We started this week with some thoughts about the current data-driven culture of education, and yesterday we were reminded of the importance of tackling student misconceptions head-on. We came away from these posts with two key principles:

  • Data is only useful when it guides instruction.
  • Learning is most effective when we uncover and address students’ prior understandings. 

Today we’ll introduce a quick, simple tool that puts both of these principles into action: Socrative.

Socrative is an app that allows teachers to make simple quizzes, polls, and queries that can then easily be pushed to a student audience to collect data in real time. It works on laptops, tablets, and even smart phones. It’s incredibly simple to use: just download the free app, sign up for an account, and engage with the user-friendly features to design questions you want students to think about at various points in your lesson. You can invite students to a “room” that houses your questions for them and they can respond instantly through their own device. You can ask multiple choice or open response questions – the app compiles both types of data.

The results are available immediately for you and for students to see:

Not only does every student have to stop to actively process the content of the lesson, but rich conversations are prompted when the class responds to its own data. Why did so many of us pick “E”? Is “E” the right answer? Students can see the diversity of responses in the room and use that to fuel discussions about misconceptions and overcome confusion. 

Teachers can collect data from each class to compare, or ask the same questions at various points in the unit to compare student responses and track growth. And it’s much easier than creating separate spreadsheets or manually entering student responses to compile this information yourself.

What’s the value in having kids take their phones out in class? Many kids already see their phones (or computers or tablets) as their primary means of connecting to other people. According to a 2013 study out of the Pew Research center and Harvard University, a whopping 78% of American teens own a phone and nearly half of them have smart phones. Almost a quarter of all teens say that their phone is their primary access point for the internet. Kids are already using their phones as a way to actively process information, and teachers can benefit from tapping into that.

Check out the app and try it with your students – create a beginning, middle, and “exit” slip via Socrative in order to gage prior understanding and check for progress throughout your lesson. A little technology can go a long way!