retrieval practice happening and allowing me to give +200 students feedback. Yesterday I gave my exercise a minor technical update. I’m now using Whatsapp instead of simple text messages like I used to use before the lockdown.

When the students entered the auditorium, I asked them to scan a QR-code that made them members of a dedicated WhatsApp group. Of course, some students couldn’t do this, but I promised they could participate in the exercise later on.

I asked my students also to put their phones down with the screens on the table, so they wouldn’t get disturbed during class.

After 30 minutes, I got to the first exercise: please form a trio and make a summary in +/- 140 characters and post it in the Whatsapp group. After that, I repeated this exercise every 30 minutes. Why a trio? 2 reasons to limit the number of messages and make sure everyone can participate.

You can see the retrieval practice happening, but where is the feedback?

Well, the next step happens after class. I open the desktop version of Whatsapp and copy all messages into a Word document and separate them into three groups:

  1. Correct and to the point -> this is actually a crowdsourced summary of my class
  2. Accurate but not important -> by doing this, I can help my students to separate main from side issues
  3. Incorrect -> Here, I add a correction.

The next step is to share this document on the learning platform.

In one of the following classes, I will change this exercise. I will then ask them not to make a summary but to write an exam question about the past 30 minutes. These questions will also end up in different categories:

  1. Correct, thank you for your suggestion
  2. I’m not that evil. This is way too difficult
  3. Incorrect -> Again, I add a correction
  4. This question wasn’t formulated correctly -> Here, I also will add a correction.

3 thoughts on “A small retrieval exercise I did with my students using their cell phones

  1. Relying on Whatsapp means forcing students, or at least one in three, to agree to Facebook’s terms of service. Why not use an alternative that is actually privacy-friendly?

    1. It was something that I considered, but the practical reality was that close to all students had Whatsapp and demanding to use an alternative would have consumed too much time and could be experienced as me forcing them to use something new.

  2. Hello Pedro, wonderful idea. Questions: Do you grade/award participation in these exercises? If yes, how? When you share the document on the learning platform, I assume all entries are anonymous? How to encourage students to check the document (I know it is to their benefit but if no grade award is attached, they might not look at it)? I am thinking of applying the activity at the university level.
    Thank you!

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