Monday, December 30, 2013

ExitTicket: A New Technology to Keep Students Engaged in Class

By: Sean Scarpiello

In high school and college classes, many teachers utilize student response clickers to keep their students actively engaged in class. While these clickers work well at asking students interactive questions in class, a new technology called ExitTicket looks to be a revolutionary approach towards keeping students involved in their learning process. As keeping students thinking and answering questions in class is vital to their success, ExitTicket appears promising as a no or low-cost technology that can be easily integrated into any class. Further, ExitTicket may even be more beneficial than the student response clickers used frequently in classes today.

The biggest benefit of ExitTicket is that it works completely through the Internet. As a result, schools do not need to buy expensive sets of clickers. Instead, any student with a laptop, tablet, or even a smart phone with a Wi-Fi connection can participate in interactive quizzes during class. While not all students in high school will have a device with Internet access, all college students will likely have a tablet or laptop open to them for ExitTicket. This technology is also easy to use for students. At the beginning of class, teachers can give a single class code to enable all students to gain access to ExitTicket quizzes created by the teacher. Another benefit of ExitTicket’s web based design is that it enables students to visualize, on a projector screen, who has answered the teacher’s questions in class as well as how well the class is answering the questions as a whole.

For teachers, this technology is also extremely beneficial. Tests can be made very easily and designed to have their multiple-choice, true or false, or even free response questions. Plus, ExitTicket allows teachers to review how each individual student has fared on the quizzes. Therefore, teachers can create the quizzes as credit towards class participation, or even better use the entire class’s results as a teaching aid. For example, if a decent percentage of students answer a question incorrectly, the teacher can focus on the teaching this material to the class to ensure all students understand the material. Some teachers may even find novel uses for ExitTicket. For example, teachers can take class polls using a multiple-choice type question. Also, teachers can ask students individual questions they may have using a free response to question. Here, teachers can get a quick and clear view of how students feel about class or material.

When looking at the cost of ExitTicket, there are two main options teachers can choose. First, there is a version that is completely free to teachers. This plan allows teachers to create class quizzes with a maximum of 10 questions for up to eight classes of 60 students. The second plan varies in cost depending on each teacher’s needs. However, this plan includes a lot more features including an unlimited amount of classes with an unlimited number of students. Further, there are features which allow for collaboration and synchronization with other educational technologies. Both the no-cost and customizable plans include a Common Core Standards Library to help teachers stick to their curriculum. Last, teachers can individually manage their ExitTicket account so there is no need for the schools IT department to get involved, thereby keeping this technology simple for everyone

In all, ExitTicket looks to be an extremely beneficial technology to both students and teachers. While it is simple for everyone to use, it also allows students to utilize technologies that they had, instead of requiring an expensive set clickers. Most of all, ExitTicket keeps students actively engaged in the class material while also giving teachers a clear understanding of their student’s grasp of the material. ExitTicket is sure to be a successful as it brings a high quality education to students through the utilization of technology.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Educating Teachers in the Latest Technologies

By Sean Scarpiello

With all of the new technology being released into the market for education, it is easy to think that simply bringing these latest technologies into the classroom will make a difference. As a result, school districts often find that the technology that they spend thousands of dollars on do not return such a great bang for their buck. Therefore, some schools have become hesitant towards buying new technologies because they have fallen short of their high expectations in the classroom. While technology is extremely important in the classroom, it is vital that teachers are adequately trained to use the technologies being implemented in class.

In my experience, I have seen a lot of cutting edge technology which has consistently been proven to benefit students in different studies become a letdown in some of my own classrooms. During high school, my school district bought a handful of the newly released Promethean Smart Boards and I was fortunate enough to have one of these Smart Boards to use in class. Unfortunately, my teacher was not up to date with the new technology. As he had taught classes the same way for many years, he was more familiar with traditional forms of learning and had really avoided a lot of technology that was more advanced than Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. During class, my classmates and I tried guiding him through the instructions of how to use the Smart Board which was also an unfamiliar technology to us. Overall, we discovered that the Smart Board took too much of our valuable class time to figure out, so we resorted to returning to the technologies that we knew how to use effectively and efficiently.

