On the Business Week website there is an interesting story about the ways in which colleges and universities are incorporating emerging computer applications into instruction. Ken Brown, the professor in the picture, uses PDA devices and electronic “clickers” to have students submit responses to questions and prompts. Brown then assesses what his students are learning from his lectures and alters his instruction based on those assessments. What Ken Brown, like Michael Wesch, is doing is an example of one way that teachers can engage students by using technologies students are using in all parts of their lives. Business Week has a complete slide show of ideas about using technology in the classroom. Watch the slide show by clicking on the image of Ken Brown.
Applications for Educators
I don’t know of any schools that equip students with PDA devices, but every high school has Internet access and increasingly high schools and middle schools are equipping students with laptops. Take advantage of the Internet and set up an online poll for your students to take. A simple poll like “how prepared for the test do you feel” or “do you think you can defend a postion on this topic” takes only minutes to add to a blog. (Blogger has a poll creation element built-in and there are many free polling services online). Use the responses to the poll as an informal and anonymous assessment tool to determine if and what your students are learning.
Put the cell phones that students carry to use as an informal assessment tool. Web applications like Twitter and Pownce can be used to submit text messages that you could then use to assess what students are learning.