I really wish that this week’s blog prompt would have been done earlier in the semester. My intern is in the midst of his 3-week block which means that I won’t be teaching for the next little while (I’m not exactly heartbroken). That said, I do have some experience with some of the assessment technologies that were outlined in this week’s presentation. Also, I’ve recently discovered an assessment technology that I plan on utilizing next semester.
For starters, I can’t talk about assessment technology without bringing up Kahoot. I first discovered Kahoot a couple of years ago thanks to a substitute teacher that took over my class for a week while I was at a conference. When I returned to work, my students greeted me with:
“Awww, you’re back?”
“We miss the sub, he let us play Kahoot!”
“Can we play Kahoot today? Can we, can we?”
I can’t say that I was thrilled with the reception but I was intrigued by this magical “Kahoot” and immediately gave it a look. Since then, it has become a staple in each of my classes. One of the reasons why Kahoot is great is that it’s easy to use. Quizzes are extremely easy to create and if you’re in a rush or just looking for a quick/easy way to end a class, there are plenty of pre-made Kahoots available (though many of them are poorly created and littered with spelling mistakes and irrelevant questions). On the student’s end, connecting to a Kahoot is as simple as going to kahoot.it, typing in the code, coming up with a school-appropriate username (admittedly, a challenge for some), and then answering the multiple choice questions using their device.
So, why do a Kahoot? Well, it’s an easy way to check for understanding (hello, formative assessment!). One of this week’s readings, Measuring for Learning, stated that “both teachers and students can use the results from formative assessments to determine what actions to take to help promote further learning”.If your students do really well on a Kahoot, there’s a good chance they’re grasping the concept. If not, it might be time to re-evaluate your next move. Same thing for students. If they struggle on a Kahoot, it might serve as a bit of a wake-up call that they’re not quite grasping the concept(s).
Kahoots also serve as excellent reviews prior to exams (especially final exams). I often have my classes create their own Kahoots prior to finals that incorporate questions from throughout the semester. We then play a few of them during the classes leading up to finals. The fact that students actually like playing them (and creating them) is also a benefit. They love the competition and that has led to some pretty intense battles, especially if there are multiple students within 100 points of each other towards the end of a quiz.
Is Kahoot perfect? Of course not. While most students (once they hit high school) have access to smartphones, they don’t all of them. To combat this, I usually have a couple of spare laptops in my room in order to ensure that everyone can play. Unreliable internet connections also pose a challenge. Many Kahoots have been lost as a result of connection issues. Keeping every student engaged throughout the entire quiz can be tricky if it’s a long quiz (more than 10 questions). Students will often check out if they’re far off the lead after 6 or 7 questions.
Overall though, the benefits of a Kahoot far outweigh the drawbacks. When used in moderation, it can be a great formative assessment tool.
Something I plan on using in the future is “Duolingo”. I teach one section of core-French per year and while I enjoy teaching it, it is definitely a challenge. The French language not being a huge strong suit of mine (I describe myself as “fluent-ish”, my Francophone wife occasionally disagrees) combined with having to teach multiple sections of it in one class (9/10/20/30) makes teaching it more difficult for me than my usual ELA/Social Studies classes. As a result, I’m constantly on the lookout for something that can benefit both myself and my students. I learned about “Duolingo” at a community of practice last month and it looks like it could be a great addition to my French class. What Duolingo attempts to do (according to its own website) is provide students with “fun, game-like lessons in order to keep them motivated and excited about language”. The self-guided nature of it is especially appealing to me because I have multiple sections in one class. For example, I could set the 10s and 20s up on Duolingo while I teach the 9s (or vice-versa).
Also, there appears to be a variety of lessons for a wide variety of levels. Core-French can be a tough subject to teach because there is often a large knowledge gap amongst the students. Some students come into high school core French having taken French immersion throughout elementary school while others have only taken core-French throughout their schooling and, depending on their teacher, might have only learned basic vocabulary (days/months/colours). In theory, Duolingo meets one of the key suggestions for assessment outlined by Barber and Hill – accommodating the full range of student abilities.
Since I haven’t actually used it with a class, it’s tough to say exactly how effective Duolingo will prove to be but it appears to have some potential and I’m looking forward to trying it out.