Understand and Comprehend – Teaching Activities Enhanced with Technology

Laura Nicholson – May 2019

mind map of 6 teaching strategies: presentations, 5 ws, graphic organiser, story builder, comic strip, jigsaw method

  1. Presentations

3 logos. Google Slides logo consisting of a yellow rectangle with a white square in the middle. PowerPPowerPoint logo consisting of a red square with a white P in the middle. Prezi logo consisting of blue circles and the word Prezi underneath.

Multiple presentation platforms are available such as Google Slides, PowerPoint or Prezi. A free e-book is available here by Prezi, which contains some interesting ideas on how to make more engaging and memorable presentations.

Enhance with alternative technology

A selection of 5 images and logos.

Presenter Coach is a fantastic cloud-based tool which can help students to prepare more effectively for presentations. Students practice their presentations by speaking into the computer microphone and get live feedback on pace and their use of fillers. On completion, they receive a rehearsal report which provides more detail on presentaiton length, speed, use of culturally offensive language and how frequently they read directly from the slides. Helpful recommendations are also offered to help students to develop their presentation skills. A handout on how to access Presenter Coach is available for download below.

Other technology tools which could be useful for presentations include SlideShare. This allows users to discover, share, and present infographics or presentations, which have been developed by the world’s largest professional content sharing community. Or enhance a presentation by including one of the many hundreds of TED-Ed short, award-winning videos to spark the curiosity of students. To add the opportunity for further research on a topic, add QR codes to any lecture handouts.

A QR code is a machine-readable code consisting of an array of black and white squares, typically used for storing URLs (Oxford University Press, 2019), which students can access by downloading a QR code scanner onto their phones or tablets.

To include more student interaction, use POPin to create live polls, or pose multiple-choice, scale or yes/no questions. Students can access the questions on any device, and basic registration is free. Mentimeter is also a similar alternative to POPin.

5 logos. Panopto logo, screencast o matic, skype, supertintin and podbean

Panopto can be used to create lecture captures and micro-lectures for flipped learning. Flipped learning is a useful technique that moves lectures out of the class, and onto digital media, thus providing the opportunity for lecturers to cover more content and dramatically increase their interaction time with students. Panopto enables flipped learning through its ability to provide the user with recording tools, live streaming, inside-video search, quizzing, analytics and more.

Screencast-O-Matic is a free tool that helps a lecturer to record everything they do on their computer and add a verbal commentary. To vary the content, record a Skype interview to add to the screencast.

SuperTintin is a skype recorder for online interviews, conferences and lessons which allows the user to record video and audio in Picture-in-Picture or Side-by-Side format. Alternatively use Podbean to deliver the material as a podcast for students to listen and learn anytime, anywhere.

2. Five W’s

silouette of a head with 2 cogs for the brain

Who, what, when, where, why? (and ‘how’ if you want to add further challenge). This activity can be used for reading, listening or visual activities to encourage students to consider more descriptive and explanatory elements of the topic. It can be completed either as a verbal or written task on an individual basis or in groups.

To encourage more challenge, place students in groups and instruct them to consider a multiple ‘why’ approach. This is based on the argument that the discovery of the true root cause of something requires answering the question ‘Why?’ at least 5 times (MoreSteam, ND). The activity could be set up as a simple flow chart – see below. To extend, students could be asked to compare or contrast ideas with similar concepts, events, stories or characters.

Enhance or transform with technology

3 logos:word, powerpoint and draw.io

Create flow charts to display the content in an orderly manner, enabling quick adaptation and updating of ideas. Useful software for this activity could be the embedded tools in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint or use an online flowchart creator such as Draw.io.

2 logos: google expeditions and google cardboard

Alternatively, introduce the topic using technology, and then use the who, what, when, where and why questions for further exploration. Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions can introduce a new way of learning through Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Google Cardboard provides a virtual reality platform; students place their smartphones into a cardboard head-mount to virtually explore a place or object.

The head mounts can be purchased for around £3 on eBay, but be careful to check the feedback reviews as if they are of poor quality, they will let the light in and the experience won’t be quite so good. To get started with AR, the lecturer should look through the numerous augmented reality tours on Google Expeditions, and ideally download the app onto their phone; Expeditions has over 1000 virtual reality, and 100 augmented reality tours (Google, 2019).

Students can view places, museums, landmarks, underwater scenes, and they can even look inside an active volcano! For the AR experiences, source a suitable tour on the ‘expeditions’ website and then print off the placemats. These are just A4 pieces of paper with an embedded code on them and should be placed around the room. The lecturer should launch the guide through the App and then give students the code (everyone will need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network). When the student holds their phone over the placemat, it will come alive!

3. Graphic organisers

picture of a ringbound notepad

Graphic organisers are visual charts and tools used to organise and make links between ideas. They can help to facilitate understanding of concepts by enabling students to identify connections between facts and ideas. Useful for tasks involving planning, or when identifying writing plots or character profiles.

