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Using Inksurvey: A Free Web Based Tool For Open Ended Questioning To Promote Active Learning And Real Time Formative Assessment Of Tablet Pc Equipped Engineering Students

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Computer Tools for Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1552.1 - 12.1552.12



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Paper Authors


Frank Kowalski Colorado School of Mines

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Frank V. Kowalski (Ph.D., Stanford University) is a professor of physics at Colorado School of Mines. He is a strong proponent of using technology to enhance active learning and classroom communication.

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Susan Kowalski Colorado School of Mines

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Susan E. Kowalski (M.B.S., University of Colorado, Boulder) has been the project coordinator for the Colorado School of Mines Classroom Communicator Project since its inception in 2002.

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Erich Hoover Colorado School of Mines

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Erich Hoover is a student at Colorado School of Mines, pursuing degrees in engineering physics and electrical engineering. He has been programming in industry for seven years and wrote the InkSurvey software.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using InkSurvey: A Free Web-Based Tool for Open-Ended Questioning to Promote Active Learning and Real-Time Formative Assessment of Tablet PC-Equipped Engineering Students


Vast amounts of educational and psychological research support the efficacy of both active learning and frequent real-time formative assessment in improving learning. Educators are now discovering that technology can greatly assist them in these realms as they strive to improve the learning experiences they deliver. We describe InkSurvey, a web-based tool we have developed specifically to allow an instructor to pose open-ended questions to students during class. Students use Tablet PCs to respond to these questions with their own words/sentences/paragraphs entered manually via the keyboard, or with digital ink that allows handwriting, sketches, equations, graphs, derivations, etc. Confidence level can be included if desired. The instructor receives an instantaneous compilation of web-based student responses.

These open-ended questions can closely approximate the types of problems engineering students will soon face on the job; the possible formats for their responses also reflect what they will encounter in the workplace environment. The real-time formative assessment provided by this use of technology aids student metacognition and helps the instructor address misconceptions during the “teachable moments” that frequently occur when the InkSurvey tool is used.

We provide details of how instructors from any campus can incorporate the use of this InkSurvey tool into their instructional program. In cooperative learning situations, one Tablet PC can be shared within each small group of students, thus reducing hardware requirements. This tool is also useful in facilitating differentiated learning and Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) techniques.

In order to use the InkSurvey tool, Tablet PCs must have internet connectivity and have the Firefox browser installed. There is no additional software required and there is no cost to other institutions for the use of this tool.


The past three or four decades have seen unparalleled advances in our understanding of the mind and learning.1 These new theoretical insights are now guiding significant changes in the way teachers teach, at engineering institutions as well as elsewhere. Many contemporary efforts to enhance learning are based on the constructivist theory of knowledge, that one builds new knowledge and understanding based on previously learned concepts and facts, within the context of social interaction and agreement.

At this same moment in time, educators also are exploring how new technology, such as Tablet PCs, can help facilitate changes driven by these theoretical underpinnings. In particular, we are interested in using Tablet PC technology to encourage active learning (interactive engagement) and probe student understanding through frequent formative assessment. Not only are both

Kowalski, F., & Kowalski, S., & Hoover, E. (2007, June), Using Inksurvey: A Free Web Based Tool For Open Ended Questioning To Promote Active Learning And Real Time Formative Assessment Of Tablet Pc Equipped Engineering Students Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2837

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