Friday, October 29, 2010

The Point of Technology in Education

By Sean Scarpiello

A typical Monday morning in General Psychology class begins with each student dragging into the lecture hall and grabbing a small clicker the size of a playing card. Today’s topic is “Gender Differences.” The first slide on the power point asks the question, “Do women talk more than men? Using your clicker, answer A for true, B for false.” After about 30 seconds the class results are in. The professor goes on to the next slide and there is a pie chart showing the results of the answers, showing percentages of true verses false. Now the class can have a discussion on the results and their opinions.

This technology is called TurningPoint. It is software that is available for both PCs and Macs which works with power point to poll students on their opinions. This kind of technology makes learning more interactive and thus more interesting. Students are allowed to add their opinion on a subject without having to elaborate in front of a large class, unless they want to. Also, it helps teachers by opening debate that otherwise may be ignored. These debates allow for the spreading of ideas among peers, which allows students to get a better grasp on interesting and even boring topics.

The clickers work over a high tech radio frequency so answer choices are completely anonymous to other students in the classroom answering the questions. This technology allows teachers to play review games before tests with TurningPoint. It then gives instant feedback with the graphs to tell the students and the professor what items students know, and the things they have to study. This software is so versatile; some teachers will give tests through a power point presentation. Since each clicker is numbered, teachers can assign a clicker number to each particular student and then have them take the interactive test. Later, the teacher can pull up the answer choices of each clicker and match it with the students and their grades. Since each clicker is completely personal and silent, it is virtually impossible to cheat on tests. Plus, if students change their minds on answers, they simply have to push the letter of their new answer choice and it is automatically changed. There is also a count on the top of the screen to show how many people answered the question, so the teacher knows if someone hasn’t answered and when to move on or not.

The software works great in all types of classes, but the price can make or break the success of the technology. After searching for 5 minutes, I found websites that would let you download the software for free. However, the software is useless unless you buy the radio frequency sensor and clickers, which cost about $42 each, but the company that produces them has special deals if schools buy them in large quantities. So overall they are expensive, but they are very versatile tools which can be easily transferred between classrooms.

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