Oct 14 2010

EDUCAUSE 2010: Are You All Thumbs?

Smart Technologies introduces a new kind of student responder.

Smart Technologies, known primarily for their popular interactive whiteboards, has introduced a new product to their line of student responders, i.e. "clickers," that might make you all thumbs. If you've been waiting for a responder that allows teachers to ask questions that go beyond multiple choice, true/false, yes/no, or a simple number, then your day has finally come. The SMART Response XE interactive responder features the company's first full QWERTY keyboard. Now, teachers have the option to ask open-ended questions and students have a tool to answer those questions on a device that feels like texting. In math, the remotes allow students to input mathematical equations and scientific functions, such as quadratic equations, and generally gives teachers the ability to assess more advanced questions. A built-in grading feature allows users to choose the range of acceptable answers for a question and even allows for multiple equivalents of the correct answer, such as 1/2 and 2/4.

I got to play with the SMART Response XE in the exhibit hall today at Educause, firsthand. It's made of rugged plastic, and although the device feels hefty and thick, it's comfortable and solid. Typing on the device brought me back to my Palm Treo days, with its raised keys and bulky form factor. The XE's roughly 1" x 2.5" LED display delivers crisp text that's easy on the eyes.

One new feature of SMART's Response software is the variety of devices it supports. Three cheers for a system that offers more than "vanilla only" when it comes to device integration. I saw this feature demoed on an iPod, but any WiFi enabled device will do–from the iPad to the Sony PSP; from a tiny netbook to a giant desktop–any device that can get on the Internet can be used in this environment. This is great news for schools that may want to save a little money; instead of purchasing an entire class set of responders, schools may opt to purchase a fraction of that number and permit students to use their own WiFi enabled devices as responders.

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