Integrate Apps in Evaluations to Maximize Student Achievement

 
 Photo by  Joanna Kosinska
 
 

What do you do when you improve on your inputs in a process, but this does not produce any visibly improved outputs?  How do we bridge the gap between quality instruction and student achievement? These are questions that educators should commonly ask and regularly revisit.  

Evaluation of assessment results, data analysis, needs to be an integral part of any teacher's practice. How students perform on a daily assignment, quiz, or test should inform how you teach and what you teach.  And yes, you must do this even if you fee like you have seemingly endless meetings, overcrowded classes, and too many classes to prepare for.

What I’ll explore in this post are apps that you can integrate into your teaching practice that will allow you to work smarter, and make learning more engaging with a student-centered classroom.

Quizlet

"Quizlet is the bomb" and "My favorite thing about your class was Quizlet" were only a few of the comments that I received at the end of my first year of regularly using Quizlet in my classroom.

You can integrate Quizlet into your lessons if your students have access to computers, tablets, or smartphones in your classroom or at home. The free version of Quizlet allows you to see in real time the highest scores of your students when they play any one of four games: Scatter, Space Race, Learn, and Speller.

You can access this by going to whatever set of content that you want to work on (this needs to be uploaded ahead of time), then in the darker tan area just below the top dark blue band, choose the “Scores” tab.  Here you will see bar graphs comparing the progress of the individual students in this class. The student who has the fastest time will have the highest bar.


You can make this an in-class activity by projecting onto a screen the class progress while students practice at the same time the same game. Give any student who has the highest score in a 2-5 minutes period some kind of reward (I usually gave extra points on another assignment).

I have found that it is best to not devote too much time to this activity in class, but it is great for getting things started, or taking an individualized spin on whole-group practice.  Also, If you don’t mind paying $25/year, Quizlet has a “Class Progress” option where you can get aggregated data on what concepts students need more work on, who has studied, and how they’ve studied. See here for more information.

Quizlet also gives students access to online flash cards that will speak the text, and allows users to "star" what ever items they need to flag for later review. I was sold on this app when one of my lower achieving students came to me after school to tell me that he loved Quizlet, because it allowed him to effectively study (and play games) on his cell phone while he was waiting for the bus. What great validation for a learning tool!

Google Forms

You can use Google Forms to give you a spreadsheet that allows you to analyze the answers of questions that you pose to your students in the format of some type of survey.  Google Forms gives you the option for answers in the form of short text, paragraphs, multiple choice, check boxes, scales, grids, times and dates.

You can use Google Forms when you want to get students feedback on something and not take a grade for it.  In addition to posting the link to the form on line, you can also create an easily accessible short URL of the long code that Google Forms will give you.

I like to use tiny.cc, because it will also allow me to create a QR code, which is legible with any cell phone with a QR Reader App (which your students may love being able to use in your class).

I would regularly have my students complete an Exit Ticket at the end of class that required them to demonstrate their ability to apply any skills that they practiced that class.  The single question in my Exit Tickets was usually open-ended, and I would make the Google Form a "paragraph text" answer in order to be able to give my students enough space to write their answers.  

I would generally allow 5-10 minutes for students to complete this activity at the end of class. I would be able to access the results of this Form in my Google Drive, and it was a super easy way for me to analyze for patterns of misunderstanding that needed to be addressed the next class.

Another way to use Google Forms is as a study tool and self-assessment.  Once you create your form, you can use the Flubaroo add-on so the student work can automatically be graded and the results can be emailed back to the students. For a description of how to do this, see this link.  

This way, you will receive the results of your student's work in the form of a spreadsheet, and the student will also be able to see what they got right or wrong.  If I ever wanted my students to do a set of questions for homework (which I found worked best if it was not on a regular basis), I would have them do this option.

This way they could practice, and get immediate feedback.  This increased the likelihood of my students correcting any mistakes. It also allowed for me to analyze patterns in errors when I had a quiet moment. One last final benefit that I really appreciate is this option allowed for me to devote less time to checking homework, and allowed more time for increased active practice of skills during class time.

Socrative

Socrative is an easy to use app that combines the assessment, feedback, and game principles that I see in Quizlet and Google Forms.  One of the most impressive teachers that I've ever observed created short assessments for every one of her daily objectives, and put all of them on Socrative.  At the end of each lesson, instead of her Exit Ticket being on Google Forms, like I described above, they were on Socrative.

The benefit of using Socrative is that it gives the teacher more control over when the students start and stop the practices.  You as the teacher can upload questions and content in the form of multiple choice, true/false, and short answer responses. You can also set the system to tell the students the correct answer before they move on to the next question.

In the case of self-checks, you'll want students to see if they got the answer correct before they move on.  In the case of formal assessments, you can have the graded student work emailed to you in the form of a spreadsheet. I think it is totally worth the time invested to upload your content on Socrative, because it is a powerful tool for increasing student achievement, and will save you hours upon hours grading student work.

Twitter

I've experimented in a number of different ways using Twitter in the classroom.  Obviously, you can integrate a Twitter feed into your teacher website if the platform that you are using allows for the pasting of HTML snippets.  See here for more details.  

I like using Twitter to promote discussion about a topic that does not necessarily have a right or wrong answer.  To do this, first you'll need to make sure that all of your students have a Twitter account, and have their name associated with it.  They will also need the Twitter app installed on their phone or tablet.

If they are using a computer, they can use a "hashtag" sourcing platform like TweetDeck to view the responses to the question and reply. (For more details on how to use TweetDeck, see this wiki.)  

Then, whatever open-ended, discussion-based question you want your students to consider, post it on your teacher Twitter feed.  Your students will have to respond in 140 character or less to your question and hashtag (#) their response with what you tell them you want it to be for that lesson.

This is a great activity to generate further discussion in class, and it is a great way to involve students who are rather shy and don't like to speak in front of the whole class.  It can also be a way to change up the speed of class.

I like using this as a Bell Ringer to start off the class, and possibly lead to an activity where students will write more on a similar topic later, or debate a topic. And of course, this can be a synchronous online activity to be done outside of class as "homework".  This activity should not take more than 5-10 minutes, but it's great for promoting discussion among all of your classes.

Maximizing Student Achievement

Whether you integrate Quizlet, Socrative, Google Forms, or Twitter into your lessons, if it is done to focus on a student-centered classroom, you will have data to analyze on student achievement. This data collection is worlds better than what traditional education of pen and paper can give us. As opposed to spending all day inputting data into a spreadsheet to then analyze, now educators can collect the data online as students are working. With a few clicks of a button, the analysis is processed and can help a teacher inform decisions about what to teach next or what to review. What a great way to be an efficient educator! And what a great way to make sure that student achievement is maximized!