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Dive Into Student Learning: 3 Free Tools

Dive Into Student Learning: 3 Free Tools

By Adam Schoenbart

Hold students accountable for independent reading with Whooo's ReadingWe live in a brave new world of teaching and learning, often defined by high-stakes testing, Common Core, and APPR. Many of today’s educational trends revolve around the powerful use of data to drive instruction; simply put, it’s more important than ever to have a solid understanding of what our students know and can do.

As teachers, we need to know about students’ learning and progress, and often need to be able to effectively communicate and analyze that data.

While using student data to drive instruction can better inform teaching, re-teaching, and assessment, it’s not always easy.

Thankfully, today’s teaching world is also connected and collaborative, and educational technology offers countless free tools to help you learn more about student learning and to use that data with purpose, ease, and impact.

The more we know about student learning and the better we can communicate and use the data, the more we can reach our students where they are and guide them towards future learning and success.

There are many sites, apps, and other resources to help you learn about student learning and data. These three are not only free, but will make it easier to learn about your students and use that information effectively.

Kahoot!

I’ve never seen my students have more fun in the classroom than when playing Kahoot—this sentiment is often echoed by teachers I’ve worked with. Kahoot! uses a game show trivia format to create engaging, interactive, device-agnostic learning experiences.

The format is simple: You find or create a quiz and run it on a projector or Smart Board. Then, students go to kahoot.it and enter a game pin, followed by their name, and the game begins.

Questions, pre-set with time limits and point values, have up to four possible answers, and students make their selection on their devices.

Here’s the beauty of Kahoot!: It works on any device and students don’t need accounts. It uses fun music to engage students and drive competition. While a leaderboard shows on the your projection with the top five high scores, students are shown their individual rank as well.

No one is singled out negatively, but the progress and knowledge is clear. You can stop in between questions to review, as the game shows a bar graph of success with each question and answer, or can automate the process for quick, fun formative learning.

student learning

Note that there’s a limit to characters in the questions so shorter is usually better. You can also add images or video to the questions for extra content or engagement.

Kahoot is an exceptional formative assessment tool, best used for content-based review, pre-teaching, or simple analysis/application. It can be summative, too. You can download a spreadsheet of student performance to Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. Simply have students enter their last names into the game, and you can organize that data to evaluate learning, assess problem areas, and recognize successes.

Last year, I thought that because of a snow day, I didn’t have time to review for a vocabulary quiz. Then I realized that Kahoot was the answer—I didn’t need to spend time and energy writing and grading a quiz, our Kahoot game could be more than a formative review.

The raw data from Kahoot provides correct and incorrect answers, sorted by students’ point values, and color coded correct and incorrect answers with green and red, making it easy to get a feel for student learning with just a glance.

More: 13 New Tech Tools to Boost Engagement in 2016

Google Forms

Google Forms is a powerful app that should be used more in education. Whether it’s for an exit ticket, collecting student data or interests, or to record textbook numbers, a form is your answer.

Create a form in Google Drive, and customize it to meet your needs, including question types, range of answers, and theme or design.

Like Kahoot, the power of the form comes in the results. All responses from a Google Form are stored and organized in a Google Sheet, automatically created within Google Drive. When a form is submitted by a user, each question fills a different column, and each entry a new row.

The result is an easy-to-organize spreadsheet of data. Most anything you can do to an Excel spreadsheet, you can also do in a Google Sheet.

google forms

Another advantage is that, when using Google Forms created within a Google Apps for Education account, it can be restricted to just users within the domain (i.e., your school) and can also automatically record usernames, which are usually e-mail addresses.

By recording usernames, no typo or mistake can stop you from clearly identifying student responses, and more importantly, using the data to drive instruction.

I use a Google Form to learn about students’ interests, learning styles, and extracurriculars. I sort the results by class period and student name, and now have an organized database of important information to connect with my students—I can easily leverage this data for learning opportunities.

Both Google Sheets and Forms have great add-ons, which are free programs that add functionality to the app. For example, Flubaroo, can automatically grade the results of a Google Form, provide the scores and feedback to students, and color code low-scoring questions and students.

With forms, assessment can be automated, the data can be communicated quickly, and the results can be used in a meaningful way in time to improve student learning and achievement.

A third strategy for using Google Forms is to create an exit ticket for demonstrating learning. Instead of leaving the classroom with 30 slips of paper, learning is now documented and organized online, making it easy to share, return to, or analyze for further use or instruction.

More: 10 Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom

Twitter

Connected educators know the power of Twitter and social media in our professional lives and learning, and using Twitter with students to connect, collaborate, and demonstrate learning is an effective way to develop 21st century, Common Core, and digital citizenship skills.

This year, all of my students have Twitter accounts, and we Tweet with a class hashtag regularly. Using #SchoenTell, students share pictures, video and written snapshots of the learning that goes on in our classroom.

Right now, many of these posts are assigned and directed, but I hope to leverage that practice and social media engagement into true learning opportunities in coming weeks.

For example, there’s no better way to find expert sources for research in the 21st century than through social media. I model my own use of Twitter for learning and growth for students, showing my questions, thoughts and connections, and encourage them to do the same. When a student wants to research life on Mars for his Genius Hour project, he can follow real-life astronauts, ask them questions, and interact in a way never possible before. But then what? Social media is a powerful tool, but how can we use it document learning and for data? By organizing your tweets with a class or school hashtag, a quick search creates an authentic, live, and public archive of your students’ learning, progress and output. Whether students are tweeting themselves or using a class account, or you’re tweeting the learning, there are many strategies to share their learning through social media (for more about students Tweeting from a class account, read this article). Effective and purposeful use of social media allows you to share the great learning going on in their classrooms and connect with other stakeholders around the world. You can use it to gather data, promote positive 21st century skills, and share with an authentic audience like never before. 

A quick search on Google will help you find dozens of online tools to engage students, collect data, and assess formative and summative learning. Kahoot, Google Forms and Twitter are three easy ones to get you started. Share your favorite tools for data or assessment on Twitter or at aschoenbart.com.

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3 Free Apps to Dive Into Student Learning

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