A New Student Response System

As Jacques Steinberg of The NY Times reports, the days of slipping into a college classroom a few minutes late only to use the lecture time to attend to just about anything else, except the lecture itself, may soon be in the past.  As Steinberg explains, professors across the country have found a way to utilize technology to ensure student participation during class time.

University students may now find that, along with their class syllabus, they’ve been provided a  “clicker” or student response system, a hand-held device that allows students to provide feedback on a particular lesson’s difficulty and participate in quizzes, surveys, and other classroom activities.  The clicker also allows professors to track attendance and student participation.

According to USA Today, other universities have gone even further.  Students attending Texas’s Abilene Christian University receive an iPod touch or iPhone; select freshman attending Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland received Kindles instead of textbooks.  Many participating professors see the introduction of such technologies as a “new platform for learning.”

“A lot of this is us catching up with the students and what they’re bringing to us,” says Michael Reuter, director of technology operations at Central Michigan.

These new devices offer a degree of connectedness that is often lacking in many university classrooms.  Most university students are digital natives, and these new devices offer the best of both worlds: a new, technologically relevant way for students to participate in a class and a way for professors to engage even a large number of students. More importantly, the classroom clickers finally allow university professors to determine, in real time, which lessons are effective and which may need more explanation.  Rather than relying on the obligatory head-nods or blank stares, professors may now rely on quantifiable information and actionable data.

Coming Soon: Google Editions

Access to digital content is about to get even easier.  It appears that Google is set to soon launch its e-book division.  Google Editions offers an alternative to the existing e-book market in that Google Editions is available through any internet-connected device.  Meaning, one needs only a web browser to access a Google Editions account, an account that does not rely on a specific device for access:

Google Editions hopes to upend the existing e-book market by offering an open, “read anywhere” model that is different from many competitors. Users will be able to buy books directly from Google or from multiple online retailers—including independent bookstores—and add them to an online library tied to a Google account. They will be able to access their Google accounts on most devices with a Web browser, including personal computers, smartphones and tablets.

This latest venture is especially welcome for small publishers and independent book sellers, many of which have been unable to afford entrance into the digital sphere.  For many, Google Editions may offer them a way to make their titles more widely available. 

More importantly, this is good news for readers everywhere.  In addition to the hundreds of thousands of titles Google is expected to make available for purchase, there are millions more that will be available for free.  Now all readers will be able to take advantage of digital content – regardless of whether they own an e-reader device or not.

Texas Educators Are Tuning into iTunes

Thanks to a new iTunes channel, technology in the classroom has a whole new meaning for those in Texas. Many of us are familiar with Apple’s iTunes – our source for downloading our favorite music, movies and podcasts. Now, according to Education Week’s Ian Quillen, Texas is using this popular software to enhance teacher collaboration and make lessons available to students directly from iTunes.

 As Quillen explains, Texas has launched a new online program that provides free, supplementary coursework to students through the Texas Education iTunes U channel. The iTunes U channel allows teachers to upload material from their classes in order to help students assimilate new concepts or research specific subject areas.  It also allows a greater professional development experience, as teachers across the state can share materials, course information, and best practices freely and conveniently.

 Over 146,000 teachers have signed up and have formed 5,000 subject groups. While most iTunes content comes from postsecondary institutions, Texas’s Governor Perry believes the content pushed into the K-12-geared Texas Education channel will be “substantive and sizable.”

 This is all part of Project Share Texas, a collaborative effort of the Texas Education Association, The New York Times and the Public Broadcasting Service. This all follows the 2008 introduction of the K-12 iTunes U channel which uses resources from state education agencies such as Arizona, Main, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Utah. 

 Congratulations to Texas for taking full advantage of this valuable service.

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