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Best in Tech 2011: Response Systems and Assessment

Eight experts explain what tools they chose and how they are working in their districts.

eInstruction
einstruction.com

Reviewer: Terri Meier, educational technology specialist, Eagle Ridge Middle School, Rio Rancho (New Mexico) Public Schools

Products we use: CPS IR and CPS Pulse systems, Interwrite pads, Mobi

How We Use them:
Teachers use CPS in many ways: to gauge understanding when verbally questioning, when grading papers, for district quarterly assessments and student surveys, for on-the-fly lesson concept checks, when administering ExamView assessments, even at staff meetings. Student feedback is used for RTI.

Goals:
We needed to provide teachers immediate access to student performance data, so they can assess student knowledge and abilities and tailor instruction accordingly. CPS provides this immediate feedback.

Response:
Students are more willing to participate in classroom discussions because of the anonymity in using student response systems, and they appreciate immediate feedback on assignments, tests, and homework. Teachers can pinpoint concepts students aren't grasping.

Learning Curve: The majority of our staff is able to use CPS after an hour of training. I host training during in-service days and after school to share effective questioning techniques.

What's Ahead: We are working as a school on using the systems to guide our instruction. We love that they help with grading, but we also want to use the systems to reform how we teach and to find students who are struggling.

SMART Technologies
smarttech.com

Reviewer: Bertha Roman, education technology specialist, Santa Monica-Malibu (California) Unified School District

Product we use: SMART Response XE

How We Use It: We use these devices to assess in-the-moment student lesson understanding, to poll students on prior knowledge, and to capture responses to quizzes or end-of-unit exams. This allows teachers to modify their lessons and reteach material that students have not mastered.

Goals: We wanted the response systems to engage students in day-to-day learning through formative assessment. And we wanted to give teachers a way to better analyze student data to track progress and revise lessons.

Response: Teachers, administrators, parents, and especially students found this technology engaging and exciting.

Learning Curve: Teachers in our pilot program underwent an intensive, five-day training session. The training included best practices in the use of formative assessments in the classroom and two days of technical training on the response system. In the end, all teachers were intermediate users of SMART Notebook and Response software and were able to deliver several types of assessment to their students.

What's Ahead: We have planned for continued support to our teachers through additional professional development and making technical support staff available. Teachers will also collaborate in lesson development using Notebook software.

Scholastic
scholastic.com

Reviewer: Tim Loversky, principal, Lakewood School, Community Unit (Illinois) School District #300

Products we use: Read 180 Next Generation, System 44, Read-About, Expert 21, FASTT Math, Fraction Nation, SMI, SRI

How We Use them: Every student in our school takes the SMI (Scholastic Math Inventory) and SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory). We use assessments to place new students in the right class, and we use the data to look at classroom progress, to determine growth targets, and to differentiate. We even use the SRI Lexile data to help students choose leveled books.

Goals: As a Title I school, technology helps our students access information and be creative. The SMI and SRI help students and teachers see their progress in math and reading.

Response: A couple of years ago, our staff resisted looking at data; now they own it. Our district leadership has been outstandingly supportive in alloting more technological tools. The board of ed and community are committed to giving students the technology resources necessary to succeed.

Learning Curve: SMI and SRI are easy to use. Students hop on computers, log in, and do the short assessments. We initially struggled with how to use the data, but with guidance from Scholastic, we figured it out. 

What's Ahead: Each year we understand more about SRI and SMI. We still need to deepen our understanding of SMI and the Quantile framework, a newer component for us.

Turning Technologies
turningtechnologies.com

Reviewer: Scott D. MacClintic, director, Kravis Center for Excellence in Teaching, Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, Connecticut

Products we use: ResponseCard RF, TurningPoint AnyWhere software

How We Use them: With carefully designed questions and answers, the "clickers" are an effective tool for generating discussion and exposing misconceptions. The game changer for us has been the value the clickers provide as formative assessment tools. 

Goals: We will use them in a variety of ways, depending on the lessons. They are fantastic at providing feedback to both students and the teacher in real time. We will keep using them for review before summative assessments, including AP courses.

Response: The students like the immediacy of the feedback as well as the ability to participate in a less "socially risky" fashion. Polling students individually, then allowing them to discuss their answers in small groups, and then repolling has been one of the most highly rated clicker uses.

Learning Curve: The TurningPoint AnyWhere software makes training time minimal. I used the clickers in a presentation to our board, and board members loved using them. We engaged in some wonderful discussions as a result of knowing what everybody in the room thought-not just the most vocal members.

