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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET


Elizabeth Prann

Atlanta, GA


Are Pencils a Thing of the Past?

October 2, 2010 - 10:50 AM | by: Elizabeth Prann

Teachers across the country are starting to turn to the latest tools to educate a generation that has been raised on technology.  In the classroom, they are incorporating electronic books, web-based tutoring and trading in pens and pencils for the latest gadgets.

Along with the required reading list, Emory University professor Tracy Morkin requires her students buy what looks like a television remote at the beginning of the semester. It’s called a “clicker.”

Morkin said it’s a great tool to get every student directly involved in the lecture.  She posts multiple-choice questions on an overhead  projector, her students then punch their answers into the device and the results are sent to Morkin’s computer.

“It’s a way to engage and activate the learning even in a large lecture setting,” Morkin said about clickers. “I love the idea of getting feedback from students in real time. They tell me what they know in that moment and I can adjust my lecture accordingly.”

Clicker technology has been around for decades but teachers are using it now more than ever.  Not only are classes sizes getting bigger but today’s students are more accustomed to using technology in the classroom.

“It’s in the moment,” she said. “Not just several weeks after an evaluation like a test or something, it happens in real time so I can know they knew it in class.”

Preetha Ram, an associate dean for pre-health and science education at Emory says technology is quickly expanding beyond the clicker.

“Clickers are fabulous,” she said. “But what about the students who want to connect with each other, outside the classroom? Those who want to connect with other students outside the campus and then those who want to connect globally?”

Her answer: OpenStudy.

Ram has partnered with faculty and students at Georgia Tech to launch a global virtual study hall called OpenStudy.  It’s part chatroom and part social network for advanced college subjects.  The website has been in the works for years, but it just went live for students this summer.  Participants can log on anywhere in the world and enter a study group of their choice — any topic from advanced calculus to organic chemistry.

“We want to connect students with other students so they can give help and get help not just within their class.  And not just within their classroom — but anywhere,” Ram said.

Phil Hill, CEO of OpenStudy, has been seeing huge growth since his website launched. Every week thousands of new members join.

“We’ve come up with a really good way to give students around the world a way to find help in real time,” he said. “We are in 129 countries at the moment we have about 5,000 students in a given month using the product. The biggest need we heard from students is: I need a way to get help quickly – outside my normal school group and I want to get it in real-time.”

Photo Gallery
Fox's Camerman hard at work getting a closer look at OpenStudy...
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  • Fox's Camerman hard at work getting a closer look at OpenStudy...
  • Clicker
  • The staff of OpenStudy...
  • OpenStudy employee hard at work...
  • OpenStudy office at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga...
  • OpenStudy employee hard at work...
  • Fox's Camerman hard at work getting a closer look at OpenStudy, again!
  • Employees and Interns at OpenStudy...
  • Idea board at OpenStudy...
  • Fox's Camerman hard at work getting a closer look at OpenStudy...
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