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Raising your hand is so passé: Pearson buys real-time student feedback and polling startup

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Pearson (s PSO) — the big kahuna of ed tech — has snapped up another startup. The company on Monday said it had purchased Learning Catalytics, a company founded at Harvard University by a trio of academics.

Like services from Top Hat Monocle, Socrative and other student response systems, Learning Catalytics turns students’ laptops, smartphones and iPads into classroom engagement tools. K-12 teachers and college professors can use Learning Catalytics to ask students questions during class and gauge their mastery of the material.

But Paul Corey, Pearson’s higher education president of science, business and technology, said a few key features distinguish Learning Catalytics: it enables teachers to ask all kinds of questions (not just multiple choice) and it gives teachers a quick graphical display of student responses.

Also, it doesn’t just turn students’ otherwise distracting devices into productive tools, it can promote more offline interaction between students. For example, if an instructor asks students to plot an equation, it can immediately determine who got it right and wrong and then pair up students based on their mastery.

“As things get more digital, how can [we] take advantage of physical proximity?” asked Corey. “This is a very powerful way to engage students effectively in the classroom.”

Earlier this year, Pearson announced a partnership with Top Hat Monocle, including a discounted subscription to Top Hat Monocle with the purchase of Pearson products. Even though the company now owns similar technology, Corey said they plan to continue its deal.

Pearson declined to share the financial details of its acquisition. But Corey said that while co-founders Gary King and Eric Mazur, both of whom are Harvard professors, will work with Pearson as consultants, co-founder Brian Lukoff will join the company full-time to continue building out Learning Catalytics.

3 Responses to “Raising your hand is so passé: Pearson buys real-time student feedback and polling startup”

  1. This sounds like a good idea to gauge where everyone collectively is in the class, but what about the human interactive piece. The generation of students that are coming through school right now are so sucked into their mobile devices that they barely look up to see what is going on in the world. I always thought it was part of the instructors/teacher’s job to know who is engaged in the class and who is not – then to call out those who are not to snap everyone back into focusing on the class. As good of a theory that it is to say these devices will now be productive tools and not distracting is absolutely niave. K-12 and college students will always be taking advantage of using these tools and in most cases will know how to use these tools BETTER than the instructor teaching the class. I’m all about the growth of technology, but our population is turning into a bunch of robots that cannot go without looking at their electronic devices every other minute…

  2. Debmalya

    Reblogged this on Debmalya Dutta's Blog and commented:
    I wanted these cool real time polling gadets in my business school. First experience a certain kind of polling device during a session at Kellogg School of management which was kind of a real time survey mechanism. Personally, I would like to see some of the European schools adopting these fancy gadgets. Makes a great classroom experience