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Promoting a Deeper Learning Online Using Free Web-Based Tools

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Lecture

Sunday, November 29, 11:30 am–12:15 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

David Pratt  
This session provides the methods, free web-based applications and philosophy needed to build student motivation and encourage a deeper distance learning experience. I'll demonstrate tools, offer specific examples of how to best integrate tools into a variety of subjects and share the powerful results.

Audience: Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Innovation in higher education
Grade level: Community college/university
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
  • Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.
For Education Leaders:
Connected Learner
  • Use technology to regularly engage in reflective practices that support personal and professional growth.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Many teachers struggle to find a way to engage students in learning online. It is more difficult for teachers who are used to a traditional philosophy of teaching and who may not be as familiar with teaching tools that are readily available to them and their students.
Several examples of sites shared and demonstrated for participants are the following:
Class Wall:
Video Creator:
Engaging Video:
Poster Creator:
Mind Map Maker: http//
Cartoon Creator:
Word Cloud Creator:

This was a note just received in my email today about a session that I led earlier in the week.

"I actually had the privilege to sit in on your presentation on Wednesday about maximizing the learning environment with free web based tools. The tools you shared are so great and I would love to pass along these resources to some graduate students who are currently teaching at PNW. I am facilitating a program on engaging and optimizing classroom management to the graduate students and I was hoping to get your permission to share your handout with them?"


At the beginning of this session, I will be modeling several ways in which I build community with students and present content in innovative, meaningful and interactive ways. I will be engaging the audience right away by having them post something about themselves on a virtual "class wall" area I setup in Padlet ( Rather than have students passively watch a video, for example, I employ the EDPUZZLE program to add questions for students to answer about the video along the way. Rather than have them complete a traditional discussion, they record their responses using an app called FLIPGRID. These will be demonstrated to session participants and examples of how they are used will be shared. This will take approximately 15-20 minutes.
The next section of the presentation shares tools that students can use to develop their own products to share what they have learned. These include websites such as poster generators, word cloud makers, and mind map tools. Examples of how these are used along with student samples will help audience members see how useful they are to helping students demonstrate their understandings of complex topics. Time will be given for participants to share what tools they think will work best for them and for what purpose. This section of the presentation will last approximately 20 minutes.
Finally, it is important to share a philosophical difference that allows all of these student centered ideas possible. This part of the session relies heavily on the concepts of Daniel Pink's work on motivation. He believes that students need Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose to be fully engaged in the learning process. Autonomy is allowing students more freedom and choice as they take more control over how they are learning. Mastery is another important concept for the teachers who are helping students succeed in learning these topics. It is important to frame the use of the technology in a user friendly and practical way. Finally, the Purpose needs to be clear and authentic for the students to engage fully. This final section is shorter and takes approximately 10 minutes. I have shared these experiences in many workshops locally for K-12 teachers, in higher education, and at formal state and national conferences. I have had many people share, following the presentation, their successes at using the resources that I have provided.

Supporting research

Deep distance learning is a type of learning that provides engaging content and creative tasks to assure a higher level understanding of course concepts. Applying deep learning to the online environment involves the critical analysis of new ideas, linking them to already known concepts and principles, and leads to understanding and long-term retention of concepts so that they can be used for problem solving in unfamiliar contexts. Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Teachers Do, articulates this notion of deep learning as one in which students are able to “grapple with ideas, concepts, and the implications and applications of those ideas and concepts” (Bain, 2012). The result of deep learning is the ability to understand and apply concepts for real life situations. Bain highlights the work of Biggs and Collis (1982) which provide taxonomy for this type of higher level learning.

Daniel Pink’s latest book Drive synthesizes the constructs of motivation and learning and reveals that there are three distinct ingredients to support a deeper learning founded on intrinsic motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (Pink, 2009).

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David Pratt, Purdue University Northwest

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