Two Paradigm Shifts for the 21st Century “Classroom”

Time-Bound & Place-Bound – NO LONGER!

I have noodling for several weeks on the 21st century definition of the “classroom.”  Yesterday, I had lunch with a family member who also happened to do her dissertation on developmental achievement gaps and she ran head long into this same conundrum.

After over an hour of engaging discussion, the world made sense and the prophets of old, the late nineties, had predicted the disruption that is taking place in 2012. She directed me to a book from Terry O’Banien, A College for the 21st Century, published 1997.  Two areas of his book, which I am now engrossed in, jumped off the pages.

The first is that the reliance on time, as a unit of measure, is an irrelevant metric on the mastery of any subject.  As O’Banien points out, “…it’s time on task, recognizing what is understood: human beings learn at different rates. Students should not have to serve time. Time should serve them.”  With 21st century learning tools and the help of Tech Ed, we allow students to learn and master subjects at THEIR rate of learning.  Through participation, collaboration and formative assessment platforms like Via Response, instructors can create, and to a great degree automate, environments for each student to have time on task and to develop proficiency in specific subject matter.

Second is the concept of school as a place.  This concept has been deeply embedded in ours subconscious thought patterns since the founding of higher education. O’Banien thoughts are poignant. “ [T]he conventional classroom…is the isolation cell, the lock up.  If the student is to be freed for more powerful learning in a more powerful way, then the wall must crumble, the boundaries made limitless.” He continues, “if reform efforts are successful, the campus, the classroom, and the library will be turned inside out.

I don’t think O’Banien was suggesting the end of the institution. He was simply signaling a shift where instructors would leverage new technology to augment and restructure pedagogy to take advantage of the internet’s ability to erase the confines of time and place. Students would demand new models with more flexibility. By definition, that is what the Internet does.  We are witnessing a massive disruption in the education model from every corner and facet.

The age of bricks and clicks is upon us! Research will continue at full speed. Learning will continue at full speed. All will happen with the power of the Internet and its ability to extend beyond the four walls of the classroom and provide asynchronous learning to foster individual growth.  Personalization of experiences is the new normal.  Every model is challenged. Every supporting industry will be challenged. We have entered a period of tremendous growth and opportunity for instructors and students alike.

This is the passion that drives us at Via Response.  Via Response enables instructors to make powerful connections with their students in and out of the physical confines of the classroom. Relentless innovation around collaboration and participation tools for formative assessments give instructors and students universal access and compatibility on any device, anywhere, anytime.

Drop us a line anytime.   We look forward to 2012 with anticipation and excitement and potentially working with you!

Derrick Meer, COO Via Response Technologies

Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, education, Formative Assessment, mobile technology, tablet technology, TechEd | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ten Powerful “Clicker” Innovations Instructors Will Rave About in 2012

With 30 years of classroom use, the “clicker” has become an integral part of Higher Ed classrooms around the world.   Now, innovation is driving a second wave of adoption, with simplicity and power providing high impact in exchange for a 15-minute learning curve.

Our company Via Response™ is a cloud based response company, connecting instructors to students in new and engaging ways.  Leveraging the power of the web, Via Response has incorporated hundreds of suggestions from instructors into hundreds of improvements and simplifications that simply can’t be duplicated by current classroom response companies.

Here are just a few of the improvements that Via Response brings to the classroom response market.

1.  Easy Roster and Grades Management.  For all of their benefits, first generation clicker companies were awful for importing rosters and exporting grades.  With wizard driven import, instructors can literally import from any LMS or SIS without any guesswork.  An equally powerful export wizard, allows grade data to export in virtually unlimited number of columns and formats.

2.  No More… “Did You Get My Response?” Enduring the barrage of students after the class confirming their participation points from their clickers is completely eliminated through multiple sure fire validation methods that students can see and verify.

3.  An Instructor Can Access the Questions, Results and Points Anywhere.  Any Device. Any Browser.  Instructors get tremendous flexibility that cannot be supported by the legacy clicker companies. Welcome to the cloud. 

4.  Students Can Use Any Device to Vote.  iPhone®, Android, , Kindle®, Nook®, browser,  tablet, legacy clickers — virtually anything. 

5.  Student Always Know the Score. Students receive multiple confirmations and cues on their involvement in the class period. Dynamic posting of points will make this an issue of the past.

6.  No More Management of Lost Clickers.  Students can switch devices without any instructor involvement!  Device Management is virtually eliminated.

