For years, the most frequent question asked by anyone considering a Classtalk system has been, "Can it be done without the wires?" Now at last there is a positive answer, "Yes - there is the PRS!"
But, the PRS does not only solve the problem of wires. It also drastically lowers a plethora of other barriers to trying out the pedagogy and becoming comfortable with it.
First and foremost is price. Would you believe that the cost of "wireless" is LESS than you have been used to paying for a wired system. For example, compared to Classtalk, a PRS system costs about 50% less for the same size classroom. If students do not have their own calculators and your institution has to buy them, then the PRS will save you another 10 to 20%.
The next most important benefit is simplicity. Suppose your students do not have or need their own calculators, then the complexity of a graphing calculator is an unnecessary additional burden for you - the teacher - to overcome. This is also significant for students in those critical first few classes when technological difficulties can prejudice someone's attitude to the course for an entire semester. Another barrier is "logging in". For anyone who knows Classtalk, it's trivial. But for a new teacher and a lecture hall of several hundred novice students, little things can cause headaches. On the PRS there is NO LOGIN required. Each keypad has a unique ID stored inside it, and when this is set to the student's school ID or social security number, it stays there. So - no logging in. When you come to the first question in class, just ask it, and the students answer, it's as simple as that!
Now, we did not mean to skip over or minimize the barrier of "wireless" itself. It is an incredible feeling, to just walk into a lecture hall, stick two little receivers onto the wall with velcro, and be ready to roll. After wiring more lecture halls than "Your's truly" cares to recall, I am at least one person who won't miss the three days of serious non-stop upper body exercise required to navigate under seat-rows, - reptile fashion. It's also not hard to quell the nostalgia for lying immersed in wrapping papers and empty Coke cans, with the view of table undersides pockmarked by chewing-gum wads curving gently out of sight on the horizon.
Of course, everything is not perfect - the PRS is limited. For example, questions can be multiple-choice, but that's all. No text, numeric, or algebraic. Also, no question sets - unless you step through them synchronously, one-question-at-a-time, with the whole class in lock step. And, there is no private screen for the teacher - the PRS has one screen and everything on it is public. Classtalk's elegant screens with little seat icons that change color to tell you about individual students, are sadly absent.
So, the PRS may not be for everybody, but it represents a dramatic lowering of the barriers for teachers considering interactive pedagogy, and a welcome addition to our family of interactive teaching tools.