May 072012

Stellenbosh University is an associate member of a very exciting global initiative supported by HP as well as ISTE and the New Media Consortium. The aim of the initiative is to advance the teaching of STEM+ disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) through the use of innovations in technology.

Here is how the HP Catalyst Initiative (, as it is called, describes the project:

Innovating approaches to STEM

Education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is key to social innovation and economic opportunity. This is true for students who become STEM professionals, and for all students who graduate in the 21st century. But literacy in STEM subjects is lagging, and skilled STEM students are in short supply. HP launched the Catalyst Initiative to get to the root causes of the challenge, and to explore the future of STEM education. With the HP Catalyst Initiative, we’re establishing a network of leading educators, education institutions, and key stakeholders in selected countries to explore innovative approaches to STEM education. By combining technology with expertise, we can empower great teaching and create transformational learning experiences for students.

There are a host of very interesting projects around STEM that lecturers might find very interesting (and maybe even link up with), from real-time in-class formative assessment through tablets (InkSurvey – ) to virtual specialised remote chemistry laboroatories and using Google Docs Spreadheets for capturing live experiment data.

To view video posters of the 57+ projects please visit:

Find more information (and to link up) on the initiative’s Facebook page:  and by following the Twitter hashtag #hpcatalyst

Other interesting software related to the innitiative:

  • (web-based educational platform that promotes opportunities for social learning – Ananda Gunawardena, Carnegie Mellon University).
  • InkSurvey (A classroom tool for real-time formative assessment – Frank & Susan Kowalski, Colorado School of Mines).
  • Google docs spreadsheets for realtime and collaborative input and analysis of laboratory data (Norm Herr, California State University).
  • OpenSim: free software to create SecondLife like worlds.
  • (use un: measure5 and pw: measure5): online system to create, distill and assess creativity and critical thinking.
  • Classroom presenter ( ): Free software for tablets for annotation as well as remote desktop sharing (i.e a teacher can see all the students desktops’ remotely, and can share presentations wit ha class – great for smaller classrooms where students have tablets).

 Keywords: STEM Science Technology Engineering Maths HP Catalyst formative assessement InkSurvey Classroom Salon

Jan 172012

Towards learning centred use of technology

Clickers or audience response systems are gaining popularity around the world with even the New York Times reporting on the educational potential of this in-class educational technology*.  In South Africa there seems to be a renewed interest in the tehnology’s affordances with a few universities piloting different systems at the start of 2011. At Stellenbosch University (SU) the interest in clickers multiplied at the end of 2010 with a number of educational research projects asking for funding for clickers and some deans enquiring about the possibilities of using clickers to engage, assess and track students. The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) engaged with these lecturers and deans and together with our Information Technology department, formalised a project around the development of a system for e-Clickers, called Maties Mobile Connect. The idea is to plan for the future use of clickers at Maties, a future we feel is definitely cellphone/ multi-device based (as opposed to physical audience response units), and rooted in solid teaching and learning principals**.

The system has been piloted in the second half of 2011 and is now ready for use inside (and outside!) SU classrooms.

* Steinberg, J. 2010. More professors give out hand-held devices to monitor students and engage them. The New York Times, Nov 15, 2010. Online: (Accessed 15 April 2011).
** Beatty, I.D (et al) 2006. Designing effective questions for classroom response system teaching. Am. J. Phys. 74 (1), 31-39.

To start using the system or for more information, please contact JP Bosman (SOL – or Marinda van Rooyen (IT –

YouTube Video on the process of Maties Mobile Connect

View a special training site with videos and other material on the Maties Mobile Connect site:

Poster on the system

 Click here to view a poster (PDF) of the Maties Mobile Connect system as presented by JP Bosman and Marinda van Rooyen at Heltasa 2011 in Port Elizabeth.


Other resources

Steinberg, J. 2010. More professors give out hand-held devices to monitor students and engage them. The New York Times, Nov 15, 2010. Online: (Accessed 15 April 2011).
Beatty, I., 2005. Transforming student learning with classroom communication systems. Arxiv preprint physics/0508129.
Beatty, I. et al., 2006. Designing effective questions for classroom response system teaching. American Journal of Physics, 74, p.31.
Briggs, C. & Keyek-Franssen, D., 2010. Clickers and CATs: Using Learner Response Systems for Formative Assessments in the Classroom. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 33, pp.1-11.
Caldwell, J., 2007. Clickers in the large classroom: current research and best-practice tips. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 6, pp.9-20.
Educause “7 Things you should know about clickers” Available online:
Lasry, N., 2008. Clickers or flashcards: Is there really a difference? The Physics Teacher, 46, p.242.
Martyn, M., 2007. Clickers in the classroom: An active learning approach. Educause Quarterly, 30, p.71.
Murray, S., Ma, X. & Mazur, J., 2009. Effects of peer coaching on teachers’ collaborative interactions and students’ mathematics achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 102, pp.203-212.
Wieman, C. et al., 2008. Clicker Resource Guide: An Instructors Guide to the Effective Use of Personal Response Systems (Clickers) in Teaching. Vancouver, BC, Canada: University of British Columbia.

Other web-based mobile systems

iClicker: – “i>clicker’s mission is to create reliable, intuitive response solutions that focus on formative assessment and pedagogy.”
Top Hat Monocle:  – “A classroom interaction and online homework tool”
Socrative: –  “Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.”
Poll Everywhere: – “The fastest way to create stylish real-time experiences for events using mobile devices”


Keywords: mobile, m-learning, clicker, maties mobile connect, technology, e-learning, audience response systems