7.  “I Forgot My Clicker.” Students will forget many things but their smart devices isn’t one of them.

8.  The Days of Six Clickers On One Student’s Desk Is Over.  Students won’t give up their smart device. It is the “air they breath.”

9.  More Question Types Than First Generation Clicker Systems.   Smart devices equal smart assessment types.  Instructors enjoy a much richer set of dynamic question types.

10. Connectedness.  Clickers were worthless for class communication.  Smart Devices change that and Via Response has a platform to deliver two-way communication both in and out of the classroom with realtime and asynchronous delivery.

Call us today for a FREE evaluation and pilot!  We want your feedback! Question. Engage. Connect.

Derrick Meer,  COO Via Response Technologies.

Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, education, mobile technology, tablet technology, technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Two Sets of Books?

 In Education, it has been “normal” for our kids…. yet, bookkeepers can go to jail for that. 

Striking up a conversation with a mom/working professional on an airplane leaving Atlanta, we discussed the literal weight of textbooks.  Like me, at least one of her kids was in high school.  The textbooks, which are often not referenced by the educator other than for homework, have become a 50 to 70 pound weight attached to our kids back.  The books are utilized “just enough” that they need to be available for class. Grrr!

The solution, for many families that can afford it, is buying a 2nd set of books. With $200 textbooks becoming the norm, I am rethinking my corporate greed chart. But before I do that, I see a huge opportunity to right the corporate wrongs with the introduction of digital “textbooks”.

Tablets and smart devices are invading the consumer markets at an astounding rate. With tens of millions of tablets shipped in 2011 and with that total expected to double this holiday season alone, we all have powerful new platforms to deliver content and assessment.  Innovative SAAS providers are partnering with instructors, authors, schools, educators and students to build an ecosystem, which disinter mediates the publishers, who have a dated and oligopolistic perspective on the world.

Am I being naïve? How many roadmaps do we need to see where we are heading? Songs, movies, document sharing and virtually every other type of media and format have transitioned to the web.  Shifts are happening in months not years.

In 2012, we will witness massive growth and adoption of content that is available for the tablet and smart devices. Combine adoption, growth of “digital textbooks” directly from the authors, a $199 price point of tablets (cost of one text book), catastrophic budget concerns, and we have explosive growth.  The icing on the cake is that these tablet and smart devices deliver a better experience.  Students instantly consume, mash up and share data that is pre-determined from the instructor and is constantly updated.

So, why am I so excited about millions of books and web access fitting snugly under a single arm of our students?  Well, beyond the obvious stated above about my own children and my wallet, I am involved in education every day vocationally.  I am part of Via Response Technologies building and delivering next generation student response systems.

Like textbooks, legacy hardware based “clickers,” with their extremely limited software, will rapidly fade away in 2012.  Likewise, higher stakes assessment, which has been done by bubble sheets, can be done so much better.  Our company, Via Response, is instantly available to provide powerful new constructivist model for frequent and solid gains in learning through a bevy of new formative assessment types that are more engaging and less intimidating.

At Via Response, we continue to work to make our system easy-to-use and streamlined for instructors and students.  With a solid FERPA compliant security model, we introduce a bevy of liberating benefits for instructors over the current hardware based response systems. And, I am not overdramatizing the “liberation” Via Response provides.  Instructors can build assessments from their couch, change a grade on the fly and have student’s access formative assessment data instantly. Instructors utilize any computing platform anywhere, anytime. Educator’s maintain complete control while allowing for powerful self-help capabilities to their students.

With our core platform launched, we are now exploring ways to open up our system for innovation and growth with our educator partners.  We know our success will be achieved by working in an ecosystem that builds a better open learning environment.  We want you to think of Via Response as the nexus of where students synthesize and validate learned material on any device in our 21st century classrooms.

As for the two sets of books…  That will fade away in 2012 and be completely gone in 2013.  Content and assessment delivery on tablets is a train heading 80 miles per hour west and the publisher/assessment companies can either hop aboard or lay on the tracks.  I think we all know the result and I am at peace again.  Call me or anyone on our team today, to see what cloud based assessment is all about.

Derrick Meer, COO

Via Response Technologies

Posted in audience response systems, classroom response systems, education, mobile technology, technology | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Student Privacy Is Still a Cornerstone Right

An Amazing Thing Happened on the Way to 21st Century Audience Response

Along with the rapid growth of e-learning, there is an acceleration into Web 2.0 tools, which by definition, allow for collaboration and interaction. The passive nature of websites is fading quickly as cloud-based technologies proliferate in and out of the classroom.  Instructional innovation is occurring at an astounding rate as low cost solutions create autonomy.  Shrinking budgets and the torrid growth of online instruction further accelerate the use of cloud-based tools.

