It’s as simple as a boing!

Dr Julie Thomson reveals how even “Retro Technology” can encourage student interaction!

I love technology and I have somehow managed to get the nickname Technology Thomson, but I am keen to live up to this name!

I enjoy using technology to enhance my teaching and to make it more interactive for my students but there is always the risk that it might not go so smoothly on the day and in some cases it can be time consuming to set up.

The potential for technology to support educational experiences has been well documented. However, now, coming up to the end of my second year of teaching, although using apps such as Socrative and Adobe Voice to great effect, I really feel that I have only just scraped the surface on the technologies available to us as facilitators of student learning.  There is so much more out there and we need to learn from each others practice – by presenting at events such as the University’s annual ‘Celebration of Learning and Teaching’.

Meanwhile, I am just coming to the end of my postgraduate certificate in Learning and Teaching and I have learned a great deal about student motivation and the needs of individual learners. Sabine McKinnon, GCULead, delivered a very enlightening workshop during the course, on the impact of national cultures. This really got me thinking about how I could engage the international students in my modules, students who rarely spoke to me, despite my encouragement. Sabine commented that “Just because they don’t speak does not mean that they are not thinking”. Cultural differences can determine how the student addresses the lecturer. When we consider a student as not responding in class, we often jump to the conclusion that there is a lack of engagement or low self-confidence, however, could it instead be due to them showing respect for you, the lecturer, who is a specialist in the subject and thus they feel uncomfortable at responding?  Nevertheless they must learn to respond but it takes time to get used to our culture and ways of doing things.

It got me thinking, could I use technology to support the needs of these students?  However, I tried something far simpler than that.  I had purchased a set of answer buzzers, all with different sounding tones…which we tested out at our staff Christmas party!



I used some existing module material and created a quiz based on the last seminar of the course.  I put the students into groups and encouraged them to be competitive, giving them a score for each correct answer.  A rapid fire of questions later and one student, who had not spoken to me all trimester, pressed the buzzer and answered the question. Eureka!  So really, with all the technologies out there…it really can be as simple as a boing!

Dr Julie Thomson

Dr Julie Thomson

Julie originally started out her career in science and worked in industry for a number of years before crossing disciplines to the business world. She was a knowledge transfer officer in another Higher Education Institution where she also gained her PhD in the field of Open Innovation before joining GCU in 2013 as a lecturer in Business Management.

Last year she took on Programme Leadership of the BA Management, Technology Enterprise Programme and module leadership of Operations and Service Management. She has a keen interest in enhancing the student learning experience using technology.