assisted independent learning
Nowadays, independent learning is a commonplace thing in
secondary education in Holland. In the case of mathematics
this means students will have to work their way through a
variety of mathematical problems largely on their own. For
both teacher and student it is not always easy to assess the
results. Obviously the teacher could check the work of each
individual student and discuss his findings in a personal
consultation with each of the students, but unfortunately
this type of class management is rather time consuming.
When using the “WisSter” program the role of the teacher in
the process of evaluation is largely taken over by the
personal computer. The hard disk of the pc contains
databases with names of the students, a number of
mathematical problems and questions and answers related to
the problems that have to be solved.
The questions do not deal with the final outcome of the
problems but instead scrutinize the reasoning and
calculations that are used to come to a solution of a
problem. It is therefore essential that students answer the
questions based on what they themselves have found out and
written down in their notebooks. That is also why students
can take only their notebooks to the computer and use
their notes to answer the questions. The scores are
registered in the individual database for each student.
One pc is needed for every 6-7 students. This means an
average of 4 computers in every classroom to cater for the
needs of the average group of 28 students involved in
computer assisted independent learning. Screens face away
from the group, so that those on the computer can work
without being disturbed by the rest of the group who can
carry on with other work until their time has come for a
computer session. Our school now has a Citrix network
allowing the “WisSter” program to be installed on the
central server so that it can be used in all classrooms.
Consequently “WisSter” is now used by a number of colleagues
at different locations in the school. An additional
advantage of the Citrix system is that it does not produce
any ‘disturbing’ sounds such as those produced by cooling
fans of processors in stand alone computers. Though a Citrix
environment is advantageous, “WisSter” can also be used on
stand alone computers. It operates under Windows
95/98/2000/NT/ME and XP. Several years of testing have
already taken place using this type of configuration.
As soon as a student has finished a paragraph he/she takes
the work to the computer using a personal code to enter the
test module of the paragraph involved. Calculations, if any,
can be carried out using the on screen calculator. The test
consists of a (small) number of questions (say three) which
have to be answered within a limited amount of time (say 4
minutes). Students pass the test as soon as all questions
have been answered correctly. The computer then registers
this by putting an asterisk behind the test involved. In
case of failure students are allowed to do the test again
after all other students have taken their tests. Students
take turns using the computer. Once all paragraphs of a
chapter have been dealt with it is no longer possible to do
The outcome of the test is closely related to the quality of
what is written in the notebooks. This way, students are
encouraged to be accurate, logical and complete in their
It is obvious that students can talk about what went right
or wrong once they rejoin the rest of the group. This a
useful activity considering the number of questions in the
database is limited so that the chances are that one or more
questions may reoccur. Especially, since the scores in the
tests lead to a mark the “WisSter” program enhances
discussion of alternatives among the students thus
stimulating independent learning.
The teacher can use “WisSter” to evaluate the achievements
of both individuals and the group as a whole. As a result he
will be able to save time that can be used for either
personal tuition, geared to the needs of individual
students, or for further classroom discussion if a problem
turns out to be a group problem. Databases can be adapted so
that special attention can be given to certain topics that
require extra attention.
Students can only see the working screen of “WisSter”.
Teachers can access a number of options that are available
in the program. The teacher can set things such as subject,
number of questions, time allowed (allotting more time for
instance to dyslectic students) etc. There are ample
facilities to enter student data, access codes and databases
with questions, answers and drawings. A log is available to
the teacher containing entries made by the students. The
latter is also the basis for the statistical possibilities
referred to above.
The following four aspects make the “WisSter” program
The program is not used incidentally but continuously in
coaching the individual learning process.
The computer actually takes over an essential part of the
Only a limited amount of equipment is required to allow a
complete group to work with the program.
“WisSter” clearly has a positive effect on student attitude
with regard to classroom work.
The “WisSter” program was designed by undersigned.
The on-screen language is Dutch and has been adapted to
either “HAVO” or “VWO” level. However, with some minor
changes the program can also be used in other languages, at
different levels and even for subjects, other than
4611DH Bergen op Zoom
0031 164 241601
RSG “’t Rijks”
Burgemeester Stulemeijerlaan 24
4611EG Bergen op Zoom
0031 164 242150