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Internet Resources: Instant Assessment with Clasroom Clickers for Free with Smartphones or Laptops

August 3, 2011 , , , , , , ,

Sitting at the carwash surfing on my phone, I found this post on Mashable:

Teacher Katie Rieser once purchased a $700 student response system, better known as “clickers,” for her high school classroom with money she raised online. Now a new startup called Socrative is offering a way for teachers like her to create a similar tool with smartphones or laptops — for free.
Buying the clickers several years ago allowed Rieser to ask students an “exit” question at the end of each class that checked for both individual understanding of new concepts and common mistakes.
“It’s really helpful for me to have that right in front of me and be able to see what kids are understanding and what they’re not,” she says. “Even if it just comes down to, ‘did he understand directions?’”
Other benefits of using a clicker system are obvious: Like students who might be too shy to raise their hands participate. It’s easy to track individual performance. And a teacher can theoretically give the class instant feedback. Plus, it makes grading quizzes easier. For all of these reasons, clickers have become a common teaching tool on many college campuses. One company announced last year that it had sold more than 1 million of them.
But $700 is a price that most classrooms can’t pay. And passing out hardware or setting up a system can be disruptive. It’s the later point that eventually persuaded Rieser to favor Socrative’s free clicker solution, which she uses two or three times a week.

Socrative makes a web, iPhone and Android app that functions as a clicker system. After a teacher sets up an account, he or she receives a classroom number to give students. They simply enter the number in their phones or on a laptop and are ready to answer multiple choice questions, write short answers and compete in team challenges.
“They don’t have to create a user name and a password, it doesn’t have to be approved by an administrator, it doesn’t have to go through the school, we didn’t have to spend 45 minutes setting it up,” she says. “…I get an excel sheet that I know what to do with.”
Socrative co-founder Amit Maimon, who made the prototype while he was teaching a class at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, says about 3,000 teachers have signed up for the app since its beta launch without marketing in April. Eventually the company would like to sell a premium service with individualized performance data for schools, parents and students.
Is Socrative viable for all classrooms? Probably not. A 2009 survey by Blackboard and Project Tomorrow found that about 31% of 9-12th grade students had smartphones with Internet access. Rieser uses Socrative with a cart of laptops that travels between classrooms, but many schools don’t have as easy access to technology — even if such access is generally improving.
Still, launching a web application is a much smaller barrier to what Maimon calls “visible thinking” than purchasing specific hardware or complicated software for the task.
“There are no bells and whistles,” Rieser says. “And I think that’s intentional.”

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