Friday, September 19, 2014

I Got a Kick out of ClassKick

This week I read about ClassKick, an iOS app that allows you to simultaneously watch your students' work as it is created.  It was my favorite combination -- free and easy -- so I quickly installed it on my class set of iPads to try it out today.  Verdict: awesome!  I can't wait to try it again.

The app setup is very intuitive.  You create classes that students join by entering a class code on the login screen.  No accounts are necessary.  If students are old enough to recognize and type in a 6 letter/number code, they can join a class with this app.

Creating assignments is also simple.  You start with screenshots of any kind of file and grab the text you want on each page of the assignment.  It took just a couple of minutes for me to create my 4 question assignment for today's class.  After students join the class, they automatically receive the assignment that you have prepared.  The teacher taps the "View Student Work" button and can see screenshots of each student's work.  Excellent.

Students see each page and use their finger or a stylus to work on the task.  My students were solving chemistry problems.  The default color is black, but they quickly discovered, to their delight, that several others colors were also available.

When in the Student Work view, the teacher can scroll through to see the work of class members.  Pages are shaded green to show which question a student is working on.  Pages turn grey when a student logs out.  

Tap a page and you can see it full screen to get a better view of the student work.  The teacher can create a set of custom stickers with phrases to praise or help students.  The teacher can also write on the student page (with default red ink) to show corrections or compliments.  Students receive a notification that they have gotten feedback.

I already loved the app at this point, but there are still so many great features.  

When a student is finished or confused, he can ask someone to help or check his work by raising a virtual hand (tapping the hand button).  Hands appear on the teacher dashboard to show who needs assistance.  Wow.  Even better, with a click of a button, students can help each other.  Now it's collaborative too.  Soon my students were eagerly asking for and providing help to each other.

In the teacher dashboard, it is easy to see with a color-coding system who needs help, who has gotten feedback, and who needs to have an answer checked.  From the teacher perspective, I loved that I could see how every student was doing as they were working and I could provide instant assistance if needed.  The teacher can see all the students by name and they can see that it is the teacher who is offering help.  

As great as that was, and it was great, the best part was how my students embraced collaborating with each other.  As the problems got progressively more challenging, they became more and more willing to pitch in and help each other.  From the student perspective, they can see that an anonymous student needs help, but they can't see who it is.  When a student is being helped, however, she can see who is helping her.  I liked that one-way anonymity and I think it made more students willing to ask for help.  That and they liked the silly anonymous phrases the app uses, like "a baffled bear needs help."

I had planned to do this for about 15 minutes just for practice.  In the end, we worked on these problems for the better part of class because the students were demonstrating so many great work habits.  We did have some technical glitches -- app freezing and crashing, long waiting for some image loading -- but even with some frustrations, it was still the best part of my week.

I loved the app and I am looking forward to trying it out again.  I am adding it to my Apps page of the blog too.  It will definitely become one of my standards.  

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