Feedback Learning and Teaching

I always resented the lack of feedback in both learning and teaching. As a student, it is not always easy to be sure how well you grasp the concepts of the course, and what are the expectations of your teacher. As a teacher, it is always difficult to know what expectations to have, and to evaluate the effectiveness of one's teaching. I thought about this at my swimming lesson this morning (the water is much cleaner, I can see at 12 meters now, if not at 25): applying this idea of feedback to swimming lessons rather than classroom makes sense because it is much easier to measure the speed and endurance of a learner in swimming than in mathematics, and hopefully it could be generalized later to other courses, including courses in the classroom.
Measuring and recording the speed and endurance of each student would be quite easy and cheap using a RFID tag, for instance on the bracelet holding the keys of your locker, or on your goggles or cap (no technology is evil, only the use we make of them: this seems to be a very moral use of RFID tags!), and captors at each end of the bath (students only rarely stop in the middle, but take pauses at the borders).
Recording the type of swim performed is a bit more tricky, but since students follow instructions from the teacher (and regularly forget them), having the teacher give the instructions (three lines of crawl, one of brass) via the computer solves elegantly the problem (the display could be made of just a few leds per student)
Having all this data recorded by a computer would give instant feedback to each student (e.g. how well he/she performs using one type of movement versus another one) and also a longer term estimation of his/her progress lesson after lesson, serving as an additional motivation to learn. It would also give feedback to the teacher, who can consider the distribution of all the progresses of his/her students, compare it with other teacher and reconsider his pedagogy.
The price of such a project would be quite minimal:
  • 100 RFID tags on wristbands ($180),
  • 16 waterproof RFID receivers ($1600),
  • one waterproof laptop ($5000),
  • four month of programming by a team of software engineering students for the application ($2000 through a course of the University of Chile),
  • one website for the secured personalized display of performances ($100/month).
  • Total cost: less than $10000, and the university which will develop this project would get good international publicity for it, too.
For more "sexyness", one could add a digital underwater camera ($150) in one of the lanes, in order to allow the students to compare their movement to other recorded movements: digital underwater cameras are cheap, and once a computer is introduced in the swimming pool, it might as well be used for that. How I would love to be paid to lead a team developping such a tool!
Jeremy and his planks
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