For the past three years, I have used learner response systems as a formative assessment tool to gauge student understanding of the standard being addressed for that lesson. By doing this, I was able to differentiate instruction based on, “right on the spot” automatic feedback. Students loved this because they were able to see their mistakes instantaneously and were then able to address those mistakes at that moment in time when processing the, “big idea” is essential in acquiring the enduring understanding.
I used Prometheans LRS active-votes, referred to as clickers by some, and witnessed how the engagement in my classroom soared and because of this a significantly marked increase of growth was discovered on their end of the year state/district assessments.
Instead of seeing the usual 30-50% growth, students were moving up to 99% growth in their math scores. What does this mean?
It means that students were able to move 2 years of content-specific instruction (99%) compared to the typical (50%) growth. 50% growth is the benchmark for a full years worth of growth and 99% representing two years of learning. Unfortunately, 99% is the furthest the growth scale could be read so my students hit the highest marks as far as student growth is concerned but going beyond the two years growth could not be calculated although that growth could exist, it just isn’t seen.
As demonstrated by state and district data, the automatic feedback and the competitive nature of learner response systems is substantial to student learning and must be addressed while planning. Unfortunately, not all classrooms have access to those devices.
First of all, they are expensive. ($1,300-$2,000) depending on type.
Second, the life of commercial LRS devices do not last long (especially in middle school when student hands constantly drop them due to adolescent hormonal clumsiness)…if it’s their own device then that is a different matter.
Third, teachers do not know how to use them. There was only one set at my middle school of about 1,000 students and I had them. I was the only teacher for three straight years to integrate that technology into the curriculum. I had to set them up, then find a way to utilize them in a highly constructivist Connected Mathematics classroom.
Once created, students enjoyed the set-up of my classroom. It was like you were entering a gaming zone, with student groups competing for the highest spot in regards to correct solutions and fasted answer. Student engagement was high and students learned.
Again, I do not know many educators who have sole use of clickers in their classrooms. There is a solution to this dilemma and that is to utilize free online learner response systems like Socrative, in which teachers tailor the tool into the curriculum.
(Socrative is a web based student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smart-phones, laptops, and tablets. Any students could use it with any device!)
As this past year unfolded, I came to a conclusion that perhaps school districts should stop purchasing commercial products and use the free learner response systems on the web instead. The commercial products are expensive($1,300) and do not last long (3-5 years). **Remember…students drop them and pull off the rubber around them.**
Yes, they are successful in student learning, holding engagement and accountability in the classroom but I am advocating for a new approach. Instead of school districts purchasing new instructional tech equipment every year and then having to train teachers and students on how to use the device …my suggestion is to buy more school bandwidth from a local cable provider. That local cable service provider could then turn around and use that school account for tax deduction purposes. Both sides benefit.
It is in the best interest of the students, staff, parents and community at large for the students to bring in their own devices and use that for research, homework and down-loadable texts.
By doing this, teachers could access Socrative with the use of only one school computer in the classroom instead of the alternative and having the district purchase 30+ net books/laptops or tablets/clickers(LRS) for every classroom!
Why should students bring in their own devices instead of relying on school computers? I’ll now ask you a question based on this question.
Have you ever taught a highly tested subject in an inner city low-income middle school?
If yes, then I know you can relate. If no, then allow me to explain. As teachers in a profession where student performance dictates the future of our profession, we spend a great deal of time strategizing favorable learning conditions. Student engagement is key to learning and using technology is the classroom is essential to student engagement therefore it is mandatory that all students learn basic computer skills. Computer literacy and proper tech use is a priority in that students need to apply these skills in order to utilize the prep-test online programs the school has adopted.
As a middle school teacher, I have witnessed the complete lack of respect students have for school devices and basic equipment in general. Although instructing students on proper tech handling techniques is enforced daily, due to the administrative structures of public school, student accountability is lacking and therefore instructions are NOT taken seriously. The result is student misuse.
On the flip side, I have seen students bring in their own devices and treat them like gold. Their eyes are glued to their own property at all times and they even wash their hands before touching the screen! I have also taken polls and have observed first hand that most all students have a cell phone, a net book, an iPod, an iPad, a kindle or tablet of some sort… regardless on their family income level.
Oh…YES, they do!
All you need to do is visit any middle or high school during lunch hours and you will notice that most all have their device out and are texting, playing games, checking e-mail or just simply surfing the web during their break and if they do not have a device they are sharing one with a friend. As soon as break is over, school staff enforces the rules again.
This statement is forever cemented in my subconscious, “put your phones away, it’s class time!”
What’s wrong with this picture? As students put their Wi-Fi enabled devices away they are then forced to log-in to a district computer that is much slower than their own device! This is not the only problem, as soon as students log-in to the school computer…it crashes due to the increase of activity on the network! All of these could be avoided it the school increased the building bandwidth and students were allowed to use their own devices!
Basic psychology dictates that the same rules apply to a non-engaged student with a district computer compared to a student who has their own Wi-Fi enabled device. If a student is going to be distracted by Facebook on their device then they will find a way to get distracted on the district computer.
A teacher’s role is to engage the students to where the temptation of distraction is not an issue.
In knowing this, why not use the tech money set aside in the budget to increase the bandwidth and forego the purchasing of new devices as those will be outdated in a couple of years anyway! Students should bring in their own devices and be held accountable for them.
We know they have them so why not let them use them!
If students around the country brought in their own devices then all classrooms would be LRS enabled! All students would have a voice, teachers would gauge instruction based on real formative assessments that are built into the lesson of the day.
Socrative is extremely beneficial when used as an “exit ticket.” In this instance, students are taught a lesson, then at the end of class the students “vote in their answer” to a problem (that is directly tied to the standard being taught) the student solutions are then projected on the ActiveBoard, the results are discussed. During the summary of the lesson, the class (groups of collaboratively working students) reviews the results and identifies the next steps for the next day.
This is a great way to end the class, as the students and teacher have an understanding of what is expected to learn and where they must go in reaching that specific skill (learning target or standard).
LAST IMPORTANT POINT – **Socrative allows sharing of quizzes!**
At the end of the year, the following quizzes helped my students review for the end of the year district interim.
SOC-178048 – End of year (Advanced 6th Grade Review) *Colorado Standards Only*
SOC-177777 – End of year (Regular 6th Grade Review) *Colorado Standards Only*
I then integrated these quizes on a math blog so that students could then study at home. The math blog is titled, “Take me to Space” and is modeled after the Space Race quiz competition that Socrative displays on the menu screen. This is a very effective in enagaging students to review math concepts at the beginning and end of the year. It could also be used as a formative (pre/post assessment) for both the beginning and end of year for 6th and 7th grade students.