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LectureTools: U-M tech startup featured at Las Vegas show

Rich Boys, Zach Wick and Bret Squire, with the U-M startup LectureTools, are exhibiting their interactive learning technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Jason AubreyRich Boys, Zach Wick and Bret Squire, with the U-M startup LectureTools, are exhibiting their interactive learning technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of Jason AubreyANN ARBOR, Mich.—A University of Michigan educational technology that aims to make large lecture classes feel smaller and more interactive is on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

LectureTools is a Web-based student response, note-taking and inquiry system that turns potentially distracting cell phones and laptops into learning aids (many of its components work via text messaging as well).

Visitors to the show will get a preview of the company's next platform.

"We'll give a sneak peak at the forthcoming LectureTools iPad application for students and demonstrate how instructors can use their iPad or tabletPC to present lectures wirelessly in class using LectureTools," said Perry Samson, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and the developer of LectureTools.

The developers say this will be the first "end-to-end learning platform" available for the iPad at a time when more and more universities are beginning to experiment with iPad-in-the-classroom initiatives.

The technology is one of about 25 that the National Science Foundation sponsored to participate in the Consumer Electronic Show's new Eureka Park TechZone for startups.

More than 4,000 U-M undergraduate students in close to 20 classes used LectureTools on laptops or cell phones last semester.

Through the technology, students can rate their comprehension slide by slide and the instructor can see the feedback in real time. They can ask questions that teaching assistants can answer while the lecture continues. Answered questions become anonymously visible to the entire class, and they're saved into an archive of student inquiry. Students can type notes right in the system, alongside the instructor's slides. And they can bookmark certain slides for later review.

Together, these features create a central place for students to access all of their study materials, which can help them stay organized and engaged, developers say.

A U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching study found that LectureTools uses significantly increased student engagement and attentiveness.

The research version of LectureTools, which received funding from NSF, has been available on a limited basis for the past two years. Samson and his colleagues have commercialized the technology through a U-M spinoff company also called LectureTools Inc. and based in Ann Arbor.

The company utilized resources from U-M's TechArb business incubator and worked extensively with the Venture Center at the U-M Office of Technology Transfer.

 

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