Answergarden: a great tool for activating prior knowledge

Activating prior knowledge is one of the most important introductions of a course. It does not only facilitate learning for the learner, it also gives the teacher some very valuable information for making the class more meaningful. In this blog post, I will give you 4 ideas for using Answergarden for your course or class.


How does it work?

I could give you an explanation, but I prefer you find out for yourself what this tool does:

And, what do you think? Did you already come up with some ideas for using this tool in an educational setting? Here is four of my suggestions:

1. Prior knowledge

Activate prior knowledge in the introduction of your class. Ask a question like: What do you know about volcanoes? What verbs do you use most when you are talking Spanish? If you provide the link, students can also fill in the wordcloud before attending class. This way, the teacher will have some information about the students’ prior knowledge or ideas and can prepare his class based on this information.

2. Brainstorming

Answergarden is also a great brainstorming tool. Think about questions like: What are the biggest problems in cities nowadays? What are ideas you have for making our cities more sustainable?

3. Trigger attention

Start with a (provocative) statement and ask students how they feel about it. For example: Everyone can learn a foreign language, Cities should be ruled by citizens, Plastic must be forbidden. It is a great conversation starter.

4. Resume

This works like in the introduction of you class, but then at the end. Don’t let your students leave without a short evaluation of what was learned today. For example:
What is the word that summarizes this class for you? What are the three most important things you learned today? What do you want to learn more about?
Before I leave, keep this in mind when using Answergarden:

Short = key:

  • Ask short questions.
  • Ask questions that can be answered by a short answer.

What do use Answergarden for? Please leave a comment below!


Working together on an online course

For a while now you’ve been thinking about designing your own course. You’re doubting whether or not to do it. And, to make it an online course or not.


It seems like there is a world between now and the day that your course is finally out there, online, reachable, learned from and … good! (Ok. And fun. I’ll come to that later).


“I have lots of content and I want to put it online to make it an online course. And I also want to be able to reach more people. How on earth do I do this?” A question often asked to me by clients.  


Well, here the fun part begins.


I start asking you lots of difficult questions, whereas you might think you were almost there. (Hey! What can be so difficult about putting some video’s online and writing an exam? Nothing, really. But you might want to go through some important steps before your course is used by your students).


Killing your darlings, cutting video’s, writing learning activities (“Do you mean questions?”  Yes, but more than that), thinking about teaching activities (‘Do you mean video’s?” Yes, but more than that.). And yes, together with you I really want to write some overall learning goals. It might seem unnecessary (you know what you want the course to be about, right?), it might seem boring, but in the same way a body can’t move and get up without a spine, a course can’t exist without learning goals. You’ll see, they will help you stick to the topic, make sure learners actually will learn what you want them to learn, and that you put no superfluous content in the course that distracts from your main topic.


Oh right, I promised to tell you something about ‘fun’. Many clients tell me: ‘Yes Veerle, but my students only want to learn about this topic, it doesn’t need to be fun.’ or ‘Yes that’s a very nice idea, but the people that will follow my course are professionals / scientists / teachers / doctors / firemen / translaters / … (fill in any other group of people that will fall asleep after watching 3 hours of video, filling in 50 multiple choice questions and reading 60 pages intensively).’


I might not be more misunderstood.


I’m not talking about humour here (although a bit of humour doesn’t harm anyone). I actually mean adding things to your course that make it even better. Surprise, inspire, provoke, intrigue or enlighten your learners with anecdotes, quotes, images, poetry, statements, … (I can go on here, but I won’t, this blog will get too long). Then your learners will stay awake and engage with your course. A course that stands out.


Ready to design and develop your course?