Tuesday, 25 November 2014

ICT for Teaching and Learning: Let's Get Quizzical!

This is the first in a series of blogs, where I am aiming to share my findings on how technology can benefit teaching and learning in the classroom.  It is probably important at this point to state that I am not a fan of using technology for technology’s sake.  I agree that it can often be time-consuming and, with the pressures of time that all teachers face, I feel that it isn’t right to put too much time into preparing for a task if the students will get little out of it.
I feel that the two apps that I am going to mention in this blog definitely fit into the category of being low on planning time, but high in terms of the impact they can have on teaching.  Moreover: they are free!

I came across this at the recent Teachmeet for Hull and East Yorkshire (held at Malet Lambert School) and was amazed.  It’s a fantastic example of how ICT can be used without a class set of devices, as the app can be run from the teacher’s tablet or smartphone.  For this, the teacher prepares multiple choice questions before the lesson and, in response to the question, students hold up a card with a QR-type shape on it.  Each orientation of their shape (whichever way they hold it up) corresponds to an option for the answer (A, B, C or D).  The teacher then accesses the app and scans their camera around the room, allowing it to pick up the answers and generate a list of who selected which answer.
The app allows you to select an option for the ‘correct’ answer, highlighting right or wrong answers in green or red respectively.  This allowed me to quickly target students for questioning early on in the lesson, as well as identifying students who I would want to give extra support to later.  Additionally, you can use a PC to enter your class lists and, as long as you update your data on the app with wifi, the actual polling can be done without an internet connection.  This was particularly useful for me as 3G in my room is non-existent and my phone isn’t connected to the school’s wifi.
The app works better with only a few questions at a time, and I found it useful for check prior knowledge before a topic.  For example, I have used it to check students’ understanding of word class and sentence type definitions.
For more details, see www.plickers.com .  Feel free to tweet me if you need any help setting it up!

Socrative is another quiz app, although it does require a set of ipads/computers for the class.  Alternatively, students can access on their phones if you have a BYOD policy.  For socrative, you prepare a quiz (or use one of the many shared quizzes from other users) from your teacher account.  Questions can be multiple choice or have a short written answer.  Like plickers, you can select correct answers.  However, socrative offers instant feedback for students: it will tell them if their answer was correct and you can add an explanation to each question so they understand their errors.
I found this particularly useful when assessing students’ knowledge of punctuation before starting a unit on writing skills, as it meant that the next few lessons could be differentiated for each student’s needs.  This was highlighted by the detailed reports that socrative offers (an excel spreadsheet as well as an individual report for each student that they can stick into their books).
When using socrative, you need a teacher account (which is free), but students login using their teacher’s room number, and then quizzes are controlled by the teacher.  See this guide for more details on setting up: https://snapguide.com/guides/create-a-socrative-account-quiz/ 
A final feature of socrative that I’m a big fan of (as are my colleagues) is the updating answer grid you get on the teacher’s computer/device.  Here you see students’ answers populating the grid in real time.  One colleague found this particularly useful when one student decided to enter silly answers; she was able to sanction him appropriately and get him back on task immediately.

How do they compare?
Both of these apps offer a lot to assessing knowledge in the classroom, either from a quick snap shot/straw poll from plickers or from the detailed quizzes you can use through socrative.  Students love the instant feedback that they have and they both offer instant feedback that can inform questioning, as well as planning/differentiation.