When I get the chance, I have been looking into some fairly exciting developments/possibilities for the use of digital technology in the classroom. Here’s an update.
My starting point has been to try to find things that could make a really difference to the school lives of both students and teachers. I have tried to avoid the temptation to experiment with something simply because it looks good. Instead, I have tried to identify what I would like to be able to do and have then tried to see if there is anything out there that can deliver.
I identified two priorities.
1. Instead of phones being a distraction, how could we use phones to make students more engaged in their learning?
2. How can we use technology to make marking – the bane of all our lives – less irksome, more meaningful and more interactive (and formative)?
Could mobile phones act as a hi-tech,low maintenance alternative to use of mini-white boards. I like the idea of students being given a chance to reflect and then share an answer as an alternative to the hurly-burly of ‘hands up if you know the answer’. The same hands go up and the same hands stay down.
I know that the English department have been trying to dispense with hands up altogether, and I have seen effective use of mini-white boards in other parts of the school. Personally, however, I have always been put off by the palaver of passing the boards around, making sure that there are enough pens and rubbers/cloths. I also feel that students don’t necessarily see each other’s responses and unless the teacher happens to pick them, there answers are essentially redundant.
Here’s the idea. At the end of the question you ask the students to send a text in which they summarise what they have learned in the lesson. Or perhaps, you ask them a very open-ended question that builds on the learning that has taken place. They send a text in a matter of seconds (no need for passing around those whiteboards) and lo and behold, all their responses appear on the teacher’s screen at the front of the class. Responses can be discussed, challenged etc. Everyone feels they have contributed. What is more, if the question has thrown up interesting ideas that could be useful in a subsequent lesson, it is easy to share and distribute this electronic record of the class’s ideas.
Can it be done. Yes – just about. There is a site that does it perfectly – http://wiffiti.com/. It’;s free and incredibly easy to use. Unfortunately, however, for the moment in the UK it is only possible for students to share ideas from a PC to the class screen. The SMS option is not yet available outside the US. Still – a useful option for a computer room , or as a piece of homework. Another site, textthemob does pretty much the same thing, but a little less stylishly.
There is another option, however, that does this….and a bit more. It;s called polleverywhere. You can set an open question and then get students to send their response to a screen. Cleverly, you can also set multiple choice questions or polls, and then see the results as a bar graph on the class’s big screen as the results come in. For example: When was the Battle of Hastings:
This can of course be used at the culmination of a lesson to assess learning, or as an ‘opening shot’ to try to generate discussion, or indeed as a homework task. It’s possible to ask (and answer) more than one question in any one poll.
There are a couple of other sites:
Lesson Management & Collaboration
Free Texting From PCs
Free Group Texting
Automatic Grading with Google Do cs