Fruitful responses, faster feedback in class by using classroom response system

Craig Jones discovered the difficulty of providing personalized learning to a large class when he taught science at a Los Angeles USD middle school. With 10 lab stations set up across the classroom—each with its own objectives—monitoring each students’ learning was virtually impossible.

Jones sought to solve the problem. After leaving the district, he helped develop Formative—a student response system launched in 2015 that allows teachers to watch, on their computers, how each student responds to questions on mobile devices.

Two decades ago, most student response systems were simple clickers—devices that could record and display answers to multiple-choice or yes-no questions, and little else. But now, many systems let students enter free-form responses to questions. Teachers can see those responses as they are entered, and can provide immediate feedback.

Immediate, personalized input, especially following an assessment, can provide the equivalent to eight months of extra learning for students in the school year, according to a 2014 study from the Educational Endowment Foundation.

Student response systems generally come in two forms: device-based, where students use clickers to enter their answers; and app-based, where students record responses on their phones or school-issued tablets or laptops.

But other considerations include the method by which teachers prepare their questions and view responses, and whether the response system links to existing curricular content and a district’s LMS or assessment database. We describe them here.

Clicker-based systems

The latest clickers produce live results for teachers as students respond to questions, without requiring students to use other devices such as laptops and phones.

Clickers—which can run on one set of batteries for six to 12 months and are highly durable—are best used in buildings where students don’t have their own devices, or areas that don’t have a strong Wi-Fi signal, says Laurie Boedicker, director of curriculum and instruction at Highland Local School District in Ohio.

Schools typically purchase clickers in class packs—sets of 12, 24 or 36 depending on school and class size. They are usually shared throughout the district to reduce costs, says Boedicker.

Specifically, the West New York School District in New Jersey uses Promethean’s Activote, a small, egg-shaped device that has six choices labeled A to F that can be used for various question types, such as true/false, multiple-choice or polling the classroom.

And Grace Wilday Junior High School in Roselle Public Schools in New Jersey uses Qwizdom, another clicker. As part of a federal grant to upgrade its technology infrastructure, the school purchased 17 sets of 24 clickers and applied them in each subject. Results were positive: Test scores increased in each of the subsequent five years, says former Principal Josue Falaise.

Several clicker-based response providers also offer fee-based software that allows students to use their systems with personal computing devices, instead of the clickers.

Then there is Sunvote student response system, which produces a clicker with a variety of activity modes, including homework, where students can bring the device home and input answers for review the following day. It also offers a “rush quiz” feature, which is a timed quiz mode for periodic review, and “hand-raise” where students can hit a button to tell the teacher they are ready to respond in class.

Teacher considerations

With most student response systems, a teacher logs into the software’s website and can either create a lesson or quiz from scratch, or select from templates. Some products, such as Kahoot! or Pear Deck, have databases of quizzes.

With Formative, a teacher can post questions such as asking students to add fractions, and students simultaneously solve the problem by writing out the solution on their device.

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