Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Classkick or Formative: Which Should I Use?

Classkick or Formative? This is a question I get a lot. The short answer is: BOTH. The long answer is, well, longer. Like any other tool comparison, it depends on what you want to do with them. I really like them both for different reasons. 

Here is a chart I created that compares some of my favorite features. I hope it helps you decide which one you need for your lesson tomorrow!

The good news with these two tools is that no matter which one you choose, you will have picked a great one.

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!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Foster Teamwork with Classkick

Lately I have been doing a lot of talking about Classkick. In August the webtool version of this amazing app went live and now schools without iPads can take advantage of this fun and useful tool in their classrooms. As a result, I have spread the word at a couple of local conferences and in some PLCs in my district. If you aren't familiar with Classkick, take a look at some of my previous posts to read more about it. Today I will describe a way to use it for group work.

I was using Classkick in my classroom last year and stumbled upon a feature that created a new avenue for teamwork. When students use a code to sign in to an assignment, they type their name and get added to a roster. I had two Mikes in class last year, so I told them - the first time we used Classkick - to sign in as Mike J and Mike T. Fast forward to March and we were working on an assignment. They forgot about their last initials and both signed in just as "Mike." When they did this, they both started working on the same version of the same assignment. In other words, they were sharing a canvas. They realized this when they both started solving the same chemistry problems and could see each other writing on their papers: "Hey! Someone is writing on my page!"

I was warning about this in a PD session this fall and, as I described it, it occurred to me that this could be a powerful way to use Classkick in a classroom. Create a group work assignment and have everyone in the group sign in under one group name. For example, I could create checkpoints for an inquiry-based lab experiment. Everyone in the lab group signs in as "Table1" and works on the assignment together. They could work on each page together or every member of the group could tackle a different part of the task, like a jigsaw strategy. Everyone has access and can edit the work. The teacher can see the group working together in real time. The hand raise feature can be used to have their group work checked or to request help.

I haven't tried this in my classroom yet, but my son and I tried it at home and had great results. We worked on this slide collaboratively (I used an iPad; he used a chromebook): 

He wrote in black and green; my writing is red. I drew the blue car, but he gave it the smiley face. As we worked, we could erase and change each other's work. In the picture at the top of this post, I changed the color of one of the lines. He edited my textboxes. On another slide, he wrote a just-the-facts story ("the object moved at constant speed, then stopped, then moved again") to match a motion graph, but then I added some details ("the wolf moved through the forest looking for food and spotted Red Riding Hood . . .") to make it more like a story. After we tried three slides, I told him that I had seen enough. I knew it would work and had the pictures I needs for my blog. He asked if we could keep working. He thought it was fun. I agree. It was fun.

Using Classkick like this could make group activities more manageable because teachers can use the great feature of watching work in real time to monitor group progress. Students can divvy up parts of the task to make the work go faster or more smoother. Or they can use the shared canvas to edit each other's work without waiting for someone to ask for help. I love the possibilities that this creates for a classroom that emphasizes group work!

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Extension of your Library

If I have said it once, I have said it a dozen times: The best part of teaching is what I learn along the way. Tonight, in a Google class at a local college, I learned about an extension called Library Extension.

Library extension is a simple but powerful concept. Install the extension and indicate the libraries you patronize. Then, when you browse books at websites like amazon or Barnes and Noble, the extension will search local libraries to see if they have the book and if it is available to be borrowed. 

Take a look at these screenshots:

I was browsing for the book Rain Reign and a overlay appears on the right that indicates which of my local libraries have the book available for borrowing. When you find an available copy, clicking on the Borrow button opens a new tab for the library website so you can arrange the hold.

When looking for a Harry Potter book at Barnes and Noble website, the same type of information is available:

This is a really simple concept, but a great one. Often, I am looking for books in one place and then opening new tabs, sometimes for several libraries, and searching them so that I can reserve the books. This extension eliminates several steps. Plus, they have a form for suggesting other libraries to include in their list of over 1200 already included. I have already filled out the form for a library I found missing from the list.

This is a Chrome extension only so far, but the website reports that Firefox is also in the works. Check this one out today!