Wow! I have had a heavy week in my EDTS 325 (Tools for Teaching and Learning in the Digital Classroom). We covered many interactive systems that are being used in classrooms and explored their versatility for both students and teachers.
The systems we looked at included:
- SmartLab Activities
- Google Forms
- Pear Deck
- Poll Everywhere
The four areas we evaluated when experimenting with these systems were in:
- Student Use
- Teacher Use
- Flexibility and Variety of Questions (i.e. Multiple Choice vs. Open Ended)
- Diagnostic and Feedback (for Teachers)
Keep reading for my personal Best and Worst in each area, and an Overall Favorite!
The Best: Quizlet (5/5)
For Student Use, Quizlet is my personal favorite! Before taking this course, I have used Quizlet as a student, and love its many capabilities. It is one of the best ways to study. The flashcards, games, and mock quizzes enable students to play with the material. When using it in a classroom setting with Quizlet Live, the competitiveness helps to engage students. It is very easy for students to join and play in Quizlet Live. Quizlet is the best in this category because of its functionality not only as an assessment tool in the classroom but also as an independent learning tool!
The Worst: SmartLab Activities (3/5)
Yes, there is a time and place for the SmartLab Activities that come with the SmartNotebook software, and they are extremely easy to set up and use. However, they seem directed more towards younger grades, and they are not nearly as eye appealing as some of the other contenders. When using this technology as a student, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as the other competitive games for assessment.
The Best: Plickers (5/5)
Plickers is unique because it doesn’t require extra devices for students. The teacher only needs one device with a scanning ability (which many can do), and the students need a sheet with a code or “Plicker”. The Plicker is a square code with the options A, B, C, and D, on each side, and the student simply holds the square with the letter they choose at the top for scanning by the teacher. It is exceptionally easy to use, especially as a teacher to set up the questions for the students and requires very little effort at all. Best of all, Plickers is free!
The Worst: Pear Deck (1/5)
Perhaps this is only my personal experience, but I had a difficult time trying to get Pear Deck to do what I wanted. There is an option for an “Add-On” in Google Slides with Pear Deck but I could not get it to work at all, so I worked entirely in Pear Deck. I would try to add the interactive pieces to the slides, only for the slides to appear as a simple PowerPoint; not what I was expecting from a highly regarded interactive app. After many bouts of trial and error, I did finally figure out how to use Pear Deck to the best of my ability and now can potentially use it much easier. This rough first experience has made me a bit reluctant to try it again, but I am not a quitter! Pear Deck does have some great versatility in the classroom, especially with the Premium Version. Students can create a dialogue with live content from the lesson, and the content from any lecture can also be sent home for reflection, or as homework for students that may be absent. I will not let a bad first experience deter me from learning more about this interactive system, and how I can use it better as a teacher.
Flexibility and Variety of Questions
The Best: Spiral (5/5)
Spiral is cool in its variety and flexibility of questions because not only does it have the standard multiple choice and short answer, there is also drawing and blog-type discussions for answer types, which is uniquely refreshing. It takes a little bit to become comfortable with Spiral, but there are some great applications for it. One of my favorite aspects is the Discuss function, where a question is posed and students can answer anonymously amongst themselves while the teacher can still identify who is giving which answer. This is really great for starting conversations on tricky topics and allows students to open up much more easily.
The Worst: Kahoot! (2/5)
I am rather sad about my rating on this application because in every other area it is my favorite! Kahoot is really easy to use as a student and a teacher, and the statistics for each question are easy to follow; however, the only major drawback for Kahoot is that all the questions must be in a multiple choice form. This can lead to a lack of personal opinions, discussion, and overall interaction with the subject material. It is also somewhat difficult for students when using separate devices; the answer is on a colored shape on the board, and they must select the right color and shape on their device. Usually, there are not many issues with this, but in the Jumble, it can get confusing. Yet this is still one of my favorites. Kahoot can easily be used as an Exit Slip game, or for review before a test, and the competitive qualities and benefits keep students highly engaged.
Diagnostic and Feedback
The Best: Socrative (5/5)
Socrative is fantastic for diagnostics and feedback and makes it very easy to see who is struggling or needs extra help. The real-time diagnostics can be used immediately to focus where students are having trouble. The results from any student interaction can also be saved and evaluated later on with your Google Drive. You really have to experience it for yourself, because it is extremely eye appealing and easy to understand. This is one of the best combinations of formative and summative assessment in a free app.
The Worst: Padlet (2/5)
Padlet has its own niche in the education world. I see that it can be used to collaborate, share ideas, and link media very easily, but it does have its own drawbacks. Padlet is different from many of the other assessment tools we explored because it does not have a “test” capability. Multiple choice questions do not work easily in Padlet. It is more likely that Padlet would be used for formative assessment than summative assessment. Teachers would have to look at each individually, and there is not a statistical function to compare each student to the class. Padlet is cool but does not fill every niche as some other applications would.
Wizer.me (5/5 in ALL Areas)
Wizer.me is incredibly versatile, easy to use for both students and teachers, and the diagnostics/marking is easy and allows for more feedback. I was able to create and customize a short worksheet in minutes! There is such a wide range in a variety of questions, including multiple choice, open answer, matching, labeling, sorting, and drawing! It is also remarkably easy to add multimedia such as videos, pictures, and links. Wizer.me is simple to navigate and has a visually stimulating interface. Marking is made simple for almost all types of questions, except the open/short answers, which are marked individually by the teacher. I find the ability to leave notes for feedback and “likes” for extra effort to be some of the top features of this interactive system. I am most likely to use wizer.me in the future out of all these systems because it is the most engaging without using competition. The free version of Wizer.me in many cases is more than enough and suits my needs just fine, the only addition that would be interesting in the paid version is the Reflect option.
Many of the interactive systems fit into certain roles within the classroom and with teaching faculty. For example, Kahoot works fantastically as a review tool or as a fun exit slip. Poll Everywhere is great for surveying opinions from students or colleagues. Padlet is great to start deeper, evidence-based conversations in a classroom. Google Forms is deft in creating flexible quizzes and surveys for students that can easily be shared. Pear Deck’s features can create engaging lessons. Socrative’s assessment styles can be used in conjunction with any classic lesson to easily see where students are falling behind. Spiral’s flexibility allows for creativity in answers from students and encourages thinking outside the box. SmartLab is already a part of SmartNotebook, which makes it very easy to add it to a lesson for a quick learning activity. Quizlet is wonderful for independent student studying and learning, and also for teachers to get a friendly competition going in the classroom. Plickers is unique for not requiring students to have devices of their own and can allow younger grades to be involved in these interactive systems.
I am most likely to use Wizer.me in my own future classroom for its flexibility and ease of use. I like that I can customize the layout and images on the worksheets. For example, when creating a worksheet on planets, I could add a background photo of planets to personalize the worksheet. The sheer number of variety in questions allows students to express their answers in creative ways, like drawing. I cannot wait to use Wizer.me again!
I hope you found these ratings and comparisons helpful when considering which interactive system will best suit your needs!