Think of how many times you have given PowerPoint presentations and had to stop to ask the audience if they understood what you were presenting. Maybe you just trudged through the presentation just to finish in time to beat the clock. What if you could capture the audiences thoughts and understanding? Would it change the way you present? Would your students connect with your content?
Student Response Systems (SRS) have made a major push into the educational world in the last year. Last year at NECC 2007, I had the opportunity to test drive a few of these systems on the exhibit floor. A SRS consists of a set of remotes that wirelessly communicate with a receiver attached to a computer and projector. Coincendentally, I was involved in writing a Technology Enhancement grant proposal to the Massachusetts Department of Education focused on 1-to-1 laptop computing. One grant outcome was to evaluate changes in student use of classroom technology and whether it would aid in the acquistion of content knowledge. We decided that a SRS would be a useful tool for assessment. We chose the Qwizdom system with Q4 student remotes and the Q5 teacher remote. The system uses Radio Frequency (RF) technology to transmit meaning that you don’t have to be in the line-of-sight of the receiver.
Teachers participating in our Laptops in American History grant experimented with the Qwizdom SRS in a high school history classroom. In preparing the PowerPoint presentations, teachers had to consider the effect of asking questions that probe student background knowledge to ones illiciting student opinions about an image. The analysis of political cartoons and posters from the World War II era became a highly interactive and assessment rich lesson due to the SRS. Every student’s response was recorded and displayed with summary graphs on the computer projector. One especially powerful teacher outcome was the ability to assess student understanding of isolationism versus interventionism during the lesson. The teacher was surprised that students had not mastered the distinction between the two concepts and choose to review the concepts at the start of the next day’s lesson.
Another group of elementary teachers used the SRS to teach a new grade 4 science unit on biomes. Students enthusiatically embraced the SRS and teachers were excited by the increase in student engagement. In order to drive home the student inquiry nature of the biome unit, it was critical to capture student misconceptions about the world’s land biomes such as where they are located and their climatography. The SRS enabled teachers to visualize these misconceptions and encouraged students to discuss their written observations. Students also learned to use observational skills to predict which biome an unknown animal belonged to based on the their physical appearance. Which biome do you think the red frog to right calls home? If you said, Rainforest, you are as smart as a fourth grader. Teachers were so impressed with the ability of the SRS to support student-centered instruction that they applied for a Qwizdom Educational Grant. Good Luck!