Inspiration in 1 minute

Here’s a great way to get newly inspired about the potential of meaningful technology application in the classroom: teachers around the world are applying right now to the Google Teacher Academy in London this April. As part of their applications, they are required to post on YouTube one-minute videos they’ve created on one of two themes: classroom innovation or motivation and learning. Google made it very clear that creativity in the video is an important factor in their judging process. But more importantly, teachers all over the world are sharing their favorite tools for purposeful use of technology in the classroom. In one-minute segments, others can view the videos and find out about new tools with incredible potential for rich, rigorous and relevant learning in the classroom.

One of the tools I learned about is Socrative (http://www.socrative.com), which allows teachers to create numerous types of student response activities in virtual “rooms”.  It appears to be more user-friendly and more varied than PollEverywhere, and for now it is completely free, although information on their site leads me to believe they will charge for it once it is out of its “Alpha” release.

In order to be highlighted in this blog, any tool, resource, or approach must meet the three Rs: rich, relevant, and rigorous. How does Socrative rate?

Rich: tools like Socrative that allow students to use their “mobile learning devices” (otherwise known as smart phones, ipods, etc.) contribute to a content-rich environment for learning, as long as the teachers are purposeful about how the tools are used (and purposeful in the creation of activities students complete using Socrative and similar tools). This tool also has some pretty robust reporting features, and although you can’t see the reports (or their data) in real time, you can analyze them later to determine next instructional moves.

Relevant: students are entering a society of constant feedback, constant participation.  Using Socrative in the classroom gives students practice engaging with products, materials and others in meaningful ways in order to meet their needs or to provide feedback to others.  This provides one more way for students to gauge their own progress.

Rigorous: this truly depends on how it is used, but the student response activities can definitely be designed such that the responses demonstrate extensive content knowledge, analysis, etc. This is particularly true if teachers use the open-ended feature to encourage students to post and share their analyses or hypotheses for discussion.

What’s the downside? Well, Socrative is currently in “alpha” release…almost like a pre-release version. They are very clearly working out the bugs and using the free alpha release to get feedback that will allow them to make the product even better before they (most likely) begin charging for it. Having used in with multiple classes in the past couple of days, I can say that it lacks one very important feature: in both the “quiz” and “space race” activities, students can answer questions and are told if the answer is right or wrong, but there is no way for the whole class to look at the question, the answer choices and discuss what makes one choice a better answer than the others. This won’t be important for activities relying on student opinion or with multiple correct answers, but for quick checks for understanding, the fact that I can’t project the question and the choices, then see a graph of the students’ responses is definitely a down side compared to other tools like Poll Everywhere or the student response units that one can acquire with most interactive white boards.

Currently, you can’t really run Socrative on your computer. Instead, use your mobile device to get the app (teacher and student versions) or go to t.socrativ.com for the teacher version. Once you’ve created activities and you’re ready to try them with students, have them use their laptops or mobile devices to go to m.socrative.com where they will be giving you formative assesesment data in no time.

Want to see what other teachers are doing? Go to YouTube and search for Google Teacher Academy 2012. Applications are due Feb. 9, so there should be many, many new videos added today and tomorrow. My video application is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGcmpAelUn4. Here are some of my favorite videos from other applicants (sorry…the QuickPress feature on WordPress doesn’t allow me to make friendly links):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ_LNgiqYRk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93oNgRLKYso
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hsuz4IQ0ZEs&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AvmizU-JY4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykucsmLtsbI
Inspiration in numerous one-minute clips is coming your way! Share the 60-second joy with colleagues!

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