Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ten things to do with your (hopefully TurningPoint) Student Response System

So you are thinking about a student response system (or you already have one), and you are wondering if it is a good investment. You may have seen it in use at a conference and thought –
“This has possibilities in my school or classroom.”

But if you are looking for ideas; here we have my top ten out of the hundred or so uses for the Student Response System from TurningPoint.

1. Use the conditional branching tool to show a class based choose your own adventure story. This was one of the ways I got my year five boys into reading, “pick a path” and “choose your own adventure” stories. Using TurningPoint you can create these stories in a power point complete with multimedia, and the whole class chooses the direction of the story. The real power of this is when you get the student to write, collaborate and create their own. This lets them brainstorm and explore plots and characters rather than just complete a linear progression of draft, draft, final draft, good copy.

2. Collect data quickly for discussion of statistics, use the mean, mode, and variance tools to discuss what they mean. Statistics and measurements abound in our daily lives, so it is a good idea and is part of a maths program to discuss these measurements of statistics. Unfortunately sometimes gathering the data for this exercise takes up a large amount of time – I’ve seen a class go out and count cars in the car park and then count cars as they go past for a whole maths lesson. Using the SRS students can quickly produce data sets based on the answers from the peers in their class. This gets collected in seconds and the data analysis can be completed quickly and efficiently, giving more time to discuss what they mean and how they are calculated.

3. Facilitate peer teaching with paired questions that shows the difference between two answers. Jeffery Stanger is a great leader in the use of this technique, especially with student response systems like TurningPoint. By asking paired questions and using the peer instruction technique students can achieve a deeper understanding and therefore achieve better recall during assessment by being able to learn from and teach their peers.

4. Get the audience involved in a debate by using the moment to moment slide to do “the Worm”. As we will see during the year (in Australia) audience responses to public debates are very important to our politicians. Why not use that technology in a class or even interschool debate where your audience can feedback how effective the debaters are at persuading the audience to their point of view. The moderators and adjudicators can then use this information as part of their calculations of score for effectiveness. This can then be analysed through the report function so that the debaters can find areas to improve their delivery.

5. Use them at P+C meetings and parent/teacher nights to identify areas of concern and to celebrate positive programs in the school. Sometimes involving parents in the school community can be tough especially if you have a couple of dominant power players in the existing mix. By introducing TurningPoint to meetings and information nights the school gets honest and representative feedback from parents in a non threatening way that lets every parent have their say on an equal weight.

6. Teach time and project management by using the ranking wizard or the weighted response slides. Both of these tools can be used to help students manage projects and priorities both in their academic and personal lives

7. Use the system to have a “peoples vote” at events such as science fairs and exhibitions that the wider public are invited to. This engages the community around the school and gives them a feeling of inclusiveness in the school.

8. Put one keypad on each table at a fundraising quiz night and do all your questions through the system – with no marking and automatic leader boards it gives you more people to help in other aspects frees them completely to be part of the experience. I have helped with a range of these nights and both the audience and the committee members involved love the ease of use of the system. If you use the speed scoring you reduce the effect that the use of smart phones have on the outcome of the event.

9. NAPLAN (National numeracy and literacy tests for Australian students) test preparation and data gathering – pre test your students on last years NAPLAN test to find areas of concern and address them before the actual test. Using a student response system means you get the results instantly and can drill down to individual students or merge data sets to find whole cohort patterns. Using this technology can also reduce student (and teacher) test anxiety when the test comes around as the students are used to the format and the types of questions that they will encounter.

10. Prior knowledge probing – don’t just assume, ask. You may be surprised what your new batch of students know and don’t know. By using an SRS to gather data, you can work from their strengths and identify areas where concentrated instruction may be helpful. It’s also a great way for new students to get to know each other without singling students out. You can then use that data to form a profile of your class.

Like any tool in the classroom whether it be an IWB or a pencil, there are great ways to use a SRS such as TurningPoint, just as there are ways to use it badly that makes no real positive difference to the outcomes of the students. But I encourage you to use your creativity and your professional know how to get the most out of this technology that might just help you understand what is going on in their heads.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A long week

A cheesy iphone Ad made by Me.Image by twenty5pics via Flickr

On Monday I jetted over to Adelaide to do some training with one of my client schools that have put in 50 or so eBeams into their classrooms. By far one of my biggest installs, hence the training.
While I was there I caught up with some other clients and met some new (hopefully) ones. I also had a new recruit shadowing me.

