As you may know I have un-retired this year and gone back to high school teaching; I’m filling in for a friend who is on sabbatical. It turns out that this takes a lot of time and so I’ve been writing very little and perhaps neglecting my blog. Today I would like to share a website that I’ve been using this year with both my BC calculus students and my eighth grade Algebra 1 students. It is called Socrative; the URL is www.socrative.com.
The website is similar to a “clicker.” It can be used with a computer, a smart phone, an iPad or other tablet – anything that can connect to the internet. The first time teachers join they get a “room number” that remains theirs from then on. The teacher, working on the teacher side of the site, then prepares quizzes or tests. When the students sign in, they need enter only the teacher’s “room number” and they are ready to go. The teacher starts the quiz, and the students see the questions and answer them on their device. The results are instantly shown on the teacher’s screen.
The questions can be multiple-choice with two (for true-false question) to five choices. Questions may also be open-ended allowing students to enter longer answers. The teacher can supply the correct answer and / or an explanation. Instead of prepared work there is also the option of single-question activities. This is what I use most often. I present the question on the board and the students answer one question at a time on their device.
The results appear on the teacher’s screen which I project for the class. Multiple-choice results are displayed as a bar graph for each choice. Short answers display whatever the student wrote. This allows students to see other forms of the correct answers and spot common mistakes. (Be aware that some students may enter an answer of 2/3 as a forty-place decimal, but that’s not really so bad.)
You have the option to allow the students’ names to appear with their answer. I don’t do that too often. When I do I explain that making fun of someone who made a mistake is a form of bullying and rather they should help whoever got it wrong instead of making fun of them.
Projecting the answers allows the teacher to have immediate feedback – formative assessment. If there are a lot of wrong answers, then you know you have to work more on that concept; if the answers are all or almost all correct you can go on to the next idea.
I used it quite well with eighth grade students in Algebra 1 with all the evaluating of expressions, simplifying, and equation solving in that course and next semester for factoring. I used it recently with my BC calculus classes when we were learning how to write justification for free-response questions. Having a variety of correct and almost correct justifications made for a good discussion and a good class.
Both seniors and eighth graders like doing this and, especially the eighth graders ask to do it daily (which I don’t do).
One of the features I like is that there is a running count of how many students are signed and also how many have answered each question. It helps the teacher know everyone is involved. No one can be daydreaming, doing something else, or playing games on their iPad.
A report with each student’s name and answers can be downloaded at the end of the activity as an e-mail or spreadsheet.
Images, including math symbols, can be included in questions as .gif, .jpg or .png flies, but they are pixellated and appear after the question text (i.e. not as inline equations) and there is no way for students to draw graphs. The website does not work well using Chrome on my PC but is fine in Firefox and Internet Explorer. It works on iPad browsers such as Chrome and Safari. There are also free apps available for smart phones, iPads and tablets.