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Confused in Class? A New App Can Help

Web-based app Understoodit lets students click to indicate whether they comprehend.


"If there’s something you don’t understand, just raise your hand and ask a question." Almost every teacher says that line to her class on the first day of school. But when that professor's in the middle of explaining a concept and everyone else looks like they understand, following that advice isn't as easy as it sounds. Now a new web-based app called Understoodit wants to take the fear out of learning by allowing students to anonymously communicate confusion.


The creator of Understoodit, Toronto-based software developer Liam Kaufman, used to be one of those students who didn't want to "look like an idiot by saying I was confused in front of two hundred classmate," he says. To solve the problem, he developed the app, testing it out on first-year computer classes at the University of Toronto.

To use Understoodit, a teacher simply sets up an account, then grants students access to log in through their smartphones, tablets, or laptops. As the teacher lectures, the students can click two options, "understood" or "confused." The program funnels real-time data back to the teacher's laptop, enabling her to re-explain and boost the class' comprehension. It's similar to GoSoapBox and other apps, but offers an even more streamlined experience.

Although Understoodit is being marketed to the college crowd, it'd also be useful in middle or high school classrooms, where peer pressure can make students even more reluctant to raise their hands. Of course, given that budget-crunched K-12 schools still don't have computers for every student and many still prohibit students from using their smartphones in class, most younger students won't be able to take advantage of the technology yet.

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