Sunday, September 16, 2012

Education: "The Machines are Taking Over."

Computers have been used as classroom tools for many years, but now they may actually be becoming useful. This NYT magazine article describes how or ex-teacher is trying to replicate expensive tutoring that usually only wealthy kids get.

Each time her students use the computerized tutor to do their homework, the program collects data on how well they’re doing: which problems they got wrong, how many times they used the hint button. The information is automatically collated into a report, which is available to Delaney on her own computer before the next morning’s class. (Reports on individual students can be accessed by their parents.) “With ASSISTments, I know none of my students are falling through the cracks,” Delaney told me.

After completing a few warm-up problems on their school’s iPod Touches, the students turned to the front of the room, where Thienpont projected a spreadsheet of the previous night’s homework. Like stock traders going over the day’s returns, the students scanned the data, comparing their own grades with the class average and picking out the problems that gave their classmates trouble. (“If you got a question wrong, but a lot of other people got it wrong, too, you don’t feel so bad,” Tyler explained.)

It may not replace the teacher but it potentially increases the effectiveness of teaching by allowing some automated one-to-one responsiveness.


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