A bunch of teenagers listen attentively to a speaker.
After a while, a question flashes on the projector and they quickly punch in their answers.
They are participants in a quiz contest, of a different kind. These teenagers are students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IITB). The buzzer round is a quick quiz on the topic that has just been taught.
Starting in November, a batch of 830 computer science students will have a device wrapped around their hands — similar to that used to poll the public in Kaun Banega Crorepati.
Called a ‘clicker’, the device, which looks like a remote control, has been developed at a very low cost by IITB Professor Deepak Phatak.
The idea is to get immediate feedback on whether students are attentive and have been able to absorb what has been taught.
“We get to know whether or not a student has understood what is taught only after results are declared. In between mid-semester and end-semester exams, this is a good way of assessing them,” said Subrao Nilekani chair professor, department of computer science and engineering.
“If majority of students have incorrect answers, I can go back to explaining the lesson again. Even if a small group of students have difficulties, they can be given extra coaching,” he added.
At the end of every 20 minutes, there will be a quiz based on what has been taught. The questions are conceptual and students have only 20 seconds to lock the correct multiple-choice answer. Every correct answer carries one mark, which will be added in their final grades.
The test doesn’t end here. Students will get two minutes to discuss and convince their neighbours of their answers. This is followed by another vote after 45 seconds and a final closure by going through choices.
With the responses stored on a server, teacher can see the answers both in real time as well as for later viewing.
While the clicker is being used across schools, colleges and universities abroad, the device if imported will cost about Rs 2,500. The Indian clicker, however, will be available for Rs 600. Also, the technology will be freely available for replication and to manufacture on a large scale.
“I hope some Indian industry manufactures them and sells it abroad for US $20 when they are selling the same device for US $ 35,” said Phatak.
Some professors see the clicker as enhancing learning.
“Using this tool builds scientific discussion. It increases interactivity, engages students actively and also faculty to share ideas,” said Professor Sahana Murthy who used the technology while teaching physics at Rutgers University, New Jersey and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But other educationists worry about students being marked. “If there is a cost to making a mistake, then the process is not stress-free. Students won’t be able to think freely,” said K Subramaniam, science educationist, Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education.