December 2, 2011
EDUBLOG AWARD 2011: Best Free Web Tool
This years teacher approved technologies included: Remind101, Class Dojo, Goal Book and Socrative. When it came down to deciding which one to nominate for the “Eddy” awards the decision was tough. However, given the criteria of the award of “best free web tool” and the group giving the award (Edu Blog) my final decision was ultimately for Socrative, because is not only a tool but also provides a blog that publishes dynamic and imaginative ways to incorporate this tool into any subject/lesson. In honor of their nomination, I have decided to repost my original review of this teacher approved technology. Thank you so much Ben and the rest of the Socrative team for creating such an incredible tool and providing the means for all teachers to learn how to use it to optimize our practice and improve our student’s outcomes.
Dear Ed. Tech: A Geek Lovin’ Teacher’s Word to the Wise
When first developed, the devices pictured above were carefully marketed as “student response systems.” Well, you can bet it took about five minutes in your typical classroom before that marketing strategy met its maker. “Response system”? Hah! First, it looks like a remote control; second, it makes a clicky noise. Ergo, it’s a “clicker”.
The first student response system was called “The Classroom Performance System”, but the fact is that the technology, even its name, is ultimately determined in the classroom. Don’t believe me? Just look at what they choose to name the latest models above, and then decide who the big dog of the ed. tech. world is. But I digress, and now turn to the reasons for which these clicker systems are seriously powerful tools.
+ Clickers Make Data Collection and Assessment Instant and Easy. Student’s responses are instantly available to help the teacher guide their instruction. In addition to this, responses are saved, which makes it even easier to track participation and student understanding.
+ Clickers Make Students More Interactive. Today’s tech-savvy students expect technology to be a part of their learning process, just as it is a part of their social life and daily routine. By projecting student’s responses, you ensure the opinion of even the quietest student will be counted by the system.
+ Clicker Systems Save Time No longer do we have to manually grade through hundreds of slips of paper or sticky notes each day.
Costing between $500 and $3,000 for a classroom set, these clickers have so much potential that teachers like myself often contemplate which organ to sell in order to bring one into our own classroom. Cost isn’t the only drawback, another is the fact that the vast majority of these systems do not allow students to write short answer responses. As an English teacher, such responses are necessary for me to determine the extent to which my students have learned that day’s lesson. These are the drawbacks, I noticed before I was introduced to Socrative. The latest teacher approved technology, Socrative is transforming the technology we’ve had into the technology we’ve always wanted.
Socrative: What A Teacher Really Wants
My philosophy majoring heart skipped a beat when it first heard about Socrative, a Boston-grown beta-technology. Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of meeting with Ben Berte who is not only an official member of Socrative’s super team of educators, entrepreneurs and engineers but also an incredible teacher willing to teach me about Socrative. Unlike the clicker systems described above, Socrative is a FREE online application. Don’t let that “free” factor scare you off! Its website looks sharp-like Martha Stewart’s layout editor teamed up with Apple’s website design squad.
You can use your smart phone, ipad, laptop, desktop, or ipod touch, to run Socrative. Also, because it’s an internet application, Socrative doesn’t have to be installed onto any computers! For many teachers this is a double blessing because it means that we won’t have to get permission from IT administrators or spend an hour installing it. After you set up an account you can create multiple choice, true/false, short answer and Exit Ticket questions. It’s so easy to create these questions, that I will most certainly add questions generated by my students during class. With this brief intro, it is an absolute pleasure to celebrate Socrative as the latest teacher approved technology to will help me and my students achieve our highest potential.
Features of Latest Teacher Approved Technology
+Reports and Analysis of Student’s Work
I like assessment, I believe in using daily evaluations to determine the scope and sequence of my lessons. This worked out perfectly for me my first year, because what’s more fun that collecting over 100 exit tickets everyday, reading and grading each, entering those grades into the school’s gradebook, and generating an analysis with which I can plan the next day’s activator? What’s that you say? I must have slept at my desk? You are correct.
I have spent countless evenings at my desk; ultimately, using the scraps of paper with my student’s answers as a pillow to keep my drool from reaching my keyboard. After these nights, I begin my class grumbling about my made up dog’s affinity for stationary as I passed each of these slips back to my students. With Socrative, my pedogogical convictions don’t have to come at the expense of other important things in life like balance, sleep, sanitary conditions, etc…The power of Socrative is that it emails me reports that include not only the questions I created but also my student’s responses. These reports can be downloaded as spreadsheets and will ultimately cut the time it takes to evaluate student’s current comprehension and plan for the next day. In addition to this, I will have more time to create and post follow-up assignments for students who need extra-practice.
In Dennis Villano’s review of Socrative he noted the program’s “space race” feature. In his review, Dennis Villano explained how “Teachers can also create questions that students answer in a ‘Space Race.’ Students answer questions as individuals or as part of a team and try to finish the race first.” A straightforward and clear description? Yes. A missed chance for a standing ovation? Absolutely! I mean come on, the program even has the space ships already created and ready for blast off! Talk about a great way to keep students doing small group work, staying on task, and being effective. Its like these rocketships come straight out of a Doug Lemov playbook. What would easily be described by both Lemov and David Levin, as “Vegas”, the space race is that element of sparkle or fun that reinforces not just academics generally but one of the day’s learning objectives. It’s a fun game that won’t give birth to a monster that takes on a life of its own. Its objective oriented, meaning that it aligns itself to your objective, and keeps students aware of their progress (and that of other groups). With the space race covering those bases, I can help my students remain not just engaged but on point.
+ Increase “Agility”
Some argue that, Socrative’s best feature is the ease of use for students and teachers. I, however, know that what makes Socrative a teacher approved technology isn’t the fact that its easy to use, for this is a quality I’ve found in unapproved technologies as well. The greatest quality is that it makes the most difficult and effective practices easy. The pay off of best practices makes them well worth it, and with Socrative I’ll have the “agility” I need to make those best practices into daily practices. Anyone interested in learning more about Socrative should visit the website http://www.Socrative.com, or Ben’s blog http://socrativegarden.wordpress.com/.
 “Socratic Seminars: Engaging Students in Intellectual Discourse” by Lynda Tredway. Education Leadership, 1995.