Friday, 21 October 2005

GeoPocket: A classroom tool for the GameBoy generation

by ANN ARBOR via Educational Technology

Using hand-held computers in the classroom isn't entirely new. Other devices have been used as "clickers" to allow students to respond to simple yes/no or multiple-choice questions and then compare their answers with those of their classmates.

So, what is new? [my emphasis]

if [lecturer] is discussing why the Earth is colder in northern areas than around the Equator and explaining that it has to do with the angle at which sunlight strikes the planet, students can fiddle with an animated diagram, dragging a cartoon flashlight to make it shine on a surface at different angles. As they drag the flashlight, the solution to an equation that describes the relationship shows the effect.

In another GeoPocket exercise, [lecturer] asks students to point out, on a map on their screens, the primary sources of the world's oil supply. Their answers are recorded centrally, and the students can click on "Show All Answers" to see their classmates' responses. The answers can also be projected for the whole class to see. The professor can then use that information as a jumping off point for a class discussion.

If I have read the news correctly, the "newness" is the integration of specialized software with the course and such software, I assume, is delivered to the hand-held within the lecturer hall.

I would question:
1. Why hand-held? This is not the best form factor to process great amount of information and I believe developing software for this platform has more limitations (due to the small screen size and limited processing power).

I suggest the software should be browser-based. This would not have to be limited to a particular platform and hence can leverage on any existing computing equipment a student may have.

2. The first example in the quote is a specialised software, almost custom-make for that particular lecturer. I doubt how sustainable that may be once the funding runs out. The second example seems to be a better. I suppose maps with hot-spots are very generic which can be used in different courses.

3. I have also pointed to some real time collaboration software which may also be useful in such classroom.

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