Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Tracking Each Click of a Pupil's Mouse

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Tracking Each Click of a Pupil's Mouse

Article excerpt

Makers claim software allows truly personalised learning

Imagine being able to follow and interpret every one of your students' computer keystrokes, every mouse click and every hesitation, even when you are not in the same room. This may sound as if it is straight out of the mind of George Orwell, but it is in fact the latest technology due to be launched in British and European classrooms.

The system, already widely used in the US, is designed to give teachers an insight into the understanding and performance of their pupils. It was developed for use in higher education but quickly became popular in the public school system, with millions of students now using the technology.

They log in to the system and carry out their work as normal; meanwhile, the program monitors their every action. It sends detailed feedback to teachers about which questions individual students struggled with, and whether they hesitated to answer or made multiple attempts.

The technology has been hailed by its creator, Knewton, as the start of truly personalised learning, changing the face of "one size fits all" education and helping to tailor teaching to students' individual needs. To others, however, it is akin to Big Brother, prying ever further into pupils' behaviour, adding to teachers' workloads and promoting the notion that students should be constantly monitored.

But Charlie Harrington, who heads up Knewton's London office, dismissed the concerns, stating that the technology was a textbook that "learns how students tick".

"We want to interpret every bit of data that we can obtain," Mr Harrington said. "In some cases these are simple multiple-choice questions. But what's really interesting is when we start talking about interactive simulations - and increasingly publishers are making game-based simulation content - where we're tracking every keystroke, or every place they click. …

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