From paper to smartphone assessment - Step 1

"Take out a piece of paper and fold it in half length-wise."

Almost every one of my English classes for the last twenty years has begun with that statement. What follows is a short, five-question quiz on the previous night's reading. Recently, one or two of those questions comes with notebooks open, which gives students a chance to see how well they are taking notes and keeping track of what is important from the day's discussion. In any case, both students and I get a quick look at how well (or if!) they are reading and understanding.

"Take out your smartphone or get a netbook from the cart."

That's how today's class began for two of my classes. Those students took the quiz (created in a spreadsheet and imported into a quiz program) using the netbooks, their smartphones, and on an iPad. They loved it, but that's not surprising. It was something different and not only used technology but used something (cell phone) that is banned in school. If I had them take quizzes on slate using chalk they would probably think that is cool for a while too. When it wore off a little bit I could introduce color chalk and get a few more quizzes out of the novelty. 

But novelty is not what I am looking for because I know it will wear off. The use of technology needs to go beyond engaging and should be useful and relevant to the student. That's what I am working toward. Initially, I may only be  replicating something I have been doing all along but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, pens replicated what was done with a slate and chalk initially. Things improved and they will in this instance. 

So step one needs to be followed by step two (which will happen tomorrow). This experiment has just begun and will continue long after the novelty has worn off. It is only then that it's true worth will become known. Otherwise, it's just cotton candy.


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