Saturday, February 6, 2010

Classroom Presenter

I was recently attending the Harvard Macy Institute Program for Euducators in the Health Professions. Robert Kegan was doing a masterful workshop and what got my attention was a his story of how he moved from using overheads to using a tablet PC.

Bob hates PowerPoint presentations because the content seems to be predefined and not responsive to audience needs or interests. He uses the Classroom Presenter on a tablet PC to help him keep his workshop interactive.

Once I got home I pulled out my old convertible PC (tablet/laptop) and loaded Classroom Presenter 3.1 which is a free software from the University of Washington. After playing around with it for a while, I was thrilled. I started pulling various unsuspecting colleagues into my room to show it off.

So what is so special about this software? Here are some features that stood out:

1. Instructor computer connected to student computer via network (wired or wireless LAN or via Internet)
2. Instructor can allow his/her slides to be displayed on student computer
3. Student can annotate these slides and save them on their compuers
4. Instructor can ask students to write answers to questions/label images etc and send back to Instructor
5. Instructor can do quick polls and display a histogram like report of responses.
6. Instructor can import PowerPoint slides or presentations into the software.
7. Instructor can keep toggle between several slide decks - the PowerPoint slides, whiteboard slides, student responses and quick polls.
8. While it would be best if the Instructor has a Tablet PC, the students can work with a regular desktop, laptop or tablet.
9. Can be used at a distance.

So how can this be used in a class? Here are 2 quick examples:

1. Think-pair-share: Instructor asks students to work on a question or problem in a small group and then each group writes/types its response into a slide and send back to instructor. The responses can be projected on a screen from the instructor's computer. This is the equivalent of using flip charts in small groups. The advantage is that as each group presents, their slide can be projected to the class, the slides created by all groups can be saved digitally and shared.

2. A histology instructor can share slides with the class and ask students to label specific cells or organelles and send back to the instuctor. This can be used to do needs analysis or assess cognition.

There must be many folks who have used this software in a creative manner. There are a ton of papers and presentations from the University of Washington. For example, there is a link to UCSD where they have developed the Ubiquitous Presenter, based on the Classroom Presenter. UP allows students to use any web enabled device like cell phones to link to the instructors presentation. It also appears to host the presentation and student annotations on a web server so students can review it later. Would love to hear of more examples.