But, is this a good idea?   What about student privacy?

In 1974, FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) was passed and was enforced through sound physical controls as files were managed and stored in the registrar’s office.  Today’s digital environment has obliterated this walled garden leaving instructors and the institutional stakeholders with the job of interpreting a 37-year-old law.  Most higher education attorney’s have interpreted FERPA’s definition of “student education record” to include all works and communication between the student and instructor.  This opens the door to a number of valid questions around privacy?

Does having personally identifiable student data on a laptop, tablet, and thumb drive of tens of thousands of instructors violate FERPA? What about cloud based word processors with spreadsheets  now being utilized by  over a 1/3 of higher education instructors?  Increasingly, instructors are using social networking sites, micro blogs, video sharing, virtual worlds, calendars, and NOW web based audience response.  What about these transformational technologies?

Is this toothpaste going to be shoved back into the tube? We think not.

We believe there is a responsible approach for all stakeholders that can be taken to ensure student privacy while allowing for the growth of numerous and effective pedagogical tools.  In fact, cloud based systems, properly structured; allow for more structured and layered approach to student data and security than the current unintentional, but nonetheless, prevalent laissez-faire approach to student data.

At Via Response Technologies, we have considered student privacy as a cornerstone of our architecture and design.  It is prudent and a fundamental right to digital citizens.  In fact, we set out from the beginning to consider privacy and data security and had a recognized law firm with a specialty in SAAS and security review our architecture and provide an opinion letter on our security practices and measures.  And that is just the beginning.  We continue to deploy and build layers of practical security to mitigate risk for everyone.   In the end, it is a shared partnership between instructors, institutions, partners, and students to keep students data private. It is the right and legal thing to do.

Via Response give educators control over their content delivery, command over their student attention, and insight into the impact of their message.  A centralized database with solid access controls provides better security and flexibility at the same time.  With multiple patents pending, we are working with educators and technologists to introduce innovative simplicity into the classroom.

We welcome suggestions as we continue to structure the response platform to engage your students anywhere at any time.

Derrick Meer

COO Via Response Technologies, LLC

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The Power of Disruption

It is not often that disruption is viewed in a positive light and this is especially true in education. But with a little alchemy, it is. Let me explain.

The Internet is virtually ubiquitous in Higher Education. Classrooms now often include interactive whiteboards, audience response systems (clickers), learning management systems and Wi-Fi to engage students in an active way.

Students, in the meantime, have been busily leveraging the Internet into a network of social connections. Some innovative instructors have attempted to leverage these large social structures, but with some unintended consequences.

On a third front, cloud computing and the explosion of smart mobile devices has created entirely new ways to collaborate and engage students. An avalanche of businesses like Netflix ®, Google®, and DropBox®, have had torrid growth as they entered into the market. By leveraging the cloud, older computer technologies have seen their competitive advantages vanish and almost instantly seem dated and, well, complicated to use. This is where Via Response Technologies ™ enters. Leveraging over 12 years of response industry experience and over 18 months of development work, Via Response breaks down the barriers of distraction and disconnection between students and teachers. Students are engaged on the smart devices they use everyday.

Via Response, in a nutshell, is disruptive as it is simpler, cheaper and more powerful than any audience response solution on the market. The platform creates a highly engaged, accountable learning environment. It’s not just response, its web and mobile enabled response that capture actionable data at the point of learning both in and out of the classroom.

Via Response gives educators control over their content delivery, command over their students’ attention, and insight into the impact of their message. The platform bridges the time-tested and honored methods of conventional teaching with the power of everyone connected seamlessly in the cloud, enhancing the lecturer’s connection to students, and students’ connection to the material.

With multiple patents pending, Via Response introduces dozens of simplifications to last generation audience response systems and gives the instructor and students a much better experience. We continue to work with educators and instructional technologies every day to introduce innovative simplicity into our platform.

With full pilots underway this week of November 2011, we are looking for more innovative thought leaders to give us their feedback. Do you want to get a sneak peek into what we believe is the future of education and instruction? If you do, please contact me. We will grow only by listening to the your needs and desires for engaging your students in and out of the classroom.

Derrick Meer
COO Via Response Technologies, LLC

Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, education, mobile technology, tablet technology, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments