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High tech tools being developed to aid teachers

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Tracy Krous, an educator and representative for CIM Technology Solutions, tells teachers about the uses of modern technological tools in the classroom. In the hands of the educators were pulse clickers used for answering questions throughout the class.

Yesterday educators enrolled in the Summer Institute in Sunnyside learned how today's technological tools can improve classroom learning.

The Summer Institute is a week-long series of classes put on each year in Sunnyside for local educators seeking to gain additional college credits.

Providing the technology presentation yesterday was educator and CIM Technology Solutions Representative Tracy Krous. She had with her a sound system, Mobi wireless tablets and pulse clickers distributed by CIM.

Krous said she uses the tools in her third grade classroom and has found the students are more engaged in the learning process.

The sound system helps students better hear the material being presented.

"It is proven their (youngsters) brains don't fully connect with what they hear until they are 13 or older," Krous said.

Some students suffer allergies, colds or other afflictions that may further disrupt their ability to fully hear what is being taught in the classroom.

Krous said studies have shown amplified sound can improve learning considerably.

She demonstrated a sound system called front row, which is a basic sound system that connects wirelessly with a headset microphone and an additional microphone.

The headset microphone, said Krous, is beneficial because it moves with the head of its wearer.

The separate microphone, she said, is used for classroom interaction. She said it can be passed among the students to amplify student responses.

The system, said Krous, can also be connected to an iPod.

She also provided the educators at the Summer Institute the opportunity to see how pulse clickers can be utilized. Krous said the hands-on experience would better provide the teachers the ability to learn how the clickers are used by students.

There are basic models and there are more advanced models. The educators used the latter, learning how students can respond to on-the-fly questions presented during a lesson or to assessment questions prepared by the educator.

Krous demonstrated the different reports that can be shown as a result of the answers provided by those responding in the classroom via a clicker. The reports can give teachers immediate results on material students grasp and the material students may be struggling with.

The more advanced clickers being used yesterday, said Krous, have a variety of features such as answering via text and clicking the letter associated with an answer in a multiple choice question.

The teacher, she said, can set time limits for each question as a benefit to teacher-driven use of the clickers.

Students can answer a question and send that answer any number of times before the teacher ends the answer period.

Krous said the teacher also has the ability to re-correct answers provided if the educator believes the student's response was merely a mis-spelled word, for example.

She said it typically takes one day for students to learn the system. "It keeps them engaged...the ELL (English Language Learners) also feel they are contributing to the class," she said.

A third tool demonstrated by Krous was a Mobi wireless slate, or tablet.

"It's like a wireless white board," she said.

The tablet works with or without the clickers because the software packages for the two systems can communicate with one another.

Krous compared the Mobi software to Powerpoint, stating it is useful to educators because it allows them the ability to remain mobile while instructing students.

There are also numerous tools for creating lessons or teaching "on-the-fly."

Krous said the camera tool provides educators the ability to insert an image, video or audio to supplement a lesson.

In addition to the technological gadgets, Krous also demonstrated two software tools.

The first was GradeCam software, a system that allows educators to use bubble sheets for tests. A document camera can scan the bubble sheets for nearly instantaneous grading.

In turn, said Krous, the teacher will have access to reports on student progress available following the grading process.

One drawback is the exams must be multiple choice questions.

Another software product that can be useful to educators is Examview. That program, said Krous, enables educators to generate state-aligned tests for students.

"The content is set up to look much like the MSP (Measurement of Student Progress)," she said.

The software, Krous added, is a one-time purchase with free updates.

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