Monday, April 20, 2015

Collect Student Responses Easily with the NEW The Answer Pad

One of my favorite student response systems is The Answer Pad.  This week The Answer Pad released a new version of itself, a sleeker and cleaner interface with some excellent new features.  I participated in the beta testing and am anxious to start regularly using this new version of a great tool.  The color scheme and graphics look new and fresh, but those changes are just the beginning.  

 Here's what you can look forward to:

Log in to the new version and you are greeted by a new home screen with six choices - set up answer sheets, interactive, reports, portfolio, library or news.  I clicked on Interactive first because that is the way I like to use TAP best.  Here you can send out screens for students to answer the questions you ask on-the-fly during lessons.  There are some significant changes here.  First, a new option for Quick Connect means that students no longer need accounts to use this tool.  Now they can use a 5 letter code to instantly connect.  This is a major time saver and a significant plus in the new version.  Once in interactive mode, teachers can send out screens for multiple choice, true/false, yes/no, thumbs up/down, a fill-in box, a slider, or a blank drawing for students to use for responses.  Teachers see the responses in real-time and can capture and save to a portfolio.  There are also 12 free templates available in the free version and the ability to upload templates in the premium version.  I like that users can now designate templates as favorites and those are stored in a favorites folder so if you never intend to use the music staff or clock faces, you don't have to favorite those.

In addition to using The Answer Pad interactively, you can also create answer sheets that students can use with a paper test or quiz (free version) or paperlessly (premium feature).  These will be graded by The Answer Pad and reports are stored in the account.  Here is a chart that shows some of the different features available with different accounts:

The Answer Pad is an easy to use, intuitive tool, but they offer lots of help too.  Click on LEARN in the upper right hand corner of the screen and you'll go to a tutorial area with 13 videos, each showcasing a different feature, and a presentation that you can use for training.  I clicked through the slides and learned a few things.

In my classroom I have enjoyed using this tool on iPads using an app formerly called TAPit that will now be called Answer Pad (formerly called TAPit).  The iOS app is not yet ready, but is expected at the end of April.  The Android app is available.  For now, it can be accessed on any web-enabled device.  

This was already a great tool with a generous free account.  Now it is an even better one.  If you are looking for a quick way to gauge student understanding during lessons while engaging them in the content, check out the new version of The Answer Pad.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Free Lessons in the Nearpod Content Store for Teacher Appreciation Week

I have written about how much I like using Nearpod several times before today.  Nearpod is a presentation platform combined with a student response system.  Plus, Nearpod has a  feature that allow teachers to keep tabs on whether or not students are participating in the class or checking their twitters - a small persons icon that turns red when someone leaves the herd.  This is a major plus, especially with teachers who are hesitant to try some webtools for fear that students will disappear into the internet and never look back to the day's lesson.

One of the things I like best about Nearpod is how responsive they are to the needs of teachers.  With webinars and lots of help available, a content store for ready-made lessons, and features that improve as teachers give feedback, it is obvious that they appreciate teachers.  To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, Nearpod is offering some lessons for free in their content store.  Each week between now and May 8, 6 more lessons will be added for a total of 24 free lessons!  With a variety of lessons, there is almost certainly something for everyone.  These are not typically free, so grab them while you can!

As a Nearpod author, I also have content in the store available for teachers to use.  My NPPs are free every day.  There are four in the store so far, but more are coming soon.  If you teach science, you might check these out too. 

Get Ready for Quizzes with Quizizz

On Friday, during our 5 minute class change between second and third periods, I saw a tweet about a tool called Quizizz that I hadn't heard of.  Intrigued, and still during the class change, I quickly searched and read about the tool.  It was one of the fastest and easiest tools to use I have ever tried; my third period class played it at the beginning of class.