In retrospect, it is obvious that had our teacher been trained in all of the uses of the Smart Board, the class would extract many more benefits from the Smart Board. In light of this, such technology placed our teacher in a difficult position because he had to address all of the needs of his students, grade homework and tests, follow the curriculum, and try to integrate this confusing technology into a short amount of class time. As there was little time in class already and the figuring out how to work the Smart Boards wasted this time, it was simply too difficult for the teacher. Therefore, the Smart Boards lost out to the other issues the teacher had to address.

However, if teachers were instructed through seminars or workshops that instruct teachers on how to use these new technologies efficiently and effectively in class, we would definitely see greater benefits in class from these technologies. Furthermore, while it may be expensive to send teachers to classes to be trained in these technologies, it is well worth it. If school districts allow for a decent percentage of their budget for new technologies to be directed towards the instruction of teachers to use these technologies, school districts can avoid experiences like the one I described above. These workshops can be scheduled to train teachers over summer breaks or additional days off during the school year and would count towards a teacher's professional development hours. Simply giving a teacher the latest cutting edge technology and asking them to implement it in class instantly is just too difficult because teachers have so many other things to address during the regular school week.

While it is often easy to spend money on the latest technology to bring it into the classroom, it is apparent that the implementation of this technology is only as good as the knowledge that the teacher has regarding such technology. Therefore, it would be wise for schools to spend more on training teachers and less on the actual technology. And while this may mean fewer classrooms are equipped with the latest and greatest technology, the classrooms that have these technologies are getting a lot of bang for their buck. This means students can receive a much higher quality of education through the efficient and effective implantation of technology in education.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Amplify's New Curriculum-Based Learning Technology

By Sean Scarpiello

As traditional textbooks are quickly becoming obsolete in the classroom, tablets are quickly becoming popular as a replacement to heavy and out of date textbooks. One company looking to greatly improve education through the utilization of tablets is Amplify. In an effort to bring a higher quality of education to more students, Amplify has developed curriculum-based programs for students which revolutionizes the way technology is implemented in education. As a result, teachers are better equipped to apply new technologies in class while students benefit from the use of more interactive and individualized forms of education.

When purchasing an Amplify package, schools receive their own set of Amplify tablets to give to each student in the classroom. These Android-based tablets are equipped with a number of educational applications. For example, the tablets include graphing calculators, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Movie Studio, YouTube, and many different Google applications such as Gmail and Google Earth. All of these applications allow for students to explore many different educational subjects on their tablets. But further, these tablets can also store full text books in the form of eBooks, as well as other interactive educational games and learning technologies. As a result, students can pack all of their textbooks, assignments, and other learning materials into just a single tablet that they can always carry around with them.

While all these educational resources packed into a single tablet are extremely beneficial to students, Amplify has just released on of its most revolutionary programs yet. In a new division called Amplify Learning, Amplify now offers programs for schools where it is possible to purchase tablets that have the entire course curriculum pre-downloaded. This means students can now learn by playing engaging games that meet the requirements of the challenging Common Core Standards that schools must meet. Consequently, teachers can now spend more time investigating and addressing the individual needs of students and less time trying to ensure the entire class meets these requirements. Software downloaded onto these tablets allows teachers to track the progress of each student, thereby enabling them to discover trends in the issues their students are facing and focus on problem areas in class.

One of the objectives of Amplify is to further individualize the education of students in the demanding fields of math and science. Therefore, by eliminating the use of broad and unclear textbooks in class and replacing them with more engaging technologies, students are less likely to give up on difficult material in these areas. Further, with the email capabilities of the Amplify tablets, students have an easy link for communicating directly with their teachers. Therefore, students can email their teachers with problems they are having which can be received and addressed immediately.

In all, as textbooks are inevitably becoming obsolete in classrooms, the Amplify Learning tablet with its many capabilities is a revolution in education for both teachers and students. With the implementation of Amplify’s curriculum based learning capabilities, it is easier than ever for teachers to focus on bringing a more individualized education to each student. This especially holds true in the subjects of math and science where a personalized approach may make or break a student’s success in challenging and sometimes confusing classes. Overall, Amplify tablets are a prudent investment to make into education as its technological basis brings a high quality of education to many students at a reasonable cost.