Sunday, October 19, 2003

Computer gives teachers student alerts



By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Imagine a classroom in which tests are graded in seconds instead of days. Where teachers instantly know how many students haven't grasped a concept. Where they can instantly go back over the lesson.

This is the classroom of the future, and for some Kenton County teachers, the future is now.

"Oh my gosh, I love this," said Jill Moyer, who teaches second grade at Summit View Elementary School.

She and 45 other teachers received training last week in a new computer technology called Classroom Performance System. The district is testing it at Simon Kenton High School and Twenhofel Middle, with the possibility that other schools may follow.

The system eliminates a lot of paperwork for teachers. Best of all, it provides instant feedback on whether each student understands what is being taught, teachers said. With such information, they can better help students prepare for the annual tests that gauge school performance, the teachers said.

Here's how the system works:

The classroom is equipped with a computer, a large screen, a wireless device and 32 keypads that resemble TV remote controls.

Each student gets a keypad. The teacher puts a question on the screen to test their knowledge of a concept. The question can be yes/no, true/false or multiple-choice.

The children press their pads to indicate their answers, and instantly, the computer puts the class score on the screen. The children can't tell who answered incorrectly, but the teacher has that information on her computer.

She can then print out customized study guides for each child. If doing a whole test this way, she can automatically transfer student scores to a gradebook. She can even use the questions to create Jeopardy-like games.

"If I had the money, I would go out myself and buy it tomorrow," said Moyer, the Summit View teacher.

A set of two systems, with a total of 64 keypads, costs $3,995. The district has purchased one for Simon Kenton, one for Twenhofel and two sets that can be shared among all schools.

Site-based councils at each school can purchase the systems on their own, Kenton Superintendent Susan Cook said.

The Classroom Performance System is made by a Texas-based company called eInstruction. It rolled out the product in 2000 and now has 400,000 keypads in the market, said president and CEO Darrell Ward, a former teacher.

In Kentucky, some schools have purchased systems on their own. In addition, all 53 of the state's area technology centers, including three in Northern Kentucky, have one set each.

Email kgutierrez@enquirer.com




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