In my subject area, there are often a lot of early concepts that students need to learn before they are able to get to the “fun stuff” of being able to create things. I found it very difficult to engage students in this sort of teaching but without it, students were disadvantaged with what they could achieve. I also wanted a way to ensure that students were understanding these core concepts before I allowed them to move on. I experimented with a number of different ideas such as mini whiteboards but found the management of them in the classroom to be difficult.
I began implementing a number of different technical solutions. Initially, I used Poll Everywhere to garner responses from students during class discussions. I like the way that Poll Everywhere allows you to display answers in a word cloud or as a list. There are also survey activities, quizzes and brainstorming tools that are helpful depending on what you are aiming to find out or achieve.
You can see in these pictures how I have used the survey to get the opinions of my Year 7 students on a news article headline whilst discussing being alert on the internet for potential bias or untruth.
I also used it with my Year 12 Certificate III in Business students to aid in the discussion about the knowledge questions for one of their units of competency. This class was notorious for being very quiet – they did not like to volunteer answers for questions so it was really helpful to see what they were thinking!
At times when I did not want the students to be on computers, I used Plickers. These are fabulous for quickly checking for understanding. They are not threatening for the students but you also have accountability because you can know which students have which cards.
Plickers also provides great data for formative assessment of students. You can see from the screenshots here the data on a class according to students and also information on the percentage of students who answered each question correctly.
One of my colleagues went to a training session that used Nearpod and told me about it. I researched it and was excited by what I saw. Nearpod allows you to embed activities into presentations much like Poll Everywhere but the activities are much richer. There are a number of different activities such as Matching Pairs, Collaboration Boards, Draw It, Quizzes and Surveys. There is also the ability to interrupt video in order to add questions to check for understanding.
I have found the collaboration board in Nearpod to be particularly useful when combined with some of the Visible Thinking Routines in the books Making Thinking Visible and The Power of Making Thinking Visible. The chalk talk routine works very well with the Collaboration Board. Students can also vote on each other’s ideas in this tool which would be helpful for an activity where they need to come to a consensus.
I also found the Draw It tool very helpful in my ATAR Computer Science course. This allowed me to quickly obtain some diagrams from students as we were learning about Entity Relationship Diagrams. I then showed them without student names attached and ran the activity “My Favourite No” which shows a wrong answer and goes through the thinking behind why it was a great answer but fixes up any misconceptions.
Through using these tools, I have a much higher confidence that my students are understanding the concepts I am teaching. I am able to adjust my teaching quickly if I discover that the class as a whole is not able to comprehend something and I can identify students who are in need of additional support or extension.