Press the green Get Started button to do just that.  I searched for quizzes about the topic I was quizzing on Friday, acid and base theories.  I found several that, when previewing the questions, looked like the right content, but you can also write your own quizzes.  I  clicked on the title of the quiz and arrived at a screen where you can play the quiz or duplicate it to make changes to the questions.  If you press Play, you have a chance to add or remove 5 features -- jumble the order of the questions, show the leaderboard, show answers at the end, time the questions, and show memes after kids answer.  Press proceed, give your class a join code and the game is on.

As my students joined the quiz, they were assigned a little monster icon.  From my screen, I could see who had joined.  Playing this interactive quiz game is a little like Kahoot!  Depending on the features you enable, kids answer questions and score points based on the correctness of their response and how quickly they give it.  They can run out of time and lose the opportunity to answer too.  My students thought the memes that pop up after correct and incorrect answers were really funny.  While the game is on, I couldn't see how everyone was doing individually, but I could see a tally of right and wrong answers, so I had a sense of how the class was doing as a whole.  After the game, I saw a chart that showed how each student did on each question.

I did all of that - find it, learn about it, and use the tool - in about ten minutes.  Our game lasted another five or ten minutes.  Two of my classes played on their phones, but one class elected to use the web browser on our iPads.  Any web-enabled device would work.  I didn't need an account to launch a game or search.  Quizzes are tagged with keywords and grade levels to make them easy to search.  My students and I liked the tool so much that I created an account and will make a quiz this week and try it again.  If you're looking for a fun and easy content-review or formative assessment tool, Quizizz is worth a look!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Station Rotation with Loads of Potential

A station rotation in my classroom usually means students are moving through a series of experiments in the lab in order to experience different aspects of a chemistry concept.  Every student completes the same stations, everyone has the same experience.  During my unit on chemical kinetics, I used a stations experience to deliver content in a slightly different way.

Students were assigned a reading assignment about potential energy diagrams, activation energy, and heat of reaction through Actively Learn.  As part of the reading, they also watched this short video about the concept.  The next day in class they logged into their Schoology accounts to take a brief, 5-question assessment.  Based on their performance on the assessment, they were assigned a menu of 4 different stations.  

Here's what was on the menu:
  • Direct instruction with me about what potential energy diagrams show us
  • A tutorial from the Wake Forest University Chemistry Department
  • A great self-check practice exercise from ScienceGeek
  • A model I made from pipe insulation and a cardboard box
  • A marble run challenge (build an endothermic model with the marble run)
  • A SMART notebook activity builder that compared potential energy diagrams of endothermic and exothermic reactions
  • An analogy exercise - write an analogy for the potential energy diagram.  Here is one of my favorite analogies written by a student:
    Potential energy is similar to purchasing a lottery ticket. One must use money to buy a lottery ticket. The cost of the lottery ticket is like the activation energy of a reaction. One must use a certain amout of money to be able to buy a ticket, just as a certain amount of energy is required to initiate a reaction. Then, one may win the lottery and gain more money than he/she spent on a ticket, just like how endothermic reactions gain energy (have more energy at the end than at the beginning). Or one does not win and loses money, like how exothermic reactions lose energy (have less at the end then at the beginning). The heat of reaction is the difference between the amount of money one has before and after buying the lottery ticket.
Students were able to complete the quick assessment and their 4 stations in one class period.  Technology was a key component because several websites were able to provide tutorials or instant feedback so students would know if they were on the right track.  I used QR codes with iPads for one station and links shortened by for another station.  Homework that night was to label two potential energy diagrams and calculate heat of reaction and activation energy.

The process was labor-intensive; set-up took quite a bit of time.  Still, now that I have done it once and the materials are curated, it would be easier to do a second time.  It was a good change of pace and many students enjoyed it.  The topic was a safe one to try with this rotation model because it is not too challenging to understand the concepts, but also allows for some extensions or enrichment.  With so many good resources available and many ways to present the information, it was easy to build the stations.  Almost all students showed growth on the concept from the assessment on the day of the lesson to similar questions on test day.  All in all, this model showed a lot of potential (heh heh) and I will definitely try it again.