AOI | Learning Innovations

Faculty Insider

Simple Tools, Simple Solutions

We recognize the term “low-tech” is a relative concept. For our purposes, low-tech is being defined as tools that do not require an electronic device to access and use.

Low-tech options keep costs low and can be improvised in the spur of the moment in situations where connectivity is limited or learning a new tool isn’t conducive to the lesson. Additionally, implementing low-tech options often reduces the need to guess at what students have access to and can afford.

This post will present approaches that are quick, easy, and economical, and that require minimal tech.


Sharing/Synthesizing Ideas

Getting students to participate and share their ideas can be tricky. Below are a few ways to engage students at no cost and with minimal prep.:

  • Gallery walk: Can be completed using white boards and sticky notes. After providing a prompt, students write their ideas and responses on a sticky note and place them on a nearby white board. Students then move through the room and review their peers’ responses. This approach tends to work best when there are multiple related categories being considered.
  • Elevator pitch (aka speed dating): Working in small groups of no more than three, students are given a brief period (1-2 minutes per round) to share and talk through their ideas and receive feedback. The elevator pitch approach can also be used to cover principles and theories.

Informal Assessment

To complete quick, low-stakes assessments, consider the following approaches:

  • Color-coded voting cards: Voting cards can be passed out and used for multiple choice assessments. Students can respond individually or consult with peers in small groups before sharing their answer.
    • Another voting option is Plickers. This approach requires the use of the a cellphone on the instructor’s part, but students need only be provided a voting card.
  • Thumbs-up/down: That’s right, simply having students indicate thumbs up or down to cast a vote can be a quick and easy way to assess where a class is at.
    • In a large-enrollment class? Try using brightly colored strips of paper for students to vote with.
  • Small groups: Have students work in small groups and designate a reporter. At the end of a specified time allotment, each reporter shares what their group discussed with the whole class. This approach can be especially helpful in large-enrollment courses.
    • Want to take small group work a step further? Try using a Jigsaw approach.
  • Muddiest point: Before students leave class, they are asked what the most confusing part of the day’s lesson was, or how they might apply a concept discussed. Students write their responses down and submit them anonymously as they leave.
    • This approach could also be completed at the beginning of class, basing prompts on a reading or task students were expected to complete prior to class.

Making Connections

Providing opportunities for students to reflect on and apply what they’re learning allows students to process and make connections. Below are no cost options for providing these opportunities:

  • Journals: Journals offer students a tactile method of reflecting on what they have learned in a course and what they still have questions about making them a valuable tool. Additionally, using longhand has been shown to encourage greater processing of information.
  • Community interaction: Allows students to see first-hand how principles they are learning in class work in real-world situations. Interactions can take many forms, including, but not limited to, interviews and observations.
    • Students can share what they learned and observed with their peers. Doing so creates a learning-hub and a diverse view of a given concept, in turn, creating a richer learning opportunity.

It is important to always consider what is most appropriate for your course given the course goals and lesson objectives. Consider the questions below:

  • How or why is using a given tool or resource useful?
  • What is being achieved by using the tool or resource?
  • What are students able to do upon completion?

Answering these questions can help in identifying an appropriate tool and approach to use in your course. (See also Weekly Tip: How to Choose a Quality Third-Party Resource.)

Additional Resources

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.