Classroom tools

Wade Brainerd wadetb at
Mon Jan 14 12:37:15 EST 2008

My mother-in-law is an 8th grade teacher in Nobleboro, ME.  Maine has had an
Apple laptop program for the past few years in which all 8th graders receive
personal iBooks that they can take home with them.

She has a feature where she can silently watch a single student's screen at
a time via a VNC connection (a simplified Apple Remote Desktop). She uses it
when kids look distracted, and simply calls across the room to ask them if
what they're doing is "appropriate" after checking out their screen.  Plus,
the child's knowledge that they *can* be watched at any time is generally
enough to prevent them from doing anything really bad during class time.

A secure remote screenshot utility should be considered essential for
teachers to maintain control of their classrooms (IMO).  A "TV wall" view
showing a number of kids screens would be even better.  I'm not sure if
remote control is needed, as this would be a much greater security risk.

I'm not an educator, but I think the idea of a room full of kids looking
down at their screens waiting to be "called on" virtually seems a little
strange when you can just look up and talk.  Perhaps if you guys are
thinking about much larger classrooms and/or remote education it would be
worthwhile, but these things can be accomplished through chat as well.  The
question / answer idea does seem useful though, perhaps a Pop Quiz activity
where the teacher's instance shows a different interface from the student.

BTW, if you haven't already, I think it's absolutely worth studying these
existing US programs to determine how a classroom is run with this kind of
technology present before designing systems around usage patterns.  If you
would like to talk with her (or other teachers) I'd be happy to try and set
something up!

Best regards,


2008/1/14 Jameson Chema Quinn <jquinn at>:

> The idea of activity sharing supports several important forms of classroom
> interaction, and can be stretched to accommodate many more. However the
> focus on constructionism means there's a lack of support for teacher-centric
> interactions, even ones which are useful in constructionist learning. Raising
> hands
> The fundamental model that's missing is the idea of questions or
> assignments, posed by the teacher and answered separately by each student or
> team of students. It is possible to accomplish this 'manually', but the
> technical shuffling makes it impractical to do so in a real-time, classroom
> situation, especially if it is desirable to keep data for later.
> For instance, I as a teacher want to be able to pose a question and have
> each student individually type a response. I could see, and record for
> later, who responded what and who didn't respond. After giving a brief
> interval, I could 'call on' a student either by my choice or randomly, and
> continue the discussion based on their answer. There are several obvious
> variations on this pattern - for instance, instead of typing a complete
> answer they could just indicate whether they have an answer, ie, 'raise
> their hands'; teams could present shared answers; etc. The software would
> help the teacher to keep track of each student's participation and to 'call
> on' students in a systematic manner.
> This type of interaction is so fundamental that it would be great to have
> it available independent of the currently shared activity. The obvious place
> to put it, therefore, would be in the bulletin board. This means the
> bulletin board would have to have some support for active logic. There are 3
> ways to do this that I can see: somehow using AJAX for the bulletin board
> (advantages: highly flexible, tools exist; disadvantages: memory and
> processor hog, needs some server technology on the teacher's side);
> hard-coding this one case into the bulletin board (advantage: can be
> optimized better; disadvantage: inflexible); or somehow making a plugin
> system for the bulletin board (advantage: flexible; disadvantage: security
> issues, the world doesn't need yet another plugin architecture)
> (One disadvantage of using the bulletin board is that it could perpetuate
> the UI chasm between on-line and off-line communication. In-class questions
> are no more then small versions of out-of-class assignments, and the
> interface should be as similar as possible. But that is a bigger problem,
> one which permeates the XO, and deserves a separate discussion.)
> Homnq <> 08:12, 14 January 2008 (EST)
> [edit<>
> ] Classroom management
> Motivation and interest are the best ways to achieve engagement, but
> social pressure and good examples are also a part of the picture, and these
> are impossible without transparency. If there is no easy way for teachers
> (or, for that matter, other students) to tell the difference between a
> student who is working on the laptop, and one who is playing DOOM, bad
> things happen.
> Intel/Microsoft's "Classmate" competitor is rumored to have tools for the
> teacher to freeze or take over the student's laptop, "to guide them through
> the interface". Regardless of whether this is a desirable relationship, it
> would be hard to accomplish within the security model and memory constraints
> of the XO.
> However, it would be good to have tools for all members of a shared
> activity to see the current state and recent history of all other current
> members. This protects privacy (after all, you can just quit the shared
> activity for privacy) while creating transparency. For it to be useful, it
> has to be simple and fast. Useful things to see are which activities have
> been used, and whether out-of-band communication has happened, over the last
> minute.
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