April 26, 2010
Renee DeGross Valdes,404-413-1353
Students sending text messages in class might drive some instructors batty, but in a handful of business classes at Georgia State University, it is a way for students to ask questions and learn.
Professor David McDonald, the director of emerging technologies in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, is developing a new use for cell phone texting dubbed TQS, or Text Question System. GSU began piloting the technology in business classes on campus earlier this year.
Even though it's still a test, it's catching on.
"Think of the shy or international student who feels lost in a classroom of 200," McDonald said. "This allows them to anonymously ask questions using technology they already know and use and they get credit for doing so."
McDonald helped create this breakthrough technology with FanDriveMedia, an Atlanta company already using it on sports scoreboards and JumboTrons all over the world.
"I was in Philips Arena and that's where the light bulb went up over my head," said McDonald. "I did some research, found nothing similar, and thought, I want to bring this to campus."
Technology-shy professors also find TQS simple to use. A professor turns on his or her PowerPoint presentation on the overhead screen in class and students text their questions directly from their cell phones to a specific number.
Moments later - after going through a screening process - the questions scroll across the bottom of the presentation like a ticker in Times Square.
It can work well in team settings or at academic conferences, McDonald said.
The questions also are stored on a class website. Wiki technology allows for easy editing by any number of collaborators within that course. Professors receive "alerts" when students have responded to the site and in turn, may provide course credit toward participation grades.
"Georgia State University came to us with a problem to solve," said J.B. Vick, president of FanDriveMedia. "We believe it will be a $25 million a year business for us."
So far, the texting tool is being tested in 15 Robinson College business courses. By next fall, Georgia State hopes to roll out the technology campus-wide and possibly to other institutions. It could also work well for conferences and conventions.
McDonald said this is not new technology. It's just a new use for texting with enhanced social networking concepts.
He said he's just making better use of existing technology and creating new uses for it, such as applications for iPhones and Blackberrys. He is developing a suite of applications that could work with the FanDriveMedia's existing application.
"This is not Twitter," he said. "There are no systems like this one."