In my last post, I shared a few ideas 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 at Abilene Christian University. I have a few more ideas to share today…
Feedback to Instructors – Today’s classroom response systems all feature a great tool for making quick sense out of student responses to multiple-choice questions–bar charts. For multiple-choice questions, you can’t beat the bar chart as an aggregation tool. Instructors can quickly see the distribution of answers in their classes and make on-the-fly teaching decisions in response to these data.
Mobile devices make it easier for students to submit responses to free-response questions since they have more efficient text input tools than most clickers. For instructors to make use of these kinds of responses, however, it would be useful to have tools that help them quickly aggregate and analyze answers to free-response questions. What kinds of reporting tools make sense for numeric responses? For short answers (words or phrases)? For longer answers (sentences or even essays)? For non-text responses like drawings, diagrams, or photos? Development of such tools will make it easier for instructors to make good use of free-response questions during class.
Feedback to Students – Something that comes up frequently in surveys of students about clickers is that students appreciate finding out during class whether or not they understand ideas presented in class. They don’t need to wait until they received a graded homework set or quiz or test back to gauge their own understanding. Providing this kind of feedback to students on multiple-choice questions with single correct answers is easy. A given student’s answer is either the correct one or it’s not, and as long as instructors make clear the correct answer before moving on to the next topic, students receive useful feedback.
Providing this kind of feedback to students for free-response questions answered via mobile devices is harder. Each student might have a different response to the question, so feedback to students on their answers would need to be customized (perhaps to a small degree, perhaps to a large degree) for each student. This kind of individual feedback might be impractical for the instructor to give during class. But what if each student’s response was sent to the mobile devices of two other randomly chosen students for review? That wouldn’t necessarily provide the same kind of feedback that an instructor can provide, but it would certainly have some value. I can imagine classroom response systems that would make this kind of peer-to-peer feedback system somewhat automatic.
During the conference, Eric Mazur pointed me to the Calibrated Peer Review project at UCLA. Mobile devices might be used to implement a version of this well-developed process during class.
More ideas later this week…