When it comes to technology in the classroom, the thing I think the most about is student response systems. This may be because in my childhood classrooms, we had those giant, clunky student response remote systems. Don’t get me wrong, I loved when I walked into my classroom and the teacher had those out! Looking back, however, I see some of the flaws with them as well as flaws with our current student response systems. The “old-school” clickers have a bad rap for not fostering higher-level thinking as well as teachers misusing them for “formative assessments”. Modern day response systems such as Socrative and Plickers are having the same cons said about them.
Formative assessment is a PROCESS not an end-all to instruction. In my experience, my teachers would give us a quiz using the clunky clickers and that would be the end of it. Never do I remember my teacher using those responses to better our understanding or change instruction. It seemed as though they used them because they had to but they did not know how to use the information gathered to better their students. In formative assessments, we should be using the information gathered to determine if our current route is working or if we need to backtrack and find another way to visit the information. It is a means of REASSESSING our teaching, not ASSESSING our students’ knowledge alone. With that said, let’s explore how current technology is used.
Socrative is an assessment tool that I personally love to use in my classroom. If you are unfamiliar with this app, please view the video below for an overview. Basically, teachers can create assessments and student responses are “graded” and reported on the teacher dashboard. This is absolutely wonderful if used correctly. Here’s what I mean:
- Formative assessment – the way I use this in my classroom is for my weekly quizzes. Yes, every Friday my students take a short 5-10 question quiz over the standard(s) we have covered that week. It only takes about 20 minutes of class time to accomplish this. After all my students have taken the quiz, I look at the results and determine who has mastered the standard and who needs more practice or reteaching. I then assign those students who need intervention to my intervention group until they master that standard. We do move on in class if the majority of students showed mastery. If not, the class as a whole revisits the lesson in a new way and with more practice. This cycle continues until the majority show they know it and we move on while the few who still need help come to me for interventions.
- Higher Level Thinking – I will be the first to admit multiple choice assessments are much easier and convenient to grade. They do not, however, show me that my students can manipulate the math I have taught them, only that they can regurgitate and guess really well. In regards to my weekly quizzes with Socrative, I try to incorporate a few multiple choice questions along with short answer. I also require my students to work out the problems on paper and turn in their work so that if they do miss a question, I can see where they went wrong and fix the error in interventions. Socrative can technically grade short answer if you know EXACTLY what your students will type. Otherwise, you have to grade each individually. This, in my opinion, is a small sacrifice when I consider that my students were required to actually think. Worth it all the way. What I do here, then, is I print off the pdf with student responses and recheck/regrade what Socrative already did for me. This ensures that each student receives the correct grade and I know exactly what I need to reteach.
Plickers is a fun and innovative way for students to answer multiple choice questions in the classroom. Essentially they are paper versions of the clunky clickers that require students to hold up as the teacher scans the classroom with a device. The app detects and reads each student’s unique and individual “plicker” and records the response on the teacher dashboard. This is a great technology for assessment during a lesson. I have yet to utilize the fun that is plickers but I have seen many demos and participated in a research project centered on their effectiveness. I would have to say that the same goes for plickers as for Socrative. If they are used correctly, they can be wonderful. If not, they can be a waste of time.
In conclusion, there are so many apps out there for student response and formative assessment. It is too easy for teachers to get wrapped up in the h”app”y little world of apps and technology that the effectiveness goes right out the window. In regards to this, pedagogy has to come before technology. If my teachers growing up had realized the multitude of ways in which they could have used the data collected, I’m positive that differentiation would have been integrated. In the same way, teachers today need to fully investigate and test out technology before they bring it to their classroom. Administration must also consider training teachers on new technology if they are purchasing it for the district. Otherwise, it’s not only a waste of time but also a waste of money.
Technology is great but we must be mindful of how we use it. Now go get h”app”y!