Socrative- A Simple, Strategic Assessment Tool.

At the start of the school year, I was introduced to a student clicker-type program called Socrative. It’s free and can be used in your web browser or downloaded as an app to a mobile device (available for iOS and Android devices), I must say I prefer the app as a class-based tool. I’ve been testing this out in my class for the past couple of months and have been rather impressed by the results.

There are essentially two modes for using Socrative: you can administer a pre-written quiz to your students with multiple-choice questions and free response questions, or you can administer a quick one-question activity or exit ticket.

I used the pre-built quiz feature for a few days as a warm-up activity for my children whilst they got used to the app and logging in. Students find the app on a tablet computer and then enter a code, there is a set, random one that is given to you. However, if you got to settings you can change your code for your class to something more memorable – I think this is a terrific feature!

Socrative 1
I was asked to demonstrate Socrative to my colleagues at a staff meeting, so I wrote a sample quiz for them. Here was one of the multiple-choice questions:

Socrative 2
Now, while students are taking the quiz, the teacher can use their end of the software to monitor progress and results in real time:

Socrative 3
Free-response questions can also be built into a Socrative quiz. Here’s an example from the quiz from the staff meeting:

Socrative 4
Now, here’s the interesting cool part. When I see that the children have finished, I end the activity. Then, I am presented with the option to e-mail a report to myself.
Socrative 5
So this morning when my students finished their warm-up question, I had a report e-mailed to me. A few minutes later, the results arrived in my inbox (student names have been removed):

Formative performance data that can inform and drive my classroom instruction to best meet the needs of my students. This is all organized and colour-coded in an Excel spreadsheet.

If you don’t have time to write a quiz in Socrative, that’s no problem at all. Socrative also allows for a quick one-question option that allows you to assess students on the fly. On the teacher control panel, you can choose to start a quick multiple choice, true/false, or short answer activity:
Socrative 7
You can announce the question orally, or provide it in a written format on paper or on the board. You select this option, and the students see this on their screen:
Socrative 8
Notice that there’s no question displayed. As I mentioned, it’s up to you to present the question however you want. The point is that you can use Socrative on the fly to formatively assess your students as well. You can also monitor results in real time, though there won’t be names attached (so this is also good for taking an anonymous poll). The downside, however, is that you can’t e-mail a report to yourself in this mode.
Socrative 6
So far, I’m seeing great advantages to using Socrative in my classroom. It’s a very handy way for me to quickly collect and organize formative assessment data before, during, and after a lesson. It allows me to more effectively monitor my students’ learning and to make appropriate instructional decisions. Overall, this is a great piece of software and is a very simple way of recording formative assessment data.
If you would like to learn more about apps for assessment I highly recommend  a course that NAACE  put on which is Apps for AfL. Find out more on: https://www.naace.co.uk/

Thanks for Reading!

Adam Chase

Skitch- The Simple Annotation Tool.

I have been recently using different apps with the aim of trying to become more paperless, from this I started using Skitch, Skitch is an app that has been around for a while, it’s available for Computers, Macs, iPads and even the Android Market. The app is made by Evernote and it tries to sort out information as easy as possible. It is easy for a user to capture screenshots, gallery pictures or take pictures in the app and then annotate them.

Skitch used in Y5

Skitch used in Y5

Skitch goes out of its way to keep things simple and coherent. It launches very quickly, and has a vertical toolbar with a scant seven tools, each with a large, clear icon. These are traditional image annotation tools: An arrow for pointing things out, a text tool, a colour picker with a limited palette of just eight colours, a rectangle you can surround objects with, a highlighter, a “pixelizer” for blurring out details, and a crop tool. With this app, students can sketch ideas, mark-up photos, make diagrams, create/label maps, and even annotate text.

Introducing Skitch: 

The Skitch app, which is very user-friendly, enables students to snap their own photos or upload images/screenshots from the web.  Before jumping into digital texts, I spent some time introducing the students to the app itself. We practised taking photos using the camera and practised using all the tools. We talked about appropriate tools for specific tasks and how not every tool will work for every assignment.

