More ideas today for how using mobile devices (particularly smart phones like the iPhone) as part of classroom response systems might enhance or detract from the effectiveness of such systems. I brainstormed these ideas while preparing for my presentation at the recent ConnectEd Summit. See part one and part two of this series, too.
Display of Results – Not only does the bar chart showing distribution of student answers to a multiple-choice clicker question provide useful information to an instructor, but it also provides useful information to students. Often students appreciate knowing where they stand relative to their peers, whether that’s in the context of a content question with correct and incorrect answers or a student perspective question asking students to share their opinions or experiences. Knowing the distribution of answers can often motivate students to engage more seriously in classwide discussion, particularly if there are multiple popular answer choices.
How to replicate this advantage when having students respond to free-response questions with mobile devices? I noted the challenge of coming up with useful reporting tools for these kinds of questions in my last post. One idea that occurs to me, however, (because I think one of the ACU people mentioned it at EDUCAUSE) is that the entire set of responses could be sent to each student’s mobile device. Then students could spend a little time individually or in small groups reading and analyzing these responses. This would give the students a sense of their peers perspectives on the question and quite possibly enhance subsequent class discussion. Sending response data back to students for analysis seems like an application of mobile devices with a lot of potential.
Data for Instructional Improvement – Clickers also make it fairly easy to archive student response data for later analysis. Instructors can use these data over time to improve their clicker questions, perhaps by eliminating or revising answers choices not chosen by many students, or to assess the effectiveness of their teaching methods.
Including mobile devices in classroom response systems has the potential to generate much richer data sets since instructors would be less dependent on multiple-choice questions. However, richer data sets are often more difficult and more time-consuming to analyze. I see potential for enlisting students to assist in such efforts, just as students might help analyze these kinds of responses during class, as described above.
Epistemology through Technology – I claim that the ways we use technology in the classroom communicate to students a message about the nature of knowledge and knowledge-generation in our disciplines. Having students respond to and discuss clicker questions, for instance, tells students that critical reasoning is part of the knowledge-construction process.
If we let our students use mobile devices to connect with the “cloud” during class, searching for answers to their questions and additional resources online, what does that communicate to them about the nature of knowledge? It was said many times at the conference that with the information available to students on their smart phones (through access to the Internet), there’s little need to have students memorize great amounts of information. There is, however, a greater need for teaching students to find, understand, apply, and evaluate the information they find online. Using technologies like mobile devices, we can point students toward those higher-order learning goals.
I think I’ve got one or two more posts in me from the conference. Stay tuned…