Remote gizmo turns the boys on to learning

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
Men hogging the remote control has long been the trigger for many a domestic row. But now the technology is being used to switch boys on to lessons in the classroom.

A new hand-held gadget, similar to a TV remote, is becoming the latest must-have teaching aid in parts of Wales. Fans say the curriculum software, called Qwizdom, is captivating to use for pupils of both sexes - but especially popular with boys.

As well as providing pre-planned lessons and material, it is a tool for assessing how well pupils are doing without embarrassing them individually.

Pupils are encouraged to answer quick-fire questions by pressing an alphabetical option on their individual hand-held remote - much like the ITV quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. However, only the teacher is aware of the final result and which pupils came bottom of the class.

One male deputy headteacher said: "Qwizdom is going to be big. I suppose the success with boys is down to the fact that we do tend to like our toys."

The system is also flexible enough to include simple yes-and-no questions, as well as multiple choice in both English and Welsh.

Primaries are also finding it a good way to complete mental arithmetic and spelling tests in a game-like way.

And it fits in with the "assessment for learning" agenda by moving away from the traditional testing of children under exam-like conditions.

Teachers are free to roam the classroom while testing, and they receive a graph showing the best answered questions, and by whom, afterwards.

Andrew Smith, IT co-ordinator at Llangewydd junior school in Bridgend, said: "Boys always get a bad press, unfairly I think. But Qwizdom is a real way of drawing them into lessons and holding on to their concentration," he said.

"Boys love the quick-fire way of answering questions, but it is also popular with the girls."

Teachers often use the system as a sweetener, promising pupils a quick quiz at the end of lessons. However, there is a drawback - the cost. A system with 32 individual remote controls costs around pound;2,500, the lion's share of most primary schools' IT budgets.

Huw Jones-Williams, head at Fitzalan high school, Cardiff, said: "We chose Qwizdom not only for the hardware and software but also for training, support and technical back up."

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