We Can Do Better For Our Students

For those of you who know me, you know I am not a fan of the worksheet in any format, paper or digital. One of my main issues with worksheets as assignments is the lack of immediate feedback. A student can fill out an entire worksheet, thinking he or she did a great job when in reality many of the answers could be incorrect. The student, thinking he or she did a fantastic job on the worksheet, now believes his or her answers are correct and therefore has learned the material incorrectly. A worksheet in paper form or in digital PDF form by its very nature requires a teacher to review the worksheet and mark each answer correct or incorrect. As you mark those answers wrong, do you provide feedback to the student why the answer was wrong? And how long does it take you to go through a stack of worksheets, paper or digital? Do you get that worksheet back to the student quickly so that the student can see how they did? Before the student has made incorrect assumptions about their work? Before the student has learned the material wrong?

Some teachers believe that if they digitize a traditional paper worksheet and students fill out the worksheet on an iPad or on a Chromebook, that the worksheet has suddenly become engaging. I've heard this many times from teachers and administrators alike. "Oh but filling out the worksheet on a Chromebook is so much more engaging for the student." Um, no. No worksheet in the history of the world has been engaging in any form.

Don't get me wrong. I am all about making things accessible for all learners. Screen readers are awesome if a student requires that. I have yet to have a teacher tell me they are assigning digital worksheets to make them accessible for their learners.

I have an entire presentation dedicated to creation tools. In that presentation, I challenge teachers to take a worksheet and really look at what that worksheet is asking the students to know. Once you have determined that, you can use any number of creation tools to have students show what they know about a particular topic. Creating something is more engaging for a student than filling out a worksheet. You can view that presentation here.

For the rest of this post, I'd like to share some tools with you that are similar to worksheets but that provide students with immediate feedback. These tools also provide you with data that you can use to drive your instruction. And you won't have to get out your red pen to grade papers!

Socrative is an oldie but a goodie. Socrative allows you to create quizzes with multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions. Socrative quizzes can be teacher paced where the teacher controls the questions or they can be student paced where students go through the questions at their own pace. Regardless of the mode you choose, students receive immediate feedback as they answer each question. And as the teacher you get a report that shows how each student did. The report allows you to easily see if students are struggling with a particular topic. Socrative is really meant to be done in class but there is no reason why you couldn't assign a Socrative quiz as homework. You would just need to remember to start the quiz so your students could access it outside of class. Socrative has an excellent User's Guide and a YouTube channel with tutorial videos to help you get started.

Formative is a tool that allows you to upload PDF or Word files and make them interactive with a few clicks. You can also start from scratch to create a Formative. As students work on the activity, you see in real-time how they are answering each question. And students receive immediate feedback. You can also add images and YouTube videos to a Formative. If you are a math teacher and you want students to graph a line, simply upload a graph image and add the interactive element to it so students can draw on it. Formative assessments can be shared to Google Classroom so students can easily access them. Formative has an excellent set of tutorial videos as well as a User's Guide.

Wizer is fairly new to the market but I think it has some possibilities. Wizer reminds me a lot of the flyer creation tool, Smore. With Wizer you can create interactive assessments and provide students with immediate feedback (on most question types). Wizer has also recently added the ability to record audio so you can record each question for students who may need that. A Wizer can include multiple choice, short answer, fill in the blanks and matching questions. You can even use a cool fill on an image option to make questions out of images - think about using maps or labeling parts of a microscope. You can also add videos to a Wizer. Here is a Wizer I did to show you the type of questions you can have on a Wizer. When students complete a Wizer, the teacher can see how they answered each question. You can visit the Wizer blog for tips and tricks.

All three of these tools allow you to take and modify activities created by other teachers. A good way to start would be to find something already created and either use it as is or modify it to fit your needs.

A caution. Copiers these days allow you to put any piece of paper on the bed and create a PDF copy of that paper. While it is possible to do this, you need to be careful. If you have a workbook or worksheets that came with your textbook, you need to check the licensing agreement that came along with that. You may or may not (probably not) have the right to scan that page and turn it in to a PDF that you can distribute digitally. As teachers we need to be very careful and be sure we are always following copyright laws.

Bottom line: we can do better for our students. Our students deserve more. There are so many tools today that can provide your students with immediate feedback and you with information to drive your instruction. Will it take some time to create these assessments? Yes. Are our students worth it? YES!