Activities in the classroom
The fact that students can gain a deeper understanding of the subject they study by being active in the classroom is nothing new (see e.g. McKeachie & Svinicki, 2006). If some of the traditional lecturing is moved to activities outside the classroom, time in the classroom can, to a greater extent, be used to activate students in different ways.
Methods to start discussions
It's a simple thing to ask students to discuss an issue in small groups, but sometimes it can help to carefully think through the structure of the discussions. Liberating structures, developed by Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz, are different methods of having structured discussions where everyone is heard in different ways. The methods are mainly developed for companies/organizations with the aim of creating meetings where participants interact and opinions from all participants are picked up, but have also proved very useful in teaching situations. An example of a method that is useful in teaching situations is the method called 1-2-4-All, where one person first thinks about some question by herself/himself, then talking to another person, then these two people talk to two others (who previously discussed together) and then the group of four people should somehow share with the whole group what they have come up with. In this way, everyone is heard in a completely different way than if you put together a group of four people directly.
On the website for Liberating Structures there are more than 30 methods described with clear timetables for the different parts and the practicalities needed in order to be able to implement them (how the people can move around in the room, for example). There is also an app that describes all methods. In order to understand how you can use the different methods yourself in a teaching situation, you need to familiarize yourself with them as the names unfortunately do not say much about when they can be used.
Digital tools that can facilitate activities in the classroom
Students can answer questions with a show of hands (e.g. How many people believe in option a?) or write down reflections on a piece of paper and submit, but there are also a couple of digital tools that can make it easier when you as a teacher want to activate the students.
Mentimeter is a voting tool that can be used to ask students different types of questions. But it is also possible to make a whole presentation with Mentimeter. If you, as a teacher, have many questions for the students where you want to use Mentimeter, then you do not have to switch between different tools. In addition, it is possible to add "reactions" so that students can, for example, click on a question mark on a slide in the presentation where they find something to be unclear.
Padlet is a digital wallboard that can be used as a way to gather what students come up with in discussions or after individual reflection. Instead of, for example, having the students write down a "muddiest point" on paper and hand in, they can write it on a Padlet. In this way you avoid paper handling and that it can be easier to get an overview of what the students have written.
McKeachie, Wilbert J. And Marilla Svinicki. 2006. McKeachies's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, Hougthon Miffin, Boston.
Link to the book here.