I was all prepared to go back to Perth on Thursday when my boss calls me - Can I stay until Saturday so I can help out with the Apple ITS Conference. "Sure" I say. "I just have to check with my other boss." So I called my girlfriend of many years to let her know and she gave her blessings (it was 42 deg C in Perth at the times so not nice to go back to anyway).

My mission: to make sure that the responseware system worked on both Friday and Saturday.

ResponseWare is the Virtual Keypad that can be installed onto blackberries, iphones and ipod touches or can be run from a web browser. The cool thing about responseware is the ability to take long text answers as well as get the questions and results directly on the screen of the device.

So I have one day of preparation and to learn how to configure and use ResponseWare on a Apple Mac - without actually having a Apple Mac.

I arrive at the Venue (Scotch College) nice and early (7:30am) to scope things out and to find out exactly what was going to go on.

The network was very well set up with Cisco routers and switches, wireless g for the iPod touch's and Wireless N for the Macbooks. Three base stations set up around the room each with 4 radios on them. So all good for connection speeds.

One presenter was going to use ResponseWare in the afternoon. I prepped him and we ran some tests to get any issues resolved. All was working perfectly.

He was going to use the ResonseWare built into TurningPoint Anywhere on his own Mac. We got people to download the app onto their iPhones and I pods and then linked them into the session. He asked his first question and after taking 36 responses the system kicked everyone off. Aughhhhhhh!!!! Because he was still presenting I couldn't go up on stage to check what had happened - so he went through the rest of his talk - sans using ResponseWare.

So day one FAIL!!

So after some head scratching and some log checking we figure that it was because the presenter accidentally closed the session, the presenter and the responders we all on the same network and the application had issues or there was a network timeout between our little network and the connection to the ResponseWare server.

So I reset up with my PC (the horror of a PC at a Mac Conference), on a wired in network on a different subnet to the wireless devices - I also ran TurningPoint in Powerpoint and hooked it up to a projector switch.

Day two rolls around and I am able to test the new configuration. Seemed to be OK. I write up some questions the organisers wanted to know the answers to. We roll through the whole presentation and it works for all questions. Phew!! I was able to give the organiser all her data within 5 mins in an excel spreadsheet. Job done.

Day 2 Success.

Caught a plane back to Perth 6:20am on a Sunday bleeuugh.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lower Primary IWB Resources

I've just finished a three day country school tour, visiting clients and demonstrating technology to new schools.

I'm constantly asked for resources for lower primary - so here are a few new ones as well as some old favorites.

iBoard -a free website specifically for use with an IWB and specifically for lower primary. The iboard is perfect for warm-ups as well as a main teaching point resource. It's all in Adobe flash so can run on any board (including eBeam), and is grouped by subject area and grade level.

Starfall - A graded site for early reading, again free. lots of colour and good use of sound. Perfect as an interactive bigbook on your IWB.

Crickweb - Another graded site - this one has interactive for IWB's from lower primary right through to lower hight school. A bit of advertising on the main page but otherwise and excellent resources

topmarks - Yet another UK site. This one is very comprehensive and has a huge range of interactives with lesson ideas as well.

BGfL - yep another UK site. This one is set up by the Birmiham Grid for Learning. A great collected work of some of the best flash interactives around. All sorted by subject groups

Scootle - If you are in an Australian Government, Catholic or even at some idependant schools, you have access to scootle. Designed by the Learning Federation with funds from the federal government. Scootle/learning federation resources cover a huge range of subjects and levels. Government and Catholic schools usually access this site via their portal - in the case of WA its the DET portal - then look for the learning federation resources.

There is more - let me know if you have found any that you use on a constant basis.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Clicker questions for Phet and Philosophy

<span class=Powerpoint 2007" style="border: medium none ; display: block;" height="177" width="240">Image by Paul Watson via Flickr

I was having a look at all the new simulations on PhET. and came across some of the resources that teachers had made based around the resources and interactives provided by the site.

A couple of teachers have made PowerPoint presentations with clicker questions ready to go. These two are for the projectile motion lab.

I was also reading Dereck Bruff's blog and he has found some presentations for philosophy with clicker questions in them.

These are great resources and some publishers are now providing presentations ready to go with their text books.