The engagement of students during a class is almost as important as the quality of information delivered by the teacher. If students sleep, day-dream or just passively let the words fly through their minds, those words can be the wisest wisdom, it will not do anything good.

I was crying long for new technologies for engagement: we use IT generally to spread data / deliver speeches in more effective ways  (like OCW) or to test students. These are essentially the same approach we used for teaching already, dressed up a little different and packed as a brand new idea. With all my appreciation to OCW for example, it is just the dot-com bubble version of traditional teaching. You want to buy dog food? Go on web and buy there, instead of go to a shop. You want to listen someone very smart speaking? Listen him on video or read his notes on the net,  instead of paying to a university tuition to listen the same talk live. Don’t make a mistake, I believe that OCW movement is a game changer in many ways, but it is not a game changer how it approaches actual teacher-student relationship.

However Socrative is something new. The teacher ask a question (e.g. an open ended one), students answer. Then they see each others’ answer and they can pol which they think the good answer is. Then when all the popular but wrong answer, and hopefully some true ones are all collected, teacher can discuss and comment on the good and bad solutions. Please listen carefully: even the bad answers! I see so many professional, who believe in intelligent design or perpetum mobiles. I think part of the problem that we always discuss only the good answers. However the human mind is infinitely sharp, intuitive and creative  when it is about finding wrong answers based on “common sense”. Wise and dumb people alike are very good at giving alternative explanations for anything, and most teachers possibly cannot even have the idea what are those “but why not this?” problems sticking in so many students’ mind. Why do I think it is a gamechanger? On one hand we can collect many bad answers and half truths, while in normal classrooms more kid do not stand up and defend their wrong. Also, we can have voting, open argument etc which is generally do not happen due to time constraints and other difficulties. But the most important thing is that it is a departure of the regular “wise teachers speaks – student listen – then we test” toward a system that more argumentative, more problem focused and enforcing active involvement of every single student maybe without the humiliation what many teachers give to students who give wrong answers.

 

 

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