The raised hand in a college lecture hall’s sea of students could become a campus relic if a mobile device application catches on in the U.S. like it has in Canada.
A web-based application for smart phones, laptops, and computer tablets called Understoodit lets college students tell their professors and instructors whether or not they understand the day’s lesson with a click of the “understood” or “confused” buttons.
Using Understoodit’s “Confusometer,” the faculty member can track students’ anonymous responses in real time.
The mobile device app is available to several Canadian universities, including the University of Toronto.
Liam Kaufman, a Toronto-based computer developer who created the “Confusometer,” said he would collect feedback from faculty members in hopes of releasing the app to the general public near the end of the summer. Educators can enter their eMail addresses on Understoodit’s homepage and apply for a free beta account of the mobile app.
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Kaufman said he designed the mobile app for college students who don’t understand a concept mentioned during a lecture, but refuse to raise their hands and ask for clarification for fear of looking like a dolt.
“I didn’t want to look like an idiot by saying I was confused in front of two hundred classmates,” said Kaufman, who created the application in December during a computer science class.
Canadian college students’ rave reviews have made their way onto Twitter in recent days, prompting American students to ask their professors why, exactly, they aren’t using the “Confusometer” during class.
“Students are simply not putting up their hand in large classes,” said Kaufman, who has been contacted by more than 100 high school teachers who said students rarely admit their confusion during class. “It’s not even possible for every student to ask questions in a 200-person class that last an hour. … It’s all well and good to hope that every student will develop the confidence to ask questions in front of their peers, but it’s simply not the reality for 95% of students.”
Kaufman said the Understoodit app won’t only be appealing to students who dread classroom interaction. The app could also be useful for students who speak English as a second language.
Kaufman’s “Confusometer” is the latest effort in the push to use ever-present smart phones and tablets as an interactive tool during class.
More than 4,000 University of Michigan students last fall used a web-based classroom tool designed by a university professor to make phones and laptops a way for students to offer feedback and ask questions instead of peruse Facebook news feeds and friends’ Twitter accounts.
LectureTools, developed at the Ann Arbor campus’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, lets students instantly relay questions to their professors and instructors during a lecture, cluing in educators as to which topics need more explanation.
“The key is to engage students through their laptops or cell phones, so they don’t drift off onto social networking sites,” said Perry Samson, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences at UM and the developer of LectureTools. “We’ve shown we can do that.”
Using LectureTools, a student can jot electronic notes synchronized to a professor’s lecture slides and respond to questions posed by the professor, who can display student answers to the entire class.
Instructors can upload video and other content from online repositories as Quicktime or Flash files and can include the material in a lecture accessible for students through the web-based LectureTools system.
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