Active Learning on Zoom: Mentimeter Word Clouds

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The power of connecting ideas, feelings, and words in class is beneficial for the learning process, it can help clarify understanding and allow students to get a sense of their peers’ reactions to a key topic, and it also has the potential to help students track how their thoughts and feelings about certain course-related themes evolve over time. Mentimeter word cloud can be a useful strategy for brainstorming, an icebreaker initiative, or a team reflection activity. Let´s see how Lauren uses this tool as a content-based bridge-in with Nursing students on the first day of a course early on in their program.

What did the faculty (Lauren) do effectively here?

These are practices that worked well for Lauren. She:  

  • Ensured her bridge-in activity at the start of the first class was content-based. It allowed students to engage in higher-order thinking and reflect on what they seek to bring to the nursing profession.  
  • Designed the word cloud question so students could participate anonymously. Some students, especially at the start of the semester, may feel reluctant to share their thoughts for fear that they might offer a “wrong” answer. Reminding students that their responses won’t be associated with their names can help encourage contributions and more widespread participation.  
  • Allowed students a significant amount of time to reflect quietly on their responses before sharing in writing (i.e. the word cloud activity wasn’t rushed).
  • Invited those who had shared specific words to elaborate, if they so desired.  
  • Validated offers that students shared and built on what was said to help set the stage for future related conversations in the course.
  • Saved the word cloud image for students to reflect back on later in the semester so they could track how their thoughts and feelings evolved over the course of the semester.

What could go wrong and how could faculty manage such occurrences?

  • Students may have trouble logging into Mentimeter to participate if they are unfamiliar with the platform. Faculty can assure there is significant time for the activity to guide students through the process—providing options and instructions for joining via their computers, by clicking a link in the chat, or via their cellphones or other devices (by going to and inputting the specific code provided).
  • Given the anonymous nature of the sharing on Mentimeter, some students might not feel inclined to join and participate. Faculty can note how many students are in the class vs how many have joined the Mentimeter session and playfully say: “oh, it looks like we’re still waiting on 5 more folks to join. If you need help, just send me a direct message and I’ll walk you through it once more. I do want to make sure everyone contributes, and we’re not in a rush.”  

Other Variations to Consider

  • Faculty may choose to only share the word cloud screen results after everyone has had a few minutes to contribute (rather than see responses roll in in real-time). This may help ensure students are basing their responses on their own thoughts and feelings instead of their peers’ responses.

Lauren Spring

Lauren Spring, PhD, has been a post-secondary educator since 2012. Before joining Conestoga as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, Lauren taught at Wilfrid Laurier, Brock, Ryerson, York, and the University of Toronto where she also completed her PhD in Adult Education and Community Development. She has also led workshops for students and faculty at colleges and universities across the country. Lauren holds an MA in International Development and has expertise in critical disability and mad studies, trauma work, research-based theatre, role-play simulations, and feminist and arts-based approaches to adult education and community engagement. Lauren has also worked as an educator at the Art Gallery of Ontario since 2008 where she designs and delivers art tours and workshops for elementary and high school students and diverse groups of adult learners.

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