UT Classtalk System

It was in the Spring of '95, that Professor Eric Mazur from Harvard University gave a talk to our department on his teaching method referred to as "Peer Instruction". In the same semester, Professor Michael Downer of our Department was experimenting with the Peer Instruction method in his General Physics class for Physics majors. I learned about the Classtalk system from Downer and Mazur. I was convinced that the system did have the potential to enhance the teaching of various courses, especially those general physics courses in our department.

The classtalk system is a student-instructor interactive system. Through a set of network boxes, students' calculators are connected to the instructor's computer in front of the lecture hall. Our Classtalk project was started with an AT&T Grant. We conducted the first pilot program in weekly discussion sessions in the Spring of '96. By the end of '96, as a part of a lecture-hall renovation project, we completed installation of two identical systems in two physics lecture halls in the Painter Building. The two UT systems have the best seat-to-port ratio among the largest Classtalk systems now in use.

We began a full scale operation with one system in the Fall of '96 in our Engineering Physics class. Some of the benefits in using the system are the following:

It takes a team effort to put together the Classtalk system and takes persistent dedicated effort to make the system a viable instructional tool in our classroom.

In a long run, we hope that the present system will be used by more instructors in our department, and maintained by a classtalk administrator together with some minimal supervision of a professor.



C. Chiu, Department of Physics, UT-Austin, Spring 1998.