Oct 18 2010

EDUCAUSE 2010: If You Could Only Use One Tool

Which tech tools would you choose for use in the classroom if your options were limited?

Sometimes I ask my colleagues at work, "Not counting your laptop and an LCD projector, if you could only add one high-tech teacher tool to support student learning, what would it be?" Most of my fellow teachers say a document camera. Although I love using my document camera, my answer usually fluctuates between either a wireless pad, like the Qwizdom Q7 Presenter Tablet, and a classroom set of student response systems, like the Qwizdom Q6, for several reasons.

The Q7 Presenter Tablet is the perfect companion for professors who understand the importance of faculty mobility and engagement with students and the content. It's not a device for sedentary lecturers who deliver content to their students as if learning is a one-way street, supporting the old paradigm: the professor talks and the students absorb. This product is for faculty members who believe that education is, at minimum, a two-way street - a push and pull between instructor and student, and that true learning is best accomplished through a back-and-forth dialogue.

Professors can control the Q7 Presenter Tablet from anywhere in the room. They can pose spontaneous questions, view students' results in a graph on the LCD screen, navigate through presentations, identify students requesting help discreetly, and even select students randomly. Although these features are significant, the real power of this device is its ability to allow the instructor to create, annotate and interact with all computer applications, including Qwizdom's own powerful software application. Instructors can use the software to design and present beautiful lessons with a familiar-looking, PowerPoint-like interface. The Q7 Tablet literally cuts the cord between instructor and computer, so there's no excuse to stand in that old, worn-out spot on the carpet anymore. Whether delivering a presentation, teaching a new lesson, conducting a survey, or administering a midterm or final exam, Qwizdom software and remotes allow everyone in the room to be active participants in the learning process, rather than passive and unstimulated seat warmers. It's this element of student engagement that convinced me to urge my own administration to invest in this technology in the first place, and it's the instant feedback students receive that keeps me using it in my own class every single day.

The large LCD screen on the Q6 remote sports an intuitive cell phone-style keypad and full-text input with an expanded symbols pallet. This makes the Q6 ideal for answering everything from multiple-choice to short-answer questions. In a testimonial, Matthew Schmitz, instructional designer from Southern Illinois University, notes that "Students feel more involved in the class, making people who might be unwilling to raise their hands feel that they, too, have voices that will be heard."

Almost 20 years ago, the first instructor I ever had on my journey toward earning my teaching credentials said, "Be eclectic: do what works." His words ring true today. I've found what works with my own teaching style and the students I teach: for my students and me, it's a wireless tablet and a student response system. I can't imagine teaching without these essential tools.

Follow Buzz on Twitter: @buzzgarwood


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