NECC: Intel - Best of Show Published 2008-07-02 under , ,

iste My pick for "Best of the Show" - Intel's FREE thinking tools.

Exhibit halls at conferences don't usually excite me. They are noisy, crowded, and with every vendor designing their booth to capture your attention, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Despite my feelings (and my better judgment) I venture into the hall every conference and usually leave with very little. This was the case yesterday at NECC. I did have a nice conversation with the folks at Adobe, met a friend of a friend at TI and was amused by the varied and creative methods being employed to grab ones attention. But, as usual, when I turned to leave, I had nothing to show for my time. Or, that as until I happened by the Intel booth on the way out.

Why would I stop at the Intel booth? Don't get me wrong - I like Intel and their products. I just have never looked to Intel for educational tools or resources. Well, that has now changed. I am so excited about Intel's Education Initiative and their tools for K-12 teachers.

The tools are divided into two categories - "Thinking Tools" and "Productivity Tools". Right there, you got to get excited by the title "Thinking Tools". Within this first category, there are three tools: "Visual Ranking Tool", "Seeing Reason Tool", and "Showing Evidence Tool". Again, just from the names, you can get a feel for how these tools might be used for challenging your students with higher learning skills.

The Visual Ranking Tool is the one that Vanessa (an educator from Austin in the day, Intel Education Leader at night) demonstrated for me and the tool that got me so excited. The tool is quite simple. Teachers setup a list of items and students (working in teams or individually) rank order the items based on some criteria. For example, you could list factors/events leading to WWII and have your students rank order them in terms of their relative importance in causing the war. You could list various reasons why an author killed off a character in a book the class is reading then have your students rank order them based on their plausibility. The tool need not be limited to open-ended type questions. The Ranking Tool could be used to put things in chronological order. In Mathematics, students could be asked to put the steps necessary to solve a problem in their correct order testing their understanding of the concepts and terminology rather than just whether they can perform the math.

Simple ranking is of no use unless students are required to backup their decisions with some rational. The tool provides a place for students to justify their rankings and then when they are done, they can see how other teams/students ranked the items. This gives the kids a chance to reflect on their ranking and discuss if they should make any changes. It also provides for a good class discussion as students defend their ranking.

The Visual Ranking Tools alone is a powerful learning tool. And the other tools provided compliment and even extend its ability to get students thinking at a higher level. With all of the fancy tools and technology offered for educators, these relatively simple tools are my pick for the best of the show. They give quality educators the power to get their students thinking!

Tech Tags: