Friday, September 30, 2016

Formative assessment in the one device classroom

By now we all understand the necessity and benefits of formative assessment.  We must know where our students are in their learning so that we can be sure that they are ready for the next step.  By assessing students at regular intervals, we can ensure that we know this and can adjust our lesson, either for the entire group or begin differentiating based on the results of these formative checks.

In a perfect world, one in which every student has a device or ready access to a computer, there are many great options for quick and easy assessments that utilize technology to help teachers collect and analyze the results.  From Kahoot! for an interactive and fun experience to Edmodo for a more structured setting, options abound for the tech heavy classroom.  But what about a classroom that is sparse on technology?  In this situation, Plickers may be the perfect solution.

Plickers is an interactive assessment tool that only requires a single device in the hands of the teacher.  Students are armed only with a simple, pre-printed card that displays a unique code, similar to a QR code.  The cards can be purchased, but they also can be freely downloaded and printed by the teacher to save costs or because you simply want to get started quickly.

The first step for the teacher is to head over to and grab a free account.  Set up your classes and add students.  You can do this manually, but Plickers also lets you import a spreadsheet as well. Students are assigned a number that corresponds with a particular Plicker card.

Now that the students have been added, you can move on to adding questions.  Note that you can add folders here and that is a good idea, especially if you teach multiple subjects.  You can nest folders as well, making it easier to stay organized.  Once you have your questions added, switch to LiveView on the computer that is connected to the projector.  Then launch the Plickers app on your phone or tablet.  On your device, select a class then go in to your library and find the questions you want to present.  If there are several questions you'll be presenting, add them to the queue.  If it is only a single question, go ahead and tap Scan Now.

The question will displayed on your projected computer.  Students will rotate their Plicker card so that the answer they choose is at the top and will hold the card facing the teacher.  You will then scan the cards in the entire room by pointing the camera of your device towards the students.  You do not have to scan each card individually; the app will detect the cards automatically, even scanning them as a group!  The students responses are captured and stored in the reports section of your Plickers account.  You can also display the graph view on the projected computer to see live results.

As you can see, using Plickers is quick and easy once you have things set up.  You will add your classes and add students first.  Then add questions to your library, or create them on the fly.  Students respond by holding up their Plicker Cards and you capture their responses with a quick pointing of your device.  It's that simple!

Plickers is a great replacement for expensive Student Response Systems and is a breeze to capture formative assessment data in the classroom but don't forget to think outside of the box.  Traditional clickers and expensive student devices might not always be the best choice for every situation.  Consider capturing feedback while on a field trip.  The students are outside at the nature center (or museum or on the bus heading back).  It's not an appropriate place for student devices due to the risk of loss or damage.  The teacher can verbally read the question and answer choices, quickly scan the responses, and get a good idea of student understanding before you leave the site!  Now that is anytime, anywhere learning!

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