Sunday, March 20, 2016

Technology in my Classroom

So, we have best practice at every department meeting, and at a recent one, a coworker shared an app he uses called Zipgrade.  Being the curious little science teacher I am, I decided to try and use it.  This brings up a neat topic that I feel is becoming increasing relevant in this day and age: technology in the classroom.  I actually did a project about it in graduate school, but I feel like it has become a more polarizing difference between teachers.  I find myself straddling the line between pro-technology and wary of technology, but when it comes down to it, I like when things can save me time and effort.  So, let me share with you a few tricks I've begun to compile while I experiment with apps, widgets and all that stuff.

Apps and Stuff
These are a combo of some apps for phone (both Android and iOS) and have some kind of computer interface to download and analyze data.  If you are pretty good with Excel or Google Sheets, the process of setting up classrooms in these apps is pretty straight forward.

Zipgrade:  I have a few apps I use for expediting the grading and analyzing of data.  One of the newer ones I mentioned was Zipgrade.  Through this program you can print out and grade, rather quickly honestly, scantron style multiple choice tests.  You scan with your device and can then upload a file of grades to your grading system.  Compared to how I grade a quiz of a comparable size, it takes about 1/3 of the time to grade and post grades to School Loop or whatever system you use.  The set up process takes some time, and it took me a while to figure out the weighting component, but I loved it.  That way, I never have to worry about using a scantron reader or entering grades by hand.  I'm into it.

Doctopus:  This is a mass copy system that works through Google docs.  Basically, it can make a specific copy of a Google file for each student to use so they don't edit the original document you share with them.  I use it mainly for rubrics for projects and lab reports so they can get feedback much faster.  There's a plugin where you can speak your feedback as a recording, which is great for accessibility.  There's a ton of stuff this one is capable of, I just haven't unlocked its full potential as of yet.

Socrative:  This is one of my favorites for quick quizzes.  Basically, you create an online quiz where students can answer either on their phone or on a computer.  You can use it to create a quiz game, exit tickets, team up the students or keep it individual.  The school I am currently at has a pretty strict no phones out policy, but in a classroom where you have Chromebooks or a less strict school phone policy, you could totally do a quiz game where they have rockets that shoot off into space as they get answers right.  There is an app for students and an app for teachers.  The teacher app can connect directly to your Google account and gives you a really comprehensive readout of what students have gotten correct and incorrect.  A lot of this app is similar to Zipgrade, but it is free and has a free response option.  However, in terms of assessment, it's good for formative, but for summative, I would lean towards Zipgrade due to the phone not being a part of the student interface.  Taking a test on a phone with the internet so close is too much for me to handle.

Plickers:  I'm trying this one soon with my freshmen.  This is a good check for understanding tool where each student gets a specific QR code to use during class.  You ask a question and scan for responses.  I am excited about the anonymity it brings to students, the accountability for understanding and the ease in grading with another spread sheet like Socrative and Zipgrade.  The thing I am not fully in love with, and this could be due to my inexperience with the app, is the organizational system.  Zipgrade and Socrative both have questions organized in a quiz format.  Plickers has the questions in a shared folder, so you have to choose the questions in your queue before each session as I see it now.  Hopefully, I can figure a better system.

Overall, these are the apps I have found that work the best in my space or I'm excited to try out.  If you have any experience with another system, please let me know.  If you can't tell, I'm excited to test out anything that will make my life easier and allow me to give better feedback.  I suck at giving work back in a timely manner.
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