Promethean, a company which pioneered pupil response units – handheld devices that give teachers instant feedback for classroom work and assessment – is extending its expertise into the world of apps and mobile devices.
At the BETT Middle East education event in Abu Dhabi it showed its first mobile classroom app, ActivEngage Mobile. This pupil-response software works with a wide range of mobile devices, phones and learning pads, including Android and Apple iOS devices – Promethean iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad.
ActivEngage Mobile, available from the Apple’s App Store (so far only in the US) and the Android Market, enables the use of other popular devices, like the iPod Touch, alongside Promethean’s own ActivExpression devices in the same lesson. (Promethean will be show the technology in in the UK January at BETT 2012 at Olympia, London.)
ActivEngage has been available to schools for some time for the Windows and Mac platforms. Now schools that already have iOS and/or Android devices can tap into Promethean’s assessment software without the need for the extra expense for additional hardware.
It brings the range of interaction for learning and teaching that has already been developed for its own hardware into the reach of other popular devices. Hannan Elhady, a former teacher who is now a teaching and learning consultant with Promethean, said that it was a good reason for schools to start using technologies they might formerly have tried to exclude, for example mobile phones (see video left, and more at bottom of page).
Demonstrating the device at BETT Middle East, where the show’s wireless network had broken down, she simply switched the demonstration to the lounge of a neighbouring hotel where wireless was available. Within minutes she had set up two laptops, one Windows the other a MacBook, via a secure Promethean router, with the host ActiveEngage software, and then used a clutch of iPod Touches and iPhones with an iPad for a sample question-and-answer session. The devices worked perfectly together.
It was simple and effective and she demonstrated how, as a teacher, she could understand exactly what her students had grasped (or not) and, as a consequence, personalise their learning. She also showed how data could be exported from the pupil responses into other software, Excel for example, to build up a bigger picture over time.
The software is also compatible with Promethean’s enterprise-level cloud assessment service, ActiveProgress which brings into play assessment on a much more ambitious scale.
The move to apps is a canny manoeuvre by Promethean. Rather than compete with rival systems being created on other platforms, the company has decided to take an inclusive approach and work with most of the technologies on offer to schools. This extends the opportunities for its existing customers while appealing to non-customers using other systems.
Promethean refers to the emerging service as its new “virtual learner response system”. The company hopes that by offering an integrated approach it can “streamline instruction while boosting engagement and creating opportunities to build important 21st century skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking”.
The software brings the full range of assessment questions
“I am very excited about this development as it is just the beginning of our strategy to develop more applications to support classroom needs,” said Iwan Streichenberger. who is in charge of learner response and assessment systems for Promethean. “For years, businesses have successfully leveraged advancements in technology to increase productivity while reducing IT support cost. With the introduction of our first mobile app, we are empowering educators with a solution to create an integrated learning environment that will leverage these powerful devices. ActivEngage Mobile will also help increase teacher productivity in administering assessments for learning to increase student achievement.”
ActivEngage Mobile brings to Android and Apple iOS users the range of feedback responses it has already developed for its own technologies. The assessment question types include: multiple choice, true or false, Likert (selection from a range of pre-determined, graded answers), sort in order, text response and numeric. The advanced options, like question levelling, make possible progressive assessment activities which can challenge students and help teachers to identify and deal with gaps in their learning.
The results are of activities are immediately tabulated, which saves time and gives teachers enough information to handle their students’ needs there and then. Promethean is confident that this can deliver bringing the immediate, data-driven decision-making increasingly favoured by educators – and now by politicians too.
Promethean’s ActivEngage software can work on Windows and Apple systems simultaneously, on any laptop, desktop or networked wireless device. ActivEngage Mobile extends these functions to Apple iOS and Android devices.
The learner (client) app can be downloaded free of charge from Apple’s App Store or the Android marketplace. Information about the server application, which runs on the classroom computer, can be found on the Promethean Planet website. Promethean prices ActivEngage on a "per classroom" basis, between £527 and £599 per classroom based on volume for a perpetual software license.
See also news about the new, 'qwerty' handsets for Promethean's ActivExpression2 - "New Promethean handsets for 'self-paced learning' and the BBC's "UK tech show moves to Abu Dhabi"