Further ideas:

Maps/Diagrams:

  • Create diagrams (e.g., parts of a flower, stages of a life cycle, planets in a solar system, layers of the rainforest, etc.)
  • Create a map of your classroom/school
  • Create a treasure map using all the features of a map (i.e., key, scale, symbols, routes, geographical features, etc.)
  • Label of blank map of the continents or a map of the country

Text Annotating: 

  • Take a screenshot of non-fiction articles or snap

    Annotating the features of a text.

    a photo of text from a newspaper, magazine, or book to annotate for active reading

  • Take a photo of student writing to mark-up (i.e., label parts of a paragraph, highlight writing conventions, locate text-based evidence, etc.) — great for self-assessment!
  • Label fiction story elements
  • Label non-fiction text features (see my lesson above)
  • Highlight key words that show non-fiction text structure

Speaking and Listening: 

  • Capture examples and make content vocabulary come to life (snap pictures, sketch, label, etc.)

Maths: 

  • Deconstructing word problems (snap a photo & mark it up!)
  • Showing work for constructed response maths questions (you can use Skitch as a whiteboard)

Further Reading:

If you’re interested and would like to learn more about Skitch look at:

http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/using-skitch-in-your-classroom.html

http://www.appsinclass.com/skitch.html

https://thatedtechguy.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/apps-in-action-skitch/

Also, if you would like to learn more about educational technology I would recommend you look at:  https://www.naace.co.uk/ 

Thanks for reading!

Padlet- The collaborative wall!

Padlet is an app that can be used in lots of different ways. This could be in a 1-to-1 situation, or the teacher could use a projector to show the class a bulletin board you create. Share the URL/QR code with the class have the children answer a discussion question, work on a “Do Now” activity, or even create an exit slip to show learning. I have even seen it used as a way of showing learning made during a topic, the class filled in a collective project at the start and then at the end of a unit to show progress made.  I have used it to create a bank of sentences as a class which can then be used in later writing e.g. how would describe… and then the children create sentences, I prefer three each, and this can be ‘magpied’ when they create a piece of writing.

Another idea is to use Padlet as a tool for small group projects. The teacher could divide the class into small groups and have the children work together at home to research a particular subject — for example, the Euros, Olympics or even the Romans. Each student could devote their research to a type of media supported by Padlet (video, audio, photo, or text), add it to their group’s shared wall, and then present the findings in class.

There are dozens of online bulletin board sites out there, but Padlet is one of the more intuitive, and probably most appealing to kids. The colourful backgrounds and customisation options let children add some personality to walls. The drag-and-drop interface is  smooth and easy to use. The depth of the site depends on what you put into it; it’s basically a blank page, but Padlet gives support and has examples of best use.

Children write a few sentences each and the class ends up with a paragraph.

Children write a few sentences each and the class ends up with a paragraph.

Padlet walls are great for study groups, class projects, and discussions. Classmates and friends can collaborate successfully on shared walls for study or fun, too — just keep an eye on them. Padlet gives students a lot of freedom to explore interests online and save that info in an organised manner. Whether it’s school- or fun-related, children get to create a space of their own.

All in all, Padlet gives students their own little corner of the Internet to collect and save information in a simple, fun and collaborative manner. It’s beyond easy to use, the interface is intuitive, and help is available around every corner. However, be aware that walls are semi-private by default, meaning there’s an extra step involved in ensuring total privacy for users.

Thanks for Reading,

Adam Chase.

 

Making a Difference in Primary Maths with Technology

Some schools are fortunate enough to have lots of computing equipment, but many more agonise over which tech gadgets to spend their limited budgets on. It’s good to have a plan. Decide what you want to achieve with technology that you just couldn’t without it. Don’t settle for filling your lovely new tablets with apps for practice and drill activities, important though these are. Think big. Then have a look around and take advice on what devices will do the job you have identified.

Take maths for example. Every primary school teaches it every day. I can’t think of a school that doesn’t have an element of maths identified on its school improvement plan. How can technology help?

Mental Starters

SkoolBo is a free to use online platform that alternates between maths and English questions. First, register as a teacher and enter your class list. Usernames and passwords will be generated for each individual pupil. KS1 teachers please note – your pupils can cope with these! Once the children have logged in they will be presented with alternating maths and English questions in an informal games environment. The system is intelligent, so it figures out where the child is up to, and generates reports for the class teacher. Of course, it is important that older siblings do not access SkoolBo on your pupils’ behalf, as it will quickly ramp up the level of difficulty of the questions they are given, and your assessment data will lose value.

