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Virginia Journal of Education


Tools of Opportunity

Some technology tools that can save you time while also offering you and your students more feedback and faster assessment.


By Kaitlin Jensen

Would you like to quickly and easily gauge the mastery level of each of your students without going through tons of paper or scribbling notes on the fly? Are you looking for ways to engage students and still get meaningful feedback? Are you tired of carting home bags full of papers to grade each night? Do you want to save time collecting and analyzing data?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then consider adding at least one of these six tools to your next lesson.

Formative assessment has gotten lots of attention in the last few years with the increased push for “data-driven” decision-making, and many teachers are feeling pressed for time and resources in gathering the necessary data. This collection of digital tools can be a great starting point in lightening that load. As an added bonus, students may not even realize they’re being assessed because of the game-like style of several of the tools. Some will even beg to play over and over—bet you never thought kids would be pleading to be assessed!

All of the tools here provide data that’s easily exported to Excel or Google Sheets, and will produce reports that color-code right and wrong answers by student and question and, in addition, provide class averages on each question. Essentially, the computer does all the hard work and, with a glance, teachers can see class misconceptions, as well as who may need a mini-lesson to clarify information before summative assessment. Time is always something we don’t have enough of, so why not allow the computer to produce data which you can use to plan interventions and extensions to help you meet student learning needs?

And, drumroll please, the best part of these tools—they’re free! In fact, five of the six tools that follow don’t even have a paid option.

Tool #1- Plickers
At Plickers.com, you can enter a set of multiple-choice questions in advance or on the fly and then students use printed, reusable QR code cards (provided on the website) to show their answer. Teachers then use a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet, to scan the room and record the answers. At my school, I’ve seen this revolutionize one teacher’s beginning-of-the-day routine. Instead of having students complete their morning work and then waiting until later, during her precious planning time, to check it, she has students complete each problem and then hold up their Plickers card as she scans the classroom. She had immediate feedback concerning each child’s response that she then uses to create her flexible small groups for that morning’s math lesson. Plickers can be a wonderful choice for teachers who don’t have access to devices for each student, but want to take advantage of real-time formative assessment data.

Tool #2- Kahoot!
Kahoot! Creates a game-like situation where students compete by answering questions correctly and quickly. If you have ever played Buzztime trivia at a restaurant, then you’re familiar with the Kahoot! format. It’s played in a group setting and requires classroom computer and a device for each student. A question is displayed on the classroom computer and answer choices come up with a corresponding color and shape, which students simultaneously see on their devices. Students receive points for answering correctly, with the score based on how quickly they got it. They also lose points for answering incorrectly. You can choose whether students earn bonus points for a correct answer streak and whether to display the top three students’ names after each question. The first time I played Kahoot! with a group of students I was blown away by how engaged and excited they were to be reviewing for an upcoming assessment. If you choose to incorporate this in your classroom, be prepared to have students clamoring to play over and over to earn the title of champion.

Tool #3- Quizizz
Quizizz is also a game-based assessment tool, but it has some special features that make it better suited for certain tasks and students. You can use it to connect with students by displaying appealing memes, which you use to provide students with immediate feedback on their answers. Quizizz also gives teachers an option to have students play live or as “homework.” This means students don’t have to play all at the same time, which is helpful for small group situations and classes with limited access to technology. You may also assign a Quizizz as actual homework, and you may be surprised by just how many students actually complete the homework assignment that night. At my school, we have students who do their Quizizz homework, but rarely do other assignments—and had even previously reported they didn’t have Internet access at home. Prior to SOL testing we created several Quizizz exercises to review released test questions and students couldn’t wait to do their daily review. Who doesn’t want students to be excited about demonstrating their readiness for the SOLs?

