MimioVote sounds like a school kid's worst nightmare: a gadget that lets teachers give and grade quizzes on the fly -- no paper or real planning required.
But assuming, for a moment, that this thing doesn't fall into the hands of a particularly sadistic instructor, MimioVote is actually an ingenious way to keep up with the outsized demands placed on both students and teachers at a time when budgets are slashed to the bone and standardized testing reigns supreme.
The MimioVote provides instant results on students? progress, working like a cross between a Scantron and a gradebook. Teachers give a quiz, either orally or on paper, and students use Gameboy-like voting boxes to plug in their answers. The answers are then dispatched directly to the teacher, cutting back on the time he has to spend scoring tests and entering grades.
Perhaps more importantly, it means that the instructor can measure in real time how deftly the class grasps the material. As Manny Perez, chief engineer of DYMO/Mimio Interactive Teaching Technologies, tells it: "Let's say you go over some math problem or history of Abe Lincoln. You get instant feedback. So if only 50 percent of your class got something right, why move forward?" It also helps the teacher laser in on learning gaps of individual students. If 31 kids get the quadratic equation, and two don't, Joe Professor knows it immediately and can use the remainder of the class to tutor those who are struggling.
MimioVote isn't the only electronic polling tool out there, but its design, which won a Red Dot as part of the larger MimioClassroom suite, makes it unique. An ultra-basic interface is designed so that any and all students -- and even their Luddite teachers -- can figure out how to use it. It's got big, colorful buttons for multiple-choice answers and separate true/ false buttons indicated by a check mark and an "X" (instead of a 'T' and an "F," which could easily be confused for an extension of the multiple-choice set). Rounded, rubberized edges make the gadget fit comfortably in your hand, like a cell phone or a video game console. 'When we gave it out in one class, the kids said it was like Nintendo,' Perez says. "They couldn't wait to be quizzed." Wait... really!?
Obviously, MimioVote measures a fairly narrow type of knowledge: that which can be reduced to yes or no and multiple-choice answers. It will not, for instance, assess whether students can write a five-paragraph essay or conjugate "etre" in the future perfect. But the fact remains that a huge chunk of today's education rests on standardized testing, and MimioVote simply streamlines the examination process, ostensibly freeing teachers to spend more time on the nuanced coursework. And while the product isn't cheap -- $1,699 buys you 24 units and $1,899 buys you 32 units -- it stands to reason that the hours saved on logging grades and planning lessons is nothing short of priceless.