More questions, quicker answers

The promise of technology is often touted as part of the formula to improve public education in New Orleans. But this doesn’t necessarily mean more computer labs and laptops. Recently, officials at McDonogh 35, a public high school in the 7th Ward, invited parents and others to see how a new technology system has been woven into the fabric of the school day.

With this system, called Qwizdom, students use wireless keypads to submit answers to questions from teachers from their desks. Answers are instantly relayed to teachers’ computers, and they can be displayed on blackboard-sized screens for classroom discussion. 

“It’s very different from when we were kids when we hoped, hoped, hoped that the teacher would call on us for the answer, or we hoped, hoped, hoped that they wouldn’t call on us when we didn’t know,” says Peggy Abadie, technology director for the New Orleans Public School District.

Instead, every student answers every question. A teacher can look at the range of answers and then call on specific students to defend or challenge the responses of their peers.

 “Every student is deeply, intimately involved with the questions they’re discussing,” Abadie says. 

The Qwizdom system is now in use in all McDonogh 35 classrooms, customized for each subject. Teachers say these high-tech classrooms are changing the way their students interact with them and with each other.

“It gives students instant feedback; they don’t have to wait until tomorrow when I can grade their tests,” says math teacher Menard Baptiste, who led his students through a demonstration of Qwizdom for visitors.

Using their keypads, students answered questions on the classroom screen, often racing each other to enter their responses first. The students’ names flashed on the screen when they answered correctly, sometimes eliciting cheers or good-natured groans. 

“It keeps everyone in the classroom on pace,” says Fred Henderson, the school’s lead technology teacher. “The teacher can see immediate data and use that data in the classroom right then and there. Are the students missing something? You can see that and re-teach it. The students don’t have to wait for (the teacher) to sit down and grade them and then go back to what they missed. You hear about how we’re supposed to be data driven these days. Well, this really does give us data we can use right away in the classroom.”


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