Tool #4- Quizlet Live
Quizlet Live is a part of the larger Quizlet website. I was familiar with the Quizlet online vocabulary flashcard game, but I seldom used it because I can do the same activity without technology. However, when I learned about Quizlet Live from a colleague this year, I was excited to use it and share it. To play, you create a set of study cards with a minimum of 12 terms and definitions or questions and answers. Then, select Live and the site provides a code for students to enter. Once they’re all signed on, the teacher's computer automatically places students into random groups. You don’t control the grouping, but can click and reshuffle the lineup if you see a potential problem. Students then move with their computers into a group and each of their computers displays a fraction of the possible answer choices. Together, all the possible answers will be displayed. A question will appear on all team members’ screens and they must work together to identify the correct answer and have that team member select the answer. If the group chooses incorrectly, it’s taken back to the beginning of the challenge. The game continues until one team in the class correctly answers 12 questions. The sudden death element of the game seemed a bit harsh for elementary students, and I had several teachers express concerns about how lower ability students, especially those with IEPs, would handle the pressure. But, in my experience, every student has enjoyed this game because it’s a team challenge rather than an individual one. Additionally, it provides great feedback at the end of the game about common mistakes, as well as what the class has mastered. Whenever we play Quizlet Live, I know that students will want to play at least 3-4 rounds, each time with a different team. Collaboration, flexible grouping, and immediate feedback, all checked off in one fun activity. Having kids excited to review Greek and Latin roots is something I never expected to see, but thanks to Quizlet Live our students wanted to practice until they mastered them.

Tool #5- Google Forms
Google Forms allows you to easily create an online multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, or paragraph response quiz that grades itself! Then it automatically grades questions you provide an exact answer for and allows you to manually grade and provide feedback on any remaining items. Google Forms is also a great way to collect exit ticket data that you can then easily look at in one spreadsheet rather than 25 or more individual slips of paper. This is a fantastic tool for teachers looking to save time with grading of papers and tabulation of data.

Tool #6- Nearpod
Nearpod allows you to actively take existing PowerPoint or promethean flipchart files and turn them into engaging and interactive learning experiences for every student, all while collecting meaningful data. Students see the presentation on their own device, but you control what they see and when they see it. For a quick check for understanding, display an activity slide where students answer, for example, a multiple-choice question, label a drawing, or provide a short answer. Student responses will be displayed in real time on the teacher's device and you have the option of sending out a student response to all student devices to show an example of a good answer or to help identify common misconceptions. Being able to have every student respond and then anonymously share student answers isn’t easily done without technology. How many of you have carefully covered the student’s name, only to have students immediately identify the student? When I started using Nearpod with students, I saw how much more engaged students were with my lessons. Students know they’re responsible for answering every question during the lesson, which provides a level of accountability difficult to achieve during traditional lessons. In addition, Nearpod offers reports that capture each answer for teacher analysis or to archive as evidence of student understanding and work. You can also incorporate YouTube videos, web activities, and virtual field trips with the purchase of a paid subscription, but the basic product is free.
 
Getting Started
Hopefully, you’ve discovered that at least one of these tools would be exciting to try in your classroom. It may also make you a little anxious. If your school has a technology specialist, ask for his or her help. I’m a technology specialist, and I offered trainings and created some activities for grade levels, then went into the classroom to help with initial lessons.

If that’s not possible, don’t despair! These tools, with the exception of Plicker, have a bank of teacher-created items available through a quick topic search (and Plicker is coming). Your first attempt at one of these tools may not require a large time investment because, chances are, other Virginia teachers have done the work for you. Find a colleague to investigate the apps with you and work together to implement them. Collaborate with other teachers, split up the creation of activities on these sites, and simply share them with one another. Like any good educational product, these sites make sharing your creations with other teachers very easy.

I hope incorporating technology tools into your classroom will save you time grading, increase student engagement, and provide meaningful data analysis. Because you create these assessments, the data will help you fine-tune your instruction to meet the needs of your students. You’ll also be able to give students immediate feedback. Best of all, you’ll also see the happy, excited faces of students enjoying assessment activities and improving their learning.

Jensen, a member of the Virginia Beach Education Association, is a technology specialist at Cooke Elementary School.

 


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