What's Ahead: I just purchased two more sets of clickers, and I am in the process of getting more teachers onboard to use them in their classes.

DYMO/Mimio
mimio.dymo.com

Reviewer: Brenda McCombs, instructional technology director, Kannapolis (North Carolina) City Schools

Products we use: MimioVote, MimioStudio software

How We Use them: The teachers using MimioVote are primarily high school science, math, engineering, and foreign language instructors in our STEM Academy, where we emphasize hands-on and collaborative projects. Three teachers in the alternative high school and several elementary ESL teachers also use MimioVote.

Goals: We needed to know what our students know, and student response systems give immediate answers. We also wanted to empower teachers by providing training and tools for technology integration, including assessment for immediate instructional adjustments.

Response: MimioVote is very easy to set up and use. Students like the multicolored buttons that light up when a question is active, and parents are happy with it. Excellent and timely tech support makes our teachers more willing to use the systems.

Learning Curve: Teachers were familiar with MimioStudio, and they attended a weeklong boot camp to jump-start technology integration. There is no additional software to load, and voting pods do not have to be re-registered every time. 

What's Ahead: As more teachers develop higher-order questions to analyze student learning, we anticipate the demand for student response systems will intensify.

Qwizdom
qwizdom.com

Reviewer: Terry Moran, career and media tech teacher, Wolf Branch Middle School, Wolf Branch (Illinois) School District 113 

Product we use: Q4

How We Use it: We use the Q4s to assess the percentage of students who don't understand concepts and then we can reteach that information. We also use them to administer and get instant feedback on chapter tests. Students love using the devices for review games.

Goals: The plan was to use the Q4s to let students develop review questions during lectures, to review games prior to chapter tests, and to take chapter tests themselves. An additional goal was to help students who have a hard time with traditional test taking.

Response: The administration thinks this form of technology is a great way to involve students who typically struggle with the normal way a classroom functions regarding lectures, quizzes, games, and tests. Parents tell me their children really enjoy learning using the Q4s.

Learning Curve: At first, students were a little nervous, but after practicing with the devices a few times, they felt comfortable using them for any type of classroom situation. We've found that programming in advance is very important to success.

What's Ahead: I'm hoping that our district or our parent-teacher committee will be able to purchase whiteboards for each classroom teacher to increase the presence of technology in our classrooms.

Promethean
prometheanworld.com

Reviewer: Daniel Perry, principal, Charles H. Wacker Elementary School, Chicago (Illinois) Public Schools

Products we use: ActivBoard, ActivExpression

How We Use them: The devices create many types of assessments and skill-building activities. We use them for simple brainstorming activities, where students send comments or responses to the ActivBoard using the texting function. Some teachers have built quizzes that only let the student move ahead when he or she has correctly answered previous questions.

Goals: We want to effectively use interactive technologies in our classrooms. ActivExpression allows teachers to personalize learning and to immediately assess and address unique needs of students.

Response: Our school community has been very supportive (the devices helped increase our composite scores by nearly 10 percent). Teachers love the immediate feedback, which drives instruction. Students are excited about using the technology, maybe even more than the teachers.

Learning Curve: The level of custom service and ongoing support we received immediately alleviated all concerns. Because ActivExpression allows teachers to build a range of assessment for learning activities, teachers use it extensively, without difficulty, throughout the year.

What's Ahead: We continue to offer teachers training so they can use interactive technology and integrate digital content into their lessons.

QOMO HiteVision
qomo.com

Reviewer: Kim Iseral, special education team leader, Boone County (Kentucky) High School

Products we use: QRF900 response system, QVIEW document camera, QIT30 wireless slate

How We Use them: Students use the devices to answer questions as we read together, supporting comprehension; the immediate feedback allows me to reteach, reread, or discuss before moving on. We use it for
quizzes and tests, and to find out what students know about a topic. We can then develop lessons to address student interests or gaps.

Goals: We wanted to find new ways to engage students in learning-especially ways to assess student knowledge quickly and use that information to drive instruction. 

Response: Administrators were very impressed with the Qomo demonstrations, prompting them to find the funds to purchase systems for the school. Students see using the clickers as "fun" and not boring-and parents have been positive.

Learning Curve: The software is user-friendly. Qomo gave us training on how to use the new systems, and questions are answered by Qomo's e-mail support.

What's Ahead: As a district we are moving to more online assessment and to using systems like these. As Qomo develops new tools, we will see if we can incorporate them into our teaching and learning. Our goal is to have audience response systems in every class.

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