Creating a lecture in which students are genuinely interested and actively involved can be a challenge, regardless of course subject or grade level. It was no different for computer science teacher Ryan Ritz and his students at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, a private, coeducational school of some 900-plus students in grades K-12.

Ritz sought a way to use advances in technology to enhance his classroom instruction and make it more interactive. With limited classroom time, he needed a solution that would incorporate lecture and problem solving, while keeping the entire class connected with each other as he presented lessons.

“I wanted the ability to give my students a problem, let them work on it, then discuss various solutions in a timely manner,” said Ritz. “Solving problems with paper and pencil just wasn’t efficient.”

Ritz first tried another program, but he and his students soon found it to be tedious and confusing. He then remembered a solution by DyKnow that he used during a summer internship in college. Recalling how much he liked the software, Ritz decided to pilot DyKnow Vision and DyKnow Monitor in his classroom in 2004.

DyKnow Vision is instructional software that fosters interactive learning, allowing students and teachers to collaborate directly with two-way communication throughout a lesson. DyKnow Vision operates on any PC but is specifically designed to take advantage of the tools built into Tablet PCs and other pen-based computers. Ritz–who now teaches with a Tablet PC while his students receive the material on desktop computers in a lab environment– has found it exceptionally useful in his Advanced Placement Computer Science course.

“The program is extremely intuitive,” said Ritz. “The software instantly transmits my handwriting, text, images, and web content to each student’s workstation, where students can annotate the material.”

For example, Ritz uses the table tool in DyKnow Vision to explain ArrayLists, which are structures in computer science used to store data in a list. With this tool, he quickly creates visual representations of an ArrayList and uses DyKnow’s different pen colors to emphasize important changes that happen to an ArrayList after a deletion, insertion, or change.

Ritz also uses DyKnow’s two-way communication to present practice problems to students. The software’s time function helps keep the lesson on track by allowing Ritz to designate a time limit for students to complete the given question. Students submit their answer back to Ritz through the DyKnow software, and he instantly reviews the students’ work. In some cases, Ritz even chooses individual answers to display to the class anonymously to generate discussion about the problem.

“Because the DyKnow software captures the notes and diagrams as they are presented, students are better able to pay attention during class,” said Ritz.

When practice problems are given, students can go back to previous panels in the program to review their notes. Ritz observed that students perform better on practice problems when using DyKnow because they have direct access to lecture notes and are aware their work might be selected for class discussion.

DyKnow also gives users the ability to deconstruct and replay class material. This function is particularly beneficial to Ritz’s students because of the many small, detailed steps necessary to solve problems, such as sorting an Array in computer science. With the replay function, students can view these complicated processes step by step.

Following the success of this pilot program, Park Tudor’s academic technology coordinator confirmed the software’s value by purchasing it for the school. Additional Park Tudor teachers were exposed to the DyKnow software through school demonstrations and workshops, where educators and administrators school-wide could see firsthand the value the software brings to classrooms.

“Students appear more interested in our lectures, they take more notes, and they are eager to share their work,” said Ritz. “Students’ notes are better organized, and they can be replayed as needed.”

Students in English teacher Diane Hamstra’s class agree. After using the product to annotate a difficult literary text to draw conclusions about it, Hamstra asked her students to complete a survey about their use of DyKnow. The students rated the technology in several areas on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being low and 5 being high. Student responses were as follows:

  • 94 percent of students rated their understanding of the class material as improved when using DyKnow rather than using pen and paper;

  • 87 percent of students found it valuable to see others’ work using DyKnow; and

  • 87 percent of students rated the effectiveness of annotating the text electronically higher than that of using pen and paper.

Hamstra was pleased to find that the results of the survey reflected her own belief in the software. She is eager to continue exploring different ways to use DyKnow in her English classes this year.

“I am truly excited about working with DyKnow more in the future,” Hamstra said. “The software multiplies the possibilities of turning our classrooms into interactive learning environments.”

Links:

Park Tudor School
http://www.parktudor.org

DyKnow
http://www.dyknow.com

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