A powerful way to use devices in the classroom is with one of the many applications that allow teachers to pose questions which students can respond to via their device. This allows for real-time collection of data which can be used for virtually any type of assessment the teacher wishes. I have found that students tend to be more engaged when responding to questions this way, and I like that it also gives me the opportunity to hear from everybody in the class rather than just the few students that regularly raise their hands. When used as a formative assessment tool I am able to adjust my lessons on the fly based on the instant results, which allows me to use class time more efficiently and ultimately results in more meaningful instruction.
I have typically used sites like Mentimeter or Poll Everywhere when I want to generate discussion or get a sense for how an entire class is thinking on a subject. Both sites allow you to create a question (or questions) which are then displayed with directions for how students can respond. Both will display live results in graphical form as students respond.
The Poll Everywhere real-time response screen
The Mentimeter real-time response screen
There are a variety of question types to choose from, and in the case of Poll Everywhere, a variety of ways to have students respond, including a feature which allows you to push polls to a teacher created Poll Everywhere page (this requires account creation). Out of these two sites, I prefer the more streamlined presentation of Mentimeter. I have not made accounts for either Mentimeter or Poll Everywhere, so I’m not terribly familiar with the more advanced features that they offer. My use of both of these sites has been limited to getting a feel for how a whole class is thinking about a topic on either the way into or out of the classroom. For the basic services they offer, both sites are free and require no registration for teachers or students. The time it takes from conceiving a question to getting live results can be as short as one minute. All that is required is web access and a way to display the question.
When I want to drill a bit deeper and get feedback on individual students, my application of choice is Socrative. With Socrative, you create a free teacher account and then choose from two main categories of activities – either single question activities (multiple choice, true/false, short answer) or quiz-based activities. Single question activities are quick to set up and can be used in much the same manner as Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere. Quiz-based activities can be longer sets of questions that can be named and saved for later use. Regardless of the type of activity selected, each teacher is assigned a unique “room number”. Once the activity is started, students can enter the room number by either going to the Socrative website or by downloading the app on their device. Similarly, teachers can run the activity via the website on a computer, or through the app on their own mobile device or tablet. Students will see the first question pop up, and away they go responding to whatever you have set up for them.
The Socrative teacher menu
The great thing about the quiz-based activities is that students can enter their name, and once the activity is complete you can generate a spreadsheet of the results which can be viewed immediately or emailed. This allows you to see how all students in the room are progressing. When students are finished with the quiz, Socrative asks them if somebody else wants to take it. In this way, you can pair up students with other students who might not have a device so that all students can participate. Another quiz feature that my students enjoy is the “Space Race” which puts a few colored rockets on the screen, each representing a team. You can allow students to select the color team they want to join or have them randomly assigned. As they answer questions their rocket moves across the screen, first one to the other side wins. Regardless of how quizzes are used, they are saved, can be used again and again, and can be easily modified or edited. Once a library of quizzes is built up, all you have to do is log in and begin the activity.
Student response systems are an excellent way to engage students and collect data which give teachers valuable information on how their students are progressing. Due to the fact that the applications do all the correcting, student results are available instantaneously, which allows them to get the quick feedback that enhances their learning. At the same time the instant nature of the data allows teachers to adjust their instruction as necessary. If your district has initiated any type of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, then using a student response system application is one of the most important ways that teachers can leverage devices to enhance and improve instruction.