Expensive Tests “givers” or Feedback on Understanding?

A lot of times we take technology and use it to do something old, just easier or fancier. This is probably not the best practice. Ok it is not good practice, yet I am sometimes guilty of it as well. Last week I was looking at the new ActivExpressions from Promethean. They are student response systems that have a QWERTY keyboard. I have never had a set of response systems in my classroom, but when I see them I usually try think of ways to use them. Why it has never occurred to me to ever want them is the way I have seen them used in the past. I knew of a local high school who used them for test. That was terrifying to me. I could not imagine taking a test on them, I would be that person to get one question off and completely bomb the test. When I see them used this way I often think it is just using technology to make something old flashy. That just bothers me sometimes.

Last week I heard a lot of teachers talk about using them in that way or using them during lectures. That just seemed like a lot of money to give a test, shoot Google forms can grade your test for you for free. When I have imagined having response systems in my class it was for formative assessment reasons, immediate feedback but feedback that can steer a lesson or result in questioning. The problem was I had never witnessed this device being used that way. Have you ever had a good idea but can’t exactly wrap your mind around it? That was where I kinda was. I guess if I had a set I could play and get it figured out, but I don’t.

So as I mentioned my last post I had the opportunity to attend the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta and visit his math class. During his class he used the ActivExpressions in a way I had never even thought about, yet it was an example of what I was looking for.  He had stations set up around the room. Each one had a “theme,” the doors of death or the pounding basketballs and more. The students would go to each station, in whatever order, and send in the answer of the math problem when they finished. If the answer was wrong they would get a message and have to try again. After it was over he pulled up the answers and would touch an answer and get the person who sent it in to explain his/her reasoning.

This was such an exciting way to use the response systems and was a great example of how they are more than testing tools. Have you witnessed a class use them in a way that is different and encourages learning yet is a good formative assessment? I would love to hear more!

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