George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Have you ever had a class where only a small portion of the children ask questions or make comments? Do you end up calling on the same students multiple times during the course of your class? One challenge teachers face is requiring and enabling every student an equal opportunity to ask and respond to questions during class. 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.



 
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Nina Smith's picture
Nina Smith
Mentor, Teacher Trainer

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

Matt,
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?

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