The SMART Board screen shines bright and excitement buzzes through the classroom as students log on. They share, create, compete, and demonstrate their learning in these online spaces, showing what they know and can do in engaging, interactive, and adaptive ways.
But then what? What comes next? How can we make the most of online formative learning and assessment?
Too often, we use technology for engagement alone without enough thought to the data it can provide. We’ve all been guilty of this—me included—by letting the buzz of the technology overshadow the transformative potential for teaching and learning. Data has become a loaded term in our high-stakes and test-driven world, but don’t let the buzzwords skew the value of good information. The more data—the more information—we have about student learning, the better we can be.
And the best technology for formative assessment focuses on not just the engagement, but the data. When used purposefully, technology tools provide meaningful, timely, and specific feedback about learning. Use the technology to better assess your own teaching and to understand more about student growth and progress.
3 Tech Tools to Provide Learning Data
There’s no silver bullet tool for education, but these tried-and-true tools are versatile, effective, and engaging. Best of all, they provide so much data; the power isn’t just in the assessment, but what comes next. Each has a regular place in my classroom.
The power of the Google Forms is in the results: view them in Forms individually or as a summary of responses, or open the spreadsheet to view them all row-by-row. Each Google Forms submission creates a new spreadsheet row, which allows you to examine and analyze students’ responses and data. Sort it, run reports, Explore in Google Slides, and think critically about your students’ work.
Use Google Forms for formative check-ins: ask students about their progress on projects or to assess their own learning. When teaching new skills, I use Google Forms to assess their comfort and application with questions like, “I can write a strong topic sentence on my own, with some help, or with a lot of help.” When my students respond, I have individual and whole class data about their learning.
I’ve never seen students more excited in the classroom than when competing with Kahoot! This game-based formative assessment tool is most effective for content-based review. We use it for SAT vocabulary, reviewing literary elements, and more. Kahoot! combines learning with fun competition but focuses on the positive: the leaderboard highlights the successes, not the failures, and only the individual student and the teacher know when the student has gotten something wrong. And like Google Forms, it’s all about the spreadsheet.
Kahoot! will assess student work automatically, creating a color coded sheet. Each student’s score and correct answers are provided and low scoring questions are highlighted,.. The Kahoot! games don’t need to be—and probably shouldn’t be graded in the traditional sense—but help make gathering the data fun and do the analysis for you.
Combine your favorite presentation tool—Powerpoint, Google Slides, or an equivalent—with the best formative assessment tool like Kahoot!, and you’ll start to understand the power of Pear Deck. (Full disclosure: Pear Deck is a freemium tool—there are free features and paid ones. My district pays and I think its well worth it).In addition to the open-ended and scaled questions of Google Forms and the quiz-like features of Kahoot!, Pear Deck allows for powerful additions like drawing. Students can draw– annotate and highlight texts, graph math problems, and draw maps.
Take your next lesson, upload your Slide Deck to Pear Deck, and create something great. Use Pear Deck to ask your questions and give students a way to respond before the class discussion so that everyone has a voice. The teacher can control the pace and share the responses with powerful features and customization. And once again, the results can be exported to a sheet. They can also be connected to Google Classroom, pushing out a set of student notes, with individual responses and notes. The product is customized for each student, and both the individual and class data is there for the teacher.
Make Data Matter
Everything we do in the classroom is informed by data—we examine learning goals, student progress, and assessments to help plan for future learning. Whether it’s the formative data from online tools and spreadsheets or the tech-less data from class discussions and observations, this information helps us to reach our students and meet their needs. Technology can help us do this better by making it easier to collect and analyze the data, usually while making the learning fun.
These three tools are just a start. There’s no one way to use technology or data; what’s important is that we not ignore it. Mix and match, adapt, and choose the best formative learning tools to meet your needs, but make sure to go beyond the engaging glow of the screen to meaningful and purposeful technology use and assessment.