By Ben Schiller
Traditionally teachers have gauged whether students are learning by either asking them ("Do you understand, class?"), or testing them. Both methods have drawbacks. Kids who haven't understood often don't say so, for fear of looking stupid. And testing is after-the-fact: It only tells you something when class has been and gone.
Geddit is a simple, real-time system to help teachers work out who's behind (and in front), and a way for students to communicate confidentially without having to put their hand in the air.
When the lesson starts, everyone logs into a web-based tool. Then, as it goes on, students can show how much they're understanding by tapping "signal bars," or answering questions. Teachers can see immediately if they're getting through, or causing brain-ache.
Co-founder Justin Mann is a science and math teacher in Melbourne, and has been using Geddit for about four months. He says it helps him "differentiate the class" to help along those kids that need help, and push others. "I can extend some students, keep some on-track, and maybe split one group off and do more work with them."
"You're trying to build personal relationships with students all the time, and you want to tailor your teaching to their learning style," he says. "In the past, I found that was easier with some students than others. There were some students I wasn't engaging, and they would just sit back. This allows them to communicate with me in private, so I can understand better."
Students access Geddit using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Which leads to the obvious question whether it could be a distraction. Mann argues that's not the case: in fact, so far using the system has reduced "cases of students using devices inappropriately." Phones are a fact of life, he says. If you ask students to put them under the desk, they'll find a way of looking at them, or they'll be thinking about looking at them. Having them on top of the desk improves the chances they'll be used for something useful, and gives teachers more visibility, he says.
Twenty teachers and 360 students are currently using Geddit in the Melbourne area, and institutions in Finland, Russia, and Austria are trialling it. Educators can sign up for a free test lesson at the site to see if they like it. The company will eventually charge based on student users, though the founders say they want to establish it first.
They'll also look to include parents--though not as classes are in progress. "Students understand that if they give honest feedback, it's going to help their learning," Mann says. "We want to involve parents, but we don't want give real-time feedback to them. That could change how students interact with the device."
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.