Day 17: Pay for Play??

30 09 2009

Okay, being a business professor I decided to solve my attendance-checking problem by appealing to the most fundamental of human instincts: greed. I offered any student in my class $100 if they could come up with a plan. Their solution had to allow me to check roll for 70 students in less than two minutes. It could use technology, but did not have to. And it had to input the data automatically. In short, I decided to outsource my problem. Plus, I like seeing their eyes light up when I say the words “$100 cash.”. I give this 1 chance in 4 of working, but why not try it? Immediately afterward several showed up to suggest things like sign-in sheets (too easy to cheat) or having students check each other (too easy to cheat) or an honor system (too easy to cheat).

One suggested using “Bump” to let them all log in as they walked into class; in theory this is great, but Bump only promises that data is exchanged in 10 seconds or less, which makes roll-check a 12 minute exercise in my large section. One suggested magnetic card swipes, but didn’t know about the expense involved or how to integrate it with my system. He said he’d get back to me. Read the rest of this entry »

The Guinea Pig Diaries

28 09 2009

guinea pig with glassesA day-by-day account of connected learning in an actual college classroom. Spills, chills, thrills, and the occasional system crash, plus the tools to help you get connected too. Start here, or scroll to the bottom to start with Day 1.

Day 16: Forms, etc.

28 09 2009

Today we tried another new solution for paperless quizzes. As I shared with you last Monday, our experience with surveygizmo ( was outstanding, a massive improvement over the Blackboard interface. Today we tried a unique product, Exzact. Exzact’s product consists of a small client package you download to your iPhone (the Lite version, which we used, is free), and a form which asks the questions and collects the data.

Exzact’s product was originally created for firms which need to collect data in the field and have it uploaded whenever a connection is available. To accomplish this, the product actually runs a “client” on the device, which simply means that it can do more than just display questions and let you submit answers. In practical terms, it means that as soon as a student syncs his phone with their server, the entire quiz is downloaded, but he can’t open it until I provide a passcode. Further, once the quiz is complete, the client stores it until it gets a solid connection, then uploads to the server. Read the rest of this entry »

Day 15: What’s up Doc?

25 09 2009

My old method of taking attendance was an EPIC FAIL! Okay, that’s an exaggeration—it was perfectly functional, but a major pain to administer.  I had the students send an email to a drop box I set up on gmail (like or something) and include a subject line I gave them in class. What I had visualized was that my student worker could open the Gmail account, sort the messages by sender, and quickly find which ones were missing. Alas, in reality you can’t easily sort a column of messages in Gmail (at least I can’t) so it winds up being a manual seek-and-find to locate the ones who weren’t in the list. Workable, but not at all smooth or efficient. Time for roll-checking, part deux. Read the rest of this entry »

Day 14: Tough Love

23 09 2009

I can say in good conscience that I didn’t teach my students a single thing today. But that’s not to say they didn’t learn anything. Actually I cancelled class and assigned them to go hear one of several speakers who were on campus for a large conference; if my students wanted credit for attending, they had until 11 pm to send me a synopsis of the session they attended. What did I do all day? Ironically, I sat and wrote many of these posts you are reading, since I was a little bit behind when we launched the site.

Of all the achievements I’ve pulled off in this experiment, Day 13 was perhaps the best. No, I’m not talking about finding quiz software that really works; Day 13 was the day when I showed my students what parenting authors like to call “tough love.” We are now almost five weeks into the semester, and we’ve invested many hours in getting the students up to speed on the iPhone interface and our class policies and procedures. But every week, when it’s time for the quiz, we would have 5-8% who couldn’t take it, either due to phone problems or lack of a phone altogether. Day 13 was the day we fixed this problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Day 13: Lucky

21 09 2009

dice low resToday was the day we finally tried our latest and greatest quizzing solution, “SurveyGizmo”. After several less than stellar quizzing efforts, I just knew today was going to go well. At least I had my fingers crossed that it would. You can read an in-depth review of SurveyGizmo and my experiences with it over in our tools  and reviews section; the story there includes screen shots of how it formats up the quiz for the small screen. Click here to read the full review. I’ll report on how things went in my next post.

Day 12: Known Unknowns(?)

18 09 2009

compass 649932_highDay 12 was a project day, so after we checked attendance via email I asked my students to answer a single question for me using Nanotools, our very basic locally developed survey system. I explained the dilemma we face in designing an electronic quiz, specifically that the system can give them immediate right/wrong feedback on each question, OR it can let them go back and change answers during the quiz, but not both (NOTE: in a common student fantasy they receive feedback, then are allowed to change answers). My question was which they would prefer: (a) immediate feedback, (b)the chance to change, or (c) no preference.

Today, I learned an important lesson: Nanotools is appropriate for informal feedback ONLY. How did I learn this? I’ll let you take a look at the graph of responses, and you can observe two things. First, the responses nanotools graphwere roughly split between the first two options. And second, my class of 69 students managed to log a total of 86 votes. This peculiarity was pointed out to me after class by an astute student, and in talking with him I learned that the students had discovered early on that they could vote multiple times. Read the rest of this entry »