Saturday, October 22, 2016

Go Formative!

I am a big fan of Classkick. Often, when I describe what I like about it, people ask me how it compares to Formative. I have known, loosely, what Formative is, but I recently set out to learn more about it so I could answer that question with some authority [aside: a comparison of the two tools is coming as a post soon].

I attended a session at a local conference to see Formative in action. Formative allows you to ask students questions and see their answers in real time. Question types include multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and show your work. You can also add images, text blocks, and videos for students to view. At the conference, Jileen Urbanek described how she uses Formative with PDFs of already created assignments. Upload the PDF and anchor questions to it using Formative. Then see student responses in real time or grade them later without hauling a big stack of papers around. I was impressed and intrigued.

I tried it out in my classroom almost immediately after the conference. My students were working on a stations activity to learn about pattern of trends on the periodic table. They work through six stations and record predictions and findings on a guidesheet. I don't collect the guidesheet; it serves as their notes, but it would be helpful to see how everyone was answering while they worked. Enter Formative. I uploaded the PDF of my guidesheet and placed the anchor questions. That was a very easy and intuitive process. Then students created accounts with their school Google accounts and joined my class with a code.

As students worked, I could see how many were selecting the correct answers. Formative gives the ability to sort this data a couple of different ways. Plus, you can hide the names or whether answers are correct or not if you want to project this for the class. I liked that I could look at a glance to see if my students understood the concepts and I used that to determine which questions we needed to talk about as a class.

I didn't use Formative to provide a grade on this activity, but I can see where it would be very easy and useful to do so. The multiple choice and true/false questions grade themselves. The short answer and show your work questions can be hand-scored within the tool by clicking on students' names. Written comments can also be added. I like the idea of turning lab assignments into Formative assignments because questions could be graded one at a time without endlessly flipping through pages.

Overall, I really liked Formative for doing exactly what the name implies - checking for understanding of content during instruction. I like the versatility of using it to record grades or not and seeing student responses in real time. Thanks, Formative, for a great tool!

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