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3I: Individualized Interactive Instruction

ACM News Service: Innovative Instruction.  A program for real-time interaction between professors and students, connected by wireless in the classroom, is being hailed as a way of altering the reluctance of students to ask and answer questions.  In the blurb, it is difficult to tell whether anonymity is crucial to the technique or not.

From the account in Daniel Miller’s 2005-05-10 Daily Bruin article, it seems very clear that, how much I think learning to interact without self-consciousness is an important student skill, including willingness to make mistakes, that’s not how things work in reality.  And the use of an anonymous forum, at least in “town hall” settings, not only works to elicit participation, but there is serious engagement and participation.

The article does not provide any clue about the nature of 3I other than it is an open-source package similar to the Educational Testing Service’s expensive Discourse package.  Greater provision for customization is claimed for 3I.

In an interview on use of technology as a tool for achieving teaching goals, Electrical Engineering Professor William J. Kaiser explains how valuable the opening up of student feedback is for his own assessment of how the material is landing and what may need to be put in to convey a concept he wants to enliven and impart to the students. It is about closing gaps “between what the students understand and the instructor’s perception of that comprehension.”

Here’s the dynamic that pleases Kaiser:

“We refer to the protocol as individualized, interactive instruction (3I). This method is still based on an instructor teaching—because that’s very, very good for students —we just add a networked component so that communication with the lecturer becomes a two-way street. It works in the following manner: I, as an instructor, present material. I then present a problem that all the students can see, via the interface, on their personal wireless notebook screens. They then begin solving a problem, and I’m able to see the responses, in real time, of every student—every keystroke that’s entered is revealed. I don’t know which student is providing which response; from my perspective, they’re simply a list of numbers and this preserves the anonymous nature.

“It provides an incredible degree of insight. As students respond to a problem, I’m able to see characteristic errors that the entire class is making, and   I can review material to address a particular weakness . I’ve found that in typically just one problem cycle of about 10 minutes, a given weakness can be completely eliminated. In a typical 3I session, I’ll work through 6 different problem types, starting from very simple to very complex. At the beginning, students might have only two-thirds success on the initial problem, and at the end of the session, virtually all students are solving the hardest problem.”

I would love to find out exactly what this program does, but I can’t find it anywhere.  For free, open-source software, it is remarkably well hidden.  (I did find D3E though, and I am holding onto that link so I don't lose it one more time [;<).

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