Thursday, October 20, 2005

SETT: Who wants to be a millionaireinteractive teacher?

As SETT gets further and further away, I wonder about the value of my postings from the conference. However, since I'm still thinking through some of the things I saw and heard, I think it is still worth while writing some of my thoughts down in blog posts like this. This is a report on the third and final session I attended, but I may do one more post about SETT which will include things I saw at the exhibition.

The Do Interactive Voting Systems Enhance the Learning Process? session was presented by Rebecca Anderson from Davidson's Mains Primary School and Ollie Bray who was at Knox Academy but is now PT Geography at Dunbar Grammar School (I think). Ollie mentioned, almost in the passing, that he had a blog thereby bringing a new set of Scottish educational bloggers to my attention. I have been following his blog at Exc-el since and have especially enjoyed some of his postings on the LTScotland ICT weblog - particularly the ones on Interactive Whiteboards, for example the Map Symbols posting.

There are a number of interactive voting systems being pitched at education at the moment. If you have not seen them, they are a bit like the system used on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for the "ask the audience" section. Pupils are asked questions and they make a response with the handset. Software captures pupils' responses and can display results in a variety of ways to the teacher and/or to the class.

Here is a brief summary of some of the things Rebecca and Ollie talked about. There is a podcast of their session available, but as before I'm typing this up from my notes to reflect the things that struck me at the time.

Interactive Voting Systems

Rebecca and Ollie described their action research project which looked at uses of the Quizdom system in their schools. Their main finding was that it made a huge difference to motivation. Children were attentive and excited - "It was seen as a game". {This chimes with something that Guy Claxton said at his keynote. He described an experiment where two classes were set the same task. One group was told it was work, the other group that they were going to play. Guess which group did the most "work"!}

Rebecca and Ollie saw interactive voting systems as being a good tool for formative assessment. Pupils saw the Qwizdom system as fun and enjoyed the instant feedback and the display of results so that they could learn from mistakes. And every child was involved in answering, not just those picked by the teacher.

They did acknowledge that it took time to build up the questions, but time can be saved due to a reduction in marking.

Ollie in particular pointed out that it does not have to be all or nothing. A mix of high tech and traditional methods is probably best. He referred to the Learning Disabilities Pride website where there is an online learning styles and multiple intelligences test which gives instant feedback on learning styles. Classes are made up of different pupils, with different learning styles and different strengths, so classes should benefit from a variety of approaches using a variety of learning and teaching styles.

Pupils can be asked set questions in class, but also it is easy to ask voting style questions. Also every class {or all of Ollie's classes?} were asked evaluation questions about the content and the presentation of the class at the end of the lesson. {Instant feedback on the teachers performance! I wonder ho long it will be before the HMI start doing this! :-)} Quizzes can also be based on numbers or on maps.

The results were that, in general, classes using the voting system did better than similar classes not using the system. Pupil response was, "I knew I could be tested at any time, so I worked harder." Some of the improvement could be down to the novelty value of the voting systems, however, a key aspect seemed to be that interactive voting systems encouraged dialogue.

Problems include the cost and current scarcity of such systems. Local youth units may have a interactive quiz system that can be borrowed - try accessing them through Young Scot. Some local authorities may also have the equipment. Ollie also had problems with the system sometimes being too slow to register all the votes. {We have a similar infra-red system here at Jordanhill from PRS. I found that if everyone tried to vote at the same time, the system seemed to jam up, but by setting the software to show only a few of the handset numbers at a time, everyone was able to cast their vote more effectively.}

The bottom line seemed to be that these systems have a very positive impact on learning and teaching in the classroom, but concern remains about the costs. Ollie and Rebecca were not sure that the benefits justified the high costs involved. However wireless technology is being built into more and more devices, so would it be possible to gain the benefits of an interactive voting system using mobile phones with Bluetooth or by using wirelessly networked laptops or tablets?

{I almost didn't go to this session as although I use our voting system occasionally I am not totally convinced it is always worth the effort. However, it is only fair to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at how enthusiastically our students reacted to the handsets and I am definitely less "lecturey" when I use them in a session. I very much enjoyed Rebecca and Ollie's session. I had some of my own feelings confirmed and learned some new stuff. What more could you want from a session?}

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