Last changed 24 Aug 2001 ............... Length about 900 words (6000 bytes).
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Draft letter to THES on interactive lectures

Possible titles:
Ask the audience
Anti-Passivity lecture technology
Anti-Passivity technology
Who wants to defeat lecture passivity?
The 64,000 answer question

[An edited version of this draft appeared on the Times Higher Education Supplement letters page, 24 Aug 2001, p.15]

Agony aunt Kate Exley offered advice for combatting passivity in large first-year lectures (THES 6 July 2001, p.28). There is a technology that we believe can help scaffold, and so make much smoother, just the steps that she highlights. It is possible to buy equipment functionally similar to that in the TV show "Who wants to be a millionaire?" that allows all students in an audience to register their own response to a question privately, and for the aggregated results to be immediately displayed. This allows the implementation of Kate Exley's tactic of getting students to answer questions, while addressing the issues she alludes to: the problem of privacy (that otherwise inhibits most from answering), of giving everyone the mental exercise of answering instead of only one out of the group, and yet of building a sense of (learning) community by the shared display of the range of responses.

Used in Hong Kong and the USA, its introduction to the UK has been pioneered by Prof. Jim Boyle of Strathclyde University where it is regularly used in first year classes of about 100. Glasgow University has now invested in it, and Quintin Cutts plans to use it in classes of 300 from October, while others will explore its use in a variety of other classes. For more on why we believe it is useful see

Steve Draper, University of Glasgow

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