I propose to trial the use of radio keypad-response units in the lectures of a unit in BE (Information Technology) in 1999. My conjecture is that individual keypad-response units will encourage more active participation during lectures. It will provide both the students and myself with immediate feedback. The lecture remains our most cost-effective and widely used means of teaching, yet little has been done to support the lecture with technology. The conventional lecture has the lecturer as the focus. Students often become passive note takers. In the demonstration, I will use 16 radio keypad-response units to illustrate their potential. For example, during a lecture, questions can be asked (using a computer presentation) of the whole class. The responses can range from a yes/no through to a numeric answer. Students then choose an answer and the computer collects, by radio, these responses from the whole class. Once the class has had an opportunity to respond, everyone may then see, on the next slide, a histogram of the responses. I can then explain why a particular answer is right or wrong. Students are then able to compare their own response with this explanation. The result should be a move toward active learning.
The most common form of educational technology is the lecture. Much attention has been on the use of computer technology for delivering education on the desktop, but not much attention is paid to its use in the lecture. I wanted to address the issue of providing an effective learning environment for the student while attending a lecture. What may be an appropriate strategy that is effective in a small group, where interaction and clarification can occur is not applicable to the information dissemination of a lecture. How do you know at the end of a lecture whether everyone has understood the material?
In asking a class a question how many students hold back from answering? Or if they do answer, how is their response governed by fears of repercussions or embarrassment?
Obtaining responses from an audience might include direct methods such as questionnaires through to the simple one of asking for raised hands. Given a lecture that uses a computer for presentation of the visuals it is possible to use it to also control individual keypad-response units. This is a computer-supported system where the audience give responses to questions on hand-held keypads that transmit individual responses back to the computer. This can then analyse the data, and then can produce a display as a summary of the results for the audience to review. It can support general question & answers, demographic surveys, opinion polls, voting, elections, quizzes, tests, to group decision making, Short quizzes can test for formal knowledge. Before starting a new topic the levels of understanding can be assessed. It can also provide instant feedback, this could be for even trivial issues such as the timing of the next class. It can also be used before and after to gauge changes in understanding. Finally it can be used for audit purposes similar to the questionnaires already in use that take time in administering and the analysis is so late as to be not much use for the current cohort.
The Xtol system is not significantly different to most of the products on the market. Some of those that are used in audience interaction provide a form of continuous feedback by means of a slider, however the Xtol system is aimed more at voting in meetings. Figure 1 depicts a view of one keypad and its controlling computer system. You will notice that the top part includes a two-line LCD display (with 16 characters per line) for placing brief messages (such as the time remaining to answer the question) and the second line can be used to create soft labels for the three diamond-shaped buttons below the display. The three buttons could be labelled True/False/Don't-know or Yes/No/Don't-know. Below these are the digits 0-9 and two other keys. There is also a LED that will flash during a vote. Once a response has been entered it stops and remains on until the end of the vote.
Figure 1: Radio Keypad Response Unit
The numeric keypad allows answers to multiple choices and even multiple selections as well as a numeric answer. One of the other keys is the cancel key, which can be enabled to allow re-entering of responses rather than taking the first response.
Figure 2 shows a system overview. The PC communicates with the interface to the radio communications interface via the serial port. This in turn is connected to one or two transmitter/receivers, which transmit at 433MHz to the keypads. Commands from the PC are sent to each keypad and data received from each keypad. The interface collates the data and forwards it to the PC as each keypad is polled for its data. For 16 keypads this would take less than a second.
Figure 2: System overview
The software that comes with the Xtol system also provides a diagnostic system to check the operation of the system. For instance, Figure 3 shows the diagnostic for an individual keypad where the state of its battery can be seen and the number of error packets over the total transmitted is shown on the simulation of the two line display. The user of this keypad can also press any of the keys (except for the key labelled "Exit") and both the lecturer and the user can then verify the correct operation of the keypad.
Figure 3: Keypad diagnostic
Figure 4: KPL screenshot
Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: Routledge.
URLs (All URLs were correct on the 11 January 1999)
Braehler ICS Konferenztechnik. http://www.brahler.com/www/Homepage.nsf
One Touch Systems, Inc. http://www.onetouch.com/
The Fleetwood Group, Inc. (Electronics Division). http://www.replysystems.com/
|Please cite as: Jones, P. E. (1999). Improving learning in lectures using keypad-response units. In K. Martin, N. Stanley and N. Davison (Eds), Teaching in the Disciplines/ Learning in Context, 173-177. Proceedings of the 8th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, The University of Western Australia, February 1999. Perth: UWA. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1999/jones.html|