I like the idea of “clickers”, when used judiciously, as a means of quickly checking rates of comprehension of a topic in a non-threatening (ie anonymous) way. But there are hardware requirements – both the clickers and the receiver – and with some systems the questions have to be established ahead of time, which doesn’t always work in a dynamic classroom where the focus changes to meet the students’ needs (as opposed to the teacher’s agenda). So I had been looking for an online alternative to clickers for a while, even resorting to a Google docs form that I had to reset after each question. I guess I was looking something I could use to gauge understanding of any question, quickly, whenever I wanted. Not too much to ask, right?
Well, I recently discovered Socrative, a multi-platform web-based response system for classroom use, and it seems to meet all of my needs and then some. I would like to share my initial impressions after using it in a few of my