Enhance or transform with technology

2 logos: google and eduplace

Eduplace and Google images have a range of prewritten organisers to develop persuasive writing techniques, enable comparisons, create spider maps and also problem/solution charts.

clarisketch with logo consisting of a red speech bubble with a pen inside

Clarisketch allows for a significant task redesign. Get students to take a picture on their phone or tablet, add drawings or text, then add verbal comments. If it’s necessary for everyone to make links between the same concept, post an image/s on the whiteboard for all students to take a photo of, and then use Clarisketch to organise ideas based on that image.

take a picture, highligh the details and add a verbal comment, then send or share it

The image above is of Clarisketch

  4. Story builder

Basic image of a piece of paper with a pen

Use this teaching activity to help students understand the narrative, paragraph structure and sequencing of text. Also, include images to further develop an understanding of the relationship between the text and pictures. Provide students with a template for breaking down a story into boxes in order to identify the main elements of a plot or topic.

This activity is suitable for any age and can be adapted to a range of different disciplines. I have used a story builder to get post 16 students to break-down a case study based on a major accident to consider a more structured analysis of the cause.

Enhance or transform with technology

Google docs logo consisting of a blue page with white lines on it and the words Google Docs underneath

Google Docs lets users create, edit and share documents and drawings. Create a story builder template on Google Docs and share this with the class so they have the starting structure; students will then use the template to develop their stories.

Using this online tool also allows for collaboration whereby multiple students can access the document at the same time and leave feedback to help with the development of ideas. See below for a helpsheet for students on getting started with Google Docs.

Animoto logo which consists of a green, blue and grey triangle with the words animoto underneath

Animoto is an online video maker that enables users to select images from their research, or from a bank of free images already on Animoto, to create a short video. Students could be assigned different elements of a story or case study to focus on or create their own from scratch. To design their stories, students will need to upload, e.g. 6-10 images to arrange in a logical order to make the video. Captions can be added against each image to explain the story.

Students can then show their finished videos to the class and provide peer feedback. Students can then reflect on this feedback and write a few sentences to explain how they could further develop and modify their videos. They could be asked to use one suggestion from peer feedback and one idea they have gained for themselves after comparing their videos with other members of the class.

5. Comic strip

Basic image of a piece of paper with a pen

Use this activity to get students to paraphrase an event or concept with an emphasis on using pictures to convey the information, rather than words (templates are available on Google images). This task will assess the student’s ability to plan and logically organise the information. This can be adapted by providing some illustrations in a couple of the boxes before starting, to assist more with the organisation of the information.

Enhance with technology

Canva logo consisting of a light blue circle with the words canvs written in white in the middle

Canva can be used to create colourful digital versions of the comic strip. Type ‘comic strip’ into the search toolbar on Canva to access a range of free templates to get students started. Giphy will enable students to bring their ideas to life. GIFs are commonly believed to be just short funny animations, but there are many available which are not cartoon based, such as a beating heart or bacterium under a microscope.

To download an instruction sheet for your students on how to use Canva, click the link below.

Giphy Logo: black background with a coloured square with each side being a different colour: green, yellow,purple and blue. Then the words Giphy in white in the square

6. Jigsaw method

Image showing 3 people working together

Split the class into groups of 4 and assign one student from each group a segment of a topic to research. Repeat this for the remaining students, ensuring one person from each group is researching the same topic as a person from each of the other groups.

After 30 minutes change the grouping, placing each student who has researched the same topic with the corresponding members from the other groups. This creates various ‘expert’ tables whereby students can outline and then discuss their findings on the same topic. Students should then return to their original jigsaw groups, taking turns to discuss the information they have become ‘experts’ on and put all the information together.

Enhance or transform with technology

A QR code and the Google scholar logo

Target the student’s research by providing QR codes to direct them to specific websites. This allows for differentiation through the selection of a choice of sources ranging from websites, news stories or journals to add more challenge. Many free journal articles are available on Google scholar.

2 logos: moodle and tumblr

A wiki is a collaborative tool allowing students to contribute and modify one or more pages of course-related content (Blackboard Inc,2018). Use a wiki to enable collaboration of ideas and input from all students, with the content being revised and updated as learning develops. Wiki’s can be created using tools like Moodle Wikis if you have the Moodle VLE or Tumblr provides a space for students to add a range of information, such as text, photos, GIFs, TV shows, links, MP3s, and videos.


Blackboard Inc. (2018). Wikis. Available at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Interact/Wikis (last accessed 21/04/2019)

MoreSteam. (ND). 5-Why analysis. Available at: https://www.moresteam.com/toolbox/5-why-analysis.cfm  (last accessed 25/04/2019)

Oxford University Press. (2019). QR code. Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/qr_code (last accessed 21/04/2019)

If you experience any difficulties downloading the resources, they can also be accessed via my lesson resource page on the Teaching Every Student (TES) website. Just click here to access.