A Reader Writes . . .

Frequent Bok Blog contributor and PhD candidate in Music Matthew Mugmon recently pointed me to a new technology, meant to facilitate classroom discussion.

GoSoapBox is a customizable response tool that teachers can use to solicit real-time information from students – who no longer have to raise their hands. The idea is that students will feel less self-conscious in the anonymity of a private, digital space; the website boasts the elimination of “participation barriers” and advertises that teachers can finally “hear questions and opinions that aren’t being voiced.” If students are confused, they can indicate as much using GoSoapBox, sparing them the embarrassment of admitting their insecurities to their classmates.

There are certainly many pros and cons to using such a tool. It may be most useful in a lecture environment, where students normally don’t have a chance to speak up. At the same time, knowing about student confusion or acknowledging student questions mid-lecture might slow the pace of a course or derail the purpose of the lecture. In section, where students are supposed to speak up, GoSoapBox might lower the participation barrier – or create an excuse for students to avoid articulating (and therefore practicing/performing) their ideas and knowledge.

What do you think? Used in conjunction with more traditional in-class assessments and Socratic Q&A, does a tool like GoSoapBox have a place in the 21st-century classroom? Or is it merely one more technological distraction, a crutch for an exasperated instructor, a means of outsourcing the responsibilities of the teacher?

(For one positive review of GoSoapBox, read this Edutopia post.)

One thought on “A Reader Writes . . .

  1. Thanks for posting about this. I could see this being useful during lectures — especially the polling feature. But unless I’m misunderstanding this technology, I think the key would be to tightly control the kinds of questions and activities the students are doing during class, and when during class they do them. Otherwise, they might be spending so much time typing questions and clicking buttons about whether they “get it” that their brains aren’t actually fully “engaged” in the lesson. Unless you can turn a lecture completely into a completely interactive venue (which is maybe what this will help us do), I would love to gradually work something like this into my classes, but focusing mainly on before- and after-class polls and stuff.

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