There are many ready-made question sets (for example times tables) that are self-paced and self-marking for a wide variety of pupil response systems such as ActivExpression and Socrative. Assessment data is generated for the class teacher.

Primary Games Arena offers a wide selection of games in many primary subject areas, which can be filtered by strand and age. No login is required, and no assessment data is generated.

Have you seen Play Osmo? Try it out in the number, Tangram and Newton functions.

The games tab within Purple Mash (from 2Simple) contains many games that can be accessed by children independently to practise mathematical skill areas. These include times tables, factors, multiples, fractions, addition, number bonds and more.

Of course, there are many, many “practise and drill” apps available for tablets, such as Hungry Fish, King of Maths, Math Bingo, Maths Racer, Speed Maths, Matific…the list goes on…

Main (Exposition)

Your interactive whiteboard is your friend, whether it’s Promethean, SMART, Epson, or something else, there are many ready-made resources available to you via their online communities.

For a small subscription you can access a wealth of online teaching resources via the TES iBoard. Also via subscription are the teaching and learning tools within Purple Mash, which include 2Count, 2Graph and 2Calculate. J2e also offers Pictogram and Chart tools via their new subscription service, j2data.

Remember that technology need not be, well, high tech. Use your visualiser. Essentially, this is simply a camera on a stick. Use it to demonstrate how to partition with Dienes apparatus…or how to use a protractor…or any other mathematical task…record a video and play it on loop at the IWB so children can watch as often as they need to. Remember that as well as investing in an actual visualiser, there are some good visualiser apps too. Try iVisualiser from Alan Peat.

Main (Independent)

So once you’ve done the teaching bit, how do you challenge children’s learning?

Remember the old Interactive Teaching Programmes (ITPs)? Not the world’s most whizzy graphics, but arguably, this means that children concentrate on the maths. They’re all here, and the instruction manual (if you need it) is here.

Search the Promethean and SMART online communities for ready-made learning activities. Remember that learning tasks can be set in Purple Mash too, via the “2Do” tools.

There are plenty of apps to support higher level independent learning tasks, including Long Multiplication, Short Multiplication, Grid Multiplication, Net that Solid, What’s the Time Mr Wolf, Numerosity, Mathsterious Mansion, Motion Maths, Cupcake, and oh, so many more.

Consider using tablets as calculators. Not the best return on investment if you use apps that simply gives you a standard 4 operation calculator, possibly with memory (and there are plenty of them). You can buy those in any supermarket for under £2. Try My Script Calculator. It’s free, and you just write your calculation directly on screen. It recognises many higher level mathematical functions, and suggests where errors may be present.

Plenary

Again, user your visualiser, this time to allow children to demonstrate their learning to their peers. Assessment for Learning should of course be done all along the way, but think about using apps such as Plickers, Socrative, Explain Everything and Showbie to assess and submit work for marking and feedback. Hand-held pupil response systems such as ActivExpressions are useful here too, particularly in combination with Class Flow, the VLE from Promethean.

Homework

Purple Mash is a good place to start, with plenty to help develop all areas of maths writing, at all stages of the primary age-range. Tasks can be set, submitted and feedback given via “2Dos”.

Ask your pupils to spend some time on SkoolBo. They will get instant feedback, and you’ll get assessment data.

Many schools are already using systems like My Maths for homework. Still more are beginning to post instructional videos on their VLEs to facilitate “flipped learning”. Camera-shy teachers need not fear. These videos can be generated using apps such as Explain Everything, and do not require anyone to stand in front of a whiteboard talking to camera. In fact, the videos need not be created by teachers at all. Think about it. Children could create their own videos about the grid method of long multiplication and post them to the class blog. Everyone learns from watching them – as often as necessary in order to understand the method – and then the teacher challenges the pupils’ understanding in the next lesson with problem solving activities. Yes, all children need internet access, and yes, all children need to actually do the homework. Anecdotal research indicates that this kind of homework has a far higher return rate than traditional worksheets. Where children really, really do not have internet access at home (really?) then how about providing homework clubs at lunchtime or after school.

