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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Two girls with open binders and one boy holding pencil at table smiling

Formative assessment is vital to teachers in any classroom environment. Teachers have been formatively assessing students for years, because we must know what our students know in order to help them understand what they do not know. Do you know what I mean?!

Fortunately, many classrooms are charging into the 21st century with technology initiatives. Whether your technology program has created a 1:1 environment, a BYOD system, or you have access to only a few devices in your classroom, these three tech tools will help you engage your students while simultaneously gauging their understanding of concepts.

Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a game-based student response system that's as fun to play as it is to say! To get started with Kahoot!, teachers sign up for a free account, and then choose from a variety of activities to create something for their students. These activities include quiz, survey, or discussion options. The quiz option is definitely the favorite in my classroom. We use it as a bell ringer, test review, and more. Move over, PowerPoint Jeopardy!

When ready to begin the game, the teacher simply posts the game pin on the whiteboard. Students use the pin to access the game and then enter a nickname. Some of those nicknames are "interesting," to say the least! If a display name is less than school appropriate, Kahoot! allows teachers to kick that student out of the game. He or she can re-enter the pin and choose a more appropriate name.

We've used Kahoot! in my classroom with remarkable success. All of my students love it and are excited to play. To encourage continued content review outside of the classroom, teachers can even share the Kahoot! link with their students, directing them to open two tabs so that they can play Kahoot! games on their own time.

Formative

As its name implies, Formative, is another wonderful formative assessment tool. This free tool allows teachers to create assignments or utilize existing assessments, and share them with their students.

Teachers can assign these assessments by sending students a link or creating classrooms through a process nearly identical to that of a learning management system. Teachers choose from a variety of assessment options, including a traditional exit ticket requiring students to list what they learned that day or the concepts that they don't yet grasp. Students can also draw their responses, which would be fantastic in a math or science classroom.

Teachers can view student responses to assessments in real time, and can determine whether a key should be used to grade the assessment. (As of this writing, keys cannot be used for a drawing/free-response assessment.)

Creating an assignment is extremely simple, providing teachers with a variety of question options (multiple-choice, drawing, etc.). Teachers can also embed content from their computer (images or PDF files only) or from YouTube. Other options include a whiteboard or text block, which would be amazing for a flipped lesson or assignment. Think about the possibilities for substitute work!

Padlet

Padlet is normally seen as a collaborative or presentation tool. However, it also offers many ways to formatively assess student knowledge. Despite a variety of Padlet account options, I've stayed with the free account because it's familiar and does what I need it to do. To open an account on the free version of Padlet, create your own username and password combination, or use a social media account. And now you're ready to start creating.

Padlet offers users an online corkboard, complete with customizable backgrounds and images. You can even choose a custom URL which makes directing students to your Padlet wall extremely easy.

You can also choose to create a password-protected Padlet, ensuring a safer online environment for your students. You can moderate Padlet posts, which means teacher approval before student posts are visible to other students. I recommend the moderation option because it discourages students from copying a classmate's post and encourages independent thinking and unique responses.

Padlet works well as a classroom backchannel when students post questions, relevant comments, or additional information from the web during a lecture or an instructional (flipped) video. During the video, post questions that require students to dive deeper into the video content, while remaining engaged in the film. When I show Lincoln in my government class, I post questions on Padlet to keep the students engaged in the content. (If you are interested in viewing this activity, please check out my Teaching With Technology post.) So long, boring viewing guides!

Padlet is also an amazing tool to use for standardized test review. As students review content from the year, encourage them to post any lingering questions about course material. Teachers can use this type of Padlet as a lecture tool, or create an instructional video with the Padlet wall as a backdrop.

These tools are all free and extremely easy to use. Try them out in your classroom. And if you're already familiar with them, please share your experiences in the comments below.

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Trinsy Stone's picture

Quizlet is another effective online learning tool. The flashcards and study games assist students when they are learning new material, and the quizzes help with review .

Note: The basic service is free and user-friendly, and many resources have already been created and are available / ready to use.

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Pratham Patel's picture

I believe that with the new generation and the 21st century with all these technological advancements, using games, such as Kahoot! it not only let the learners be more involved in the class, but also increases their knowledge, as they stay focused since they enjoy playing the game. This will make the learners feel that if they don't come to class, they will miss out on the fun and excitement, so this is another tool to make sure the students come to class.

Armand Jordaan's picture

All these programs that are available to us for creating better engagement and more fun interactive ways for learning really helps the students to excel and focus on their work. Seeing that all these programs to help with studying are online and free, could this not progress into parents deciding to rather do homeschooling ? I mean, if a parent can give his child an education almost on par, or on par with what the school provides, would you not rather let your child study from home ?

Connor Leidl's picture

@Pratham Patel--I too am trying to keep my kids engaged during class. I teach high school math and I am trying a new polling formative assessment tool for the first time tomorrow! The free poll comes from poll everywhere.com. Students text their answer to a number projected on the board. Their anonymous answer is then reported on the screen. This allows me to instantly assess the class's understanding. You can ask multiple choice, free response, or clicking questions.

I used a clicker in a psychology class in college and it kept me significantly more engaged. Teens today are very attached to their phones and I am hoping that this will excite them. I think that they will like using their phones to participate. I also want to promote responsible phone use because that is the reality of how students use them inside and outside of class.

Dajana Tanasic Romero's picture

I love that there are so many different ways to assess students. These ways of assessing seem to allow for a lot of data collection that will be beneficial for teacher self evaluation. We can also ask other teachers or administrators to sit in on a lesson in order to get a sense of how effective the lesson was or if certain parts were or were not effective. We can also sit in on other teachers lessons as well.

Bethany Petty's picture
Bethany Petty
Social Studies teacher/EdTech Blogger

I stumbled upon Quizizz about a week after submitting this article! We love it, too!

Kristine's picture

Thank you for sharing these resources. We recently received Chrome books for our classroom and I am excited to find new ways to engage my students and have fun learning and reviewing concepts.

Charles Wiles's picture

Quizalize, http://www.quizalize.com, is another great tool for measuring student learning. It's another game based learning application for the classroom, a bit like Kahoot, but has some really great teacher dashboards. You can see the individual strengths and weaknesses of each student and you can also track student results over time and measure progress. The team game based view for the electronic whiteboard is also highly engaging for even the less able students.

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