I’m pretty well finished with educational conference exhibit halls.

In a short stroll through the relatively small area here at this conference I counted six different student response systems (“clickers”) with demos running variations on classroom game shows.

Now I know someone will be able to point me to a teacher who is doing fantastic things with these devices. However, this is like many other edtech devices.

The great teacher can do magic with just about anything but, other than providing a relatively fleeting flash of “motivation” for students, where is the value in this new gimmick for the average educator?

Like the interactive boards, I haven’t completely dismissed clickers as a classroom tool. I’m waiting to be shown how this particular technology is more than just a motivational treat.

Besides, the most innovative instructional products are not coming from the edtech vendors anymore (if they ever did).

I sat in on a session this morning where the presenters were showing off Google SketchUp and I can see tremendous potential in this program for teaching kids about a variety of complex concepts.

Even elementary age kids could pick up on the basic tools and produce some imaginative stuff in a very short time.

Then there’s Scratch from the MIT Media Lab which teaches students basic logic and programming skills while they build interactive multimedia applications.

I was introduced to Scratch when I got to visit the Media Lab last summer and the free program has finally been released for anyone to download.

Now, I know that neither of these applications fit into our current curriculum. They don’t teach any subject that appears on the standardized tests.

However, that’s the point. These activities encourage students to think in different ways, to experiment with tools, to combine different bits of knowledge to solve problems, to collaborate with others on projects.

In other words to work with concepts and ideas they will need the rest of their lives.

In the long run, that will be far more motivating than an interactive multiple choice game show.

vste07, clickers, sketchup, scratch