 

You will have noticed that the same few key technologies keep cropping up. That’s because it’s not actually about the technology at all. It’s about what you do with it.

 

Want to know more? Naace 1-day courses in ‘Impacting on Standards in Mathematics with Technology’ and ‘Technology for AfL’ are run regularly throughout the UK, both by Naace and by Naace Delivery Partners. Keep an eye on the website!

 

Dr Carol Porter (@CPorter18) is Technology Curriculum Support Centre Manager, supporting schools in Bury LA with the Computing Curriculum, Technology-Enabled Learning and eSafety. She is also a Naace Fellow, Naace Lead for Professional Development, Naace Lead for Standards in Computing, and Vice Chair of Naace Board of Management.

A comparison between the Raspberry Pi and the BBC Micro:Bit

Rasp PiMicro bitI would just like to start off by saying that I am not an educational expert or a technological guru, I am just a practising class teaching with a very keen interest in technology. It is my view that by encouraging technology into the classroom we can give our pupils learning that is more current, engaging and relatable.  One of the ways I have done that is with the Raspberry Pi.

The idea of Raspberry Pi came from Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft (of Cambridge University’s Computer Lab); all of whom were concerned by the lack of hardware in a child’s educational diet. In a previous curriculum, and time, we focussed on the software (programs) rather than demonstrating the benefits of different hardware (hard parts you can touch) so the gentlemen mentioned previously started to develop the Raspberry Pi.

The name came from the regular use of fruit in computers i.e. Apple and Pi isn’t something numeric or something tasty it’s because of the programming language Python which is the main way to program on the Pi.

What is a Raspberry Pi?

In short, a Raspberry Pi is a small, wallet-sized computer with its parts showing. Its aim was to create a small and affordable computer that children could enjoy. In many ways the Raspberry Pi simplified programming and computer codes. Out of the box you can download (for free) different software from the Raspberry Pi website (www.raspberrypi.org) depending on what you would like to do with it. For new people the NOOBS package is recommended, this stands for New out of the Box. The NOOBS software can be downloaded and saved onto a MicroSD card which can then be physically placed into a MicroSD slot on the Raspberry Pi.

Along with a MicroSD slot, there are:

  • Audiojack (3.5mm)
  • Power port
  • 4 USB ports
  • A HDMI port
  • Ethernet Port
  • GPIO pins, these stand for general purpose input, output. Perhaps a little long winded but the important thing is they can make LED lights switch on and off and sound off buzzers. Essentially they help the Raspberry Pi interact with the physical word.

What is on the NOOBS Software?

The NOOBS software contains a number of fantastic programs which will help users to understand programming and computing. Scratch is a program that is aimed at primary level users initially however I have seen it used up to A – Level Computing. There is also Python which is a programming language (or code), this is generally aimed at Key Stage 3 but there is no reason why more astute children at Key Stage 2 level could not access it.

Another program is Sonic Pi for me this is a really exciting piece of software, as it lets users programme music. Users can start by copying and pasting set instructions (or algorithms) and playing their own music. Following the start process of copying set algorithms, users can start to play around by editing what they have copied, then if they wished they could record their own sounds and add them to the musical instructions.

The next piece of software I should mention is Minecraft Pi- this is a special version made for the Raspberry Pi. It is a very advantageous program as it does not connect to the internet and is therefore very safe. The Minecraft Pi version is basically the creative version of Minecraft. For anyone not following this trend Minecraft is a digital building block game with not set goal/ boss to defeat. In other versions there are zombies and other such nasties which you can defeat or build something to keep yourself safe but ultimately it is essentially a digital building block game.

In my day-to-day teaching I have used Minecraft with some engaging results and it is definitely worth thinking about using for example, children in my class have design Anglo-Saxon villages during a topic, they wrote an explanation text for adults and other children on how to use this software. I have more about this on my blog: mrchase.primaryblogger.co.uk .

There are more exciting things you can do on the NOOBS software such as the internet by connecting with a Ethernet cable, using Python to make LED lights blink, Buzzers go off and take time-lapse pictures but they are the main pieces of software that are worth looking into. If you are interested in researching more about the possibilities of Raspberry Pi’s I would recommend looking at the Raspberry Pi Website (www.raspberrypi.org).

Comparison

As mentioned by the BBC and others’ previously the Micro Bit has been made in mind as a gateway to devices such as the Raspberry Pi; rather than a replacement to it.

Design

Really the Micro Bit is a much more basic computer than the Raspberry Pi 3, and is designed to interact with other devices rather than acting as a stand-alone system. Also has many of its functions attached directly, such as 25 red LEDs that can be programmed to light up, and two programmable control buttons. The Raspberry Pi can do this but only with additional LED lights which can be placed on the GPIO pins. Further Micro Bit is a 5cm x 4cm circuit board with five basic I/O rings for hooking up other devices and even power.

Power

BBC Micro Bit: 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU, 16KB RAM

Raspberry Pi 3: 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU and Broadcom Videocore IV GPU, 1GB RAM

The ARM Cortex MO CPU chip, which is the smallest ARM processor available. It’s designed to be extremely small and energy efficient, as well as easy to program with. As the Micro Bit is still relatively new there is not a lot known about its capabilities. The Raspberry Pi 3’s ARM Cortex-A53 CPU is more powerful than the Micro Bit chip; it’s the kind you might find in standard to mid-range smartphones.

Software

Raspberry Pi 3: Variety of Debian-based OSs, primarily Raspbian OS, free Windows 10 version (NOOBS package and others available at www.raspberrypi.org).

BBC Micro Bit: Embedded software platform, web-based interface.

Raspberry Pi 3 is a full applications processor-based device that runs Linux and Windows 10, while the BBC Micro is an embedded software platform that doesn’t run a full operating system. The Pi even features a web-based UI for editing in JavaScript, Python, C++ and Blocks, which has been developed by Microsoft to make programming easier for users to understand.

Both micro computers are aimed for different purposes, the BBC Micro Bit is more entry level; as it’s meant to teach children the very building blocks of computing, while Raspberry Pi 3’s software showcases a more recognisably modern Operating System that could be seen on modern computers.

Connectivity/ Interactivity

I have already highlighted the features of the Raspberry Pi above. The BBC Micro Bit has a basic set of five I/O rings, which uses crocodile clips to physically hook it up to other devices (such as sensors or robots).
Additionally, it does feature Bluetooth, so you’ll be able to connect it up to phones and other devices wirelessly.

There’s also an accelerometer and a compass, so the BBC Micro Bit can be used for the kind of directional applications or motion-based games that can be found on a smartphone.

Interestingly, one whole side of the BBC Micro Bit is a standard edge connector, which means it can be physically plugged into other devices like the Raspberry Pi 3 itself. The Raspberry Pi could then power it, alternatively two AAA batteries will power the device.

Price

Raspberry Pi 3: £30

BBC Micro Bit: Free to year 7 students

The Raspberry Pi 3 comes at a low price of £30, but that’s still much more expensive than free, which is what the BBC Micro Bit is for year 7 users. Of course, most people aren’t year 7 children, and the BBC has confirmed that it will make the Micro Bit available to purchase. Originally the Micro Bit was going to be made available to buy by ‘the end of 2015’. Of course, with the delays in getting the product into schools, it remains unclear when the device will be available to buy and there is no clear guidance on price yet.

Summary

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a much more advanced and practically useful device, but if you or your child is starting at the very beginning of your programming journey, the BBC Micro Bit looks hard to beat at the moment.

However, there really is no direct comparison between these two devices. If the Raspberry Pi 3 is a ‘first proper computer,’ then the BBC Micro Bit teaches the raw building blocks of programming at the heart of it. Further, the infrastructure provided by the Raspberry Pi community really is without compare, there are a plethora of guides, videos and tutorials that will enable users to really challenge themselves. For me the Raspberry Pi is still difficult to match.

 

Note about author – I am the Year 5 Class Teacher at Old Hall Primary School, where I am also the Computing Lead. I am also a Bury Local Authority Leading Teacher for Computing. My focus is using computing to enhance other areas of the curriculum; rather than it being a standalone subject.