A Brief History of Networked Classrooms to 2013: Effects, Cases, Pedagogy, and Implications with New Developments

A Brief History of Networked Classrooms to 2013: Effects, Cases, Pedagogy, and Implications with New Developments

Louis Abrahamson (The Better Education Foundation, Yorktown, VA, USA) and Corey Brady (Inquire Learning, Wilmette, IL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijqaete.2014070101
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Abstract

When the original work appeared (Abrahamson, 2006), it spoke of a huge burgeoning sense of excitement surrounding networked classrooms and their growing use throughout universities worldwide. Today, the picture is more complex and substantially more interesting. Driving forces, which include growing acceptance of the evolving nature of teaching and learning, high quality experiments showing what works, and a revolution in the capability, cost, and ease of use of technology itself, are changing the world of education. This is evidenced by the dramatic spread of networked classrooms: today almost every K-12 school and 1 in 6 classrooms in the USA have a system. This evolution, and the interwoven forces that have produced it, make an interesting tale. But, perhaps more significant is the future that these events portend. This paper tries to relate the past in order to look toward that future. Beginning with a brief history of early response systems, it takes up the story from the first author's own experience leading a team through hardware barriers, misconceptions about pedagogy, and subsequent classroom successes, to summarize the variety of uses of classroom networks, and how they can lead to improved teaching and learning. It then describes the struggles to evolve the technology from 1st to 2nd generation, and a subsequent nationwide randomized control trial in the teaching of Algebra, using this technology, which yielded significant gains in student learning. Finally, imbedded within the narrative, are growing revelations that show why this is such a potentially important area of study for improving education, and why more powerful types of modern systems appear imminent. (Note: This work is an updated and expanded version of an original book chapter written eight years ago (Abrahamson, 2006). The present paper is still written in the first person as a narrative, although a second author has been added. Where not specifically identified, use of the first person in the narrative still refers to the first author. The work of the second author also uses the first person, but his name is identified where his narrative appears.)
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Personal Background

It is a salutary exercise for me, because I have spent a good deal of the past thirty years working with some of the predecessors of today’s response systems as well as some more advanced networked classrooms, and have firsthand experience of the history and difficulties behind the current successes. I also believe there is an excellent case to be made that current networked classrooms represent only the first humble steps in an exciting but as yet little explored territory of pedagogical tools that have the power to transform teaching and learning in formal education.

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