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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A new web-based classroom tool called GoSoapBox is one possible solution to this problem. With GoSoapBox, students can simultaneously interact with the class in real time as well as participating with any Internet connected device. I am currently accessing GoSoapBox with my classroom set of iPod Touches; however, the app will run on laptops, notebooks, iPads or other mobile devices.

What It Is

GoSoapBox is a cloud-based audience response system. A teacher can set up a group, called a SoapBox, for students to join. Each SoapBox is identified by a class code. Within each SoapBox, a teacher can allow students to access the following features:

  • The Confusion Barometer
  • Quizzes
  • Polls
  • Discussions
  • Questions
The features I use most in my classes are quizzes, polls and questions. When students access the GoSoapBox website with their devices and enter the class code, they can participate in whichever features the teacher has enabled.

The quiz feature is probably my favorite component because it allows teachers to set up multiple choice quizzes that will automatically grade student responses. Students' results can be downloaded into a spreadsheet where results are color-coded. Immediate feedback is a powerful tool for teachers. After students complete a quiz in SoapBox, I immediately download results and project the color-coded spreadsheet for the class to see at the front of the classroom (I cover up student names). I have my students look for patterns. Someone might say, "Everybody got that one right." If most of my students miss a particular question, I will discuss that question with the class to find out why it was difficult for them. Quizzes are stored in GoSoapBox, so I can assign a quiz multiple times if necessary.

Poll questions are set up much like quizzes; however, the results are displayed much differently. The app shows them in a color-coded pie graph. As students respond to a poll, results are displayed and updated in real time on both their devices and the teacher's screen. Sometimes I use GoSoapBox's poll feature as an exit ticket. I'll ask questions like:

  • How well did you understand today's lesson?
  • How far did you get on today's independent assignment?
  • Are you ready for the test?
I've also used polls to assess prior knowledge. At the beginning of a unit, I gave students a list of key vocabulary words from a reading selection and asked, "How many of the words do you know?" Their responses helped me determine how difficult the reading material would be for that particular group.

When students have questions during class, instead of raising their hands to ask the teacher, they can submit questions via GoSoapBox with the questions feature. Other students can see classmates' questions and vote on them. Questions are ranked by popularity, so that teachers will know which ones should take priority.

Creative Q&A

I recently used the questions feature in a way different than its intended use. I teach intermediate English Language Learners, and I'm trying to get my students to refrain from using basic, trite, cliché words, sometimes referred to as "dead words." I said a basic word, like "big," and asked my students to type a synonym for that word. They came up with "large," "huge," "enormous" and "giant" among others. After students submitted their responses, I asked them to vote on their favorite word from the list generated by their classmates. The words with the most votes automatically rose to the top of the list on our screens. We wrote the top synonyms into a section of our composition books. The student whose word got the most votes received accolades.

The barometer is a way for teachers to get feedback during the course of a lecture. Students can change their status from "I am getting it" to "I am confused" at any time. This feedback could help teachers know whether they should spend more time explaining a concept or whether they should move on.

GoSoapBox can be accessed from computers and mobile devices 24/7. This means that after class has been dismissed, teachers can answer questions on GoSoapBox that they didn't get to during class. Students can also ask more questions as they arise.

GoSoapBox encourages participation and interaction, which keeps students engaged in class. It is also useful for collecting and sharing data. If you teach at a 1:1 school or have access to a cart of laptops or other mobile devices, GoSoapBox is another tool that makes it easier to go paperless.

Comments (9)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Nina Smith's picture
Nina Smith
Mentor, Teaching Consultant

The problem I see with these tools is that they don't seem to provide opportunities for the teacher to ask open-ended questions. Closed questions with one word answers give fairly shallow information about students' learning.

Jim Britton's picture
Jim Britton
Principal @ Hoffman Estates High School

Thanks for bringing this tool to my attention. I have been looking for useful resources for teachers to assess student knowledge, skill, and understanding as they learn. Such tools help teachers resist the creation of "passenger" learning environments, where students are just going for the ride and not actively navigating their own learning. I want to introduce teachers to direct and efficient means to formatively assess students during a lesson. It seems that GoSoapBox avoids some of the obstacles of teacher-generated discussion questions to gauge understanding. Through GoSoapBox, the silent students can be heard and the eager participants don't mislead the teacher into thinking the majority of the class gets the material. The quizzes, polls, and confusion barometer all provide teachers with real-time feedback in a visual medium. With the questions feature, the students guide teachers toward the learning targets by telling the teacher when the students have fallen of course or when they are ready to take the next turn. It seems that GoSoapBox would encourage active participation by all. I am eager to find other ready-made tools that teachers can integrate seamlessly into their assessment and learning plans. Any other high quality ones out there?

Jeanne Reed's picture
Jeanne Reed
Computer Specialist for Manhattan Beach K-5 school

Maybe try Socrative, they do allow open ended questions.

Ben - Socrative's picture

Hi Nina,
With Socrative, students can enter open-ended responses which will instantly populate the educator's screen (best if projected). The educator can then push the responses back to the students to vote on. This can be after a discussion of the responses for a supplementary check for understanding. The uses are endless.
One of my favorites includes a Headlines Thinking Routine. Read more here - http://www.socrative.com/garden/?p=502

Nina Smith's picture
Nina Smith
Mentor, Teaching Consultant

Thank you Ben and Jeanne, Socrative looks better to me!

Alan K. Lipton's picture
Alan K. Lipton
Blog Editor

GoSoapBox is very cool technology, and in the right situations can doubtlessly move a classroom discussion in interesting directions. But there really is no substitute for student participation in terms of human interaction and building student self-esteem (and yes, I know it's hard for some kids to speak up in class -- I was one of them). I worry that trends like this might dehumanize the classroom experience in this era of growing e-detachment when that classroom experience may be one of the few remaining opportunities for social development.

Dahlia's picture
Elementary Music/Violin Specialist

[quote]GoSoapBox is very cool technology, and in the right situations can doubtlessly move a classroom discussion in interesting directions. But there really is no substitute for student participation in terms of human interaction and building student self-esteem (and yes, I know it's hard for some kids to speak up in class -- I was one of them). I worry that trends like this might dehumanize the classroom experience in this era of growing e-detachment when that classroom experience may be one of the few remaining opportunities for social development.[/quote]

Ok, but remember that we are a Facebook generation...Global Learners, Information Age, Bloggers etc. I love those stupid quizes and those online votes AND sharing comments and questions on Facebook. I look forward to the instant feedback from my text message or Facebook post. These kids respond to each other with technology every waking moment and they would do it during school hours if we let them. Heck, I do it during school hours (prep time, of course). This train has already left the station and we educators need to board a bullet train to catch up!

Matt Hurst's picture
Matt Hurst
Middle school ELL teacher from Oregon

I appreciate your comments! There are several other audience response systems out there. The ones I'm familiar with are GoSoapBox, Socrative, Poll Everywhere, eClicker and Mentimeter. As others have already commented, Socrative is definitely worth taking a look at. It is in beta right now, so you can use it for free. There are currenly over 20,000 classrooms using Socrative. You can watch my students taking a quiz as a space race using Socrative on my blog here.

Dennis Kundisch's picture
Dennis Kundisch
Professor in Business Information Systems

Nina, we have developed a web-based classroom response system at the University of Paderborn called PINGO that may be used for free by anyone in teaching. In the near future we will also offer the opportunity to pose open-ended questions. If you want to register please follow this link: https://pingo.upb.de/users/sign_up

We are looking forward to any suggestions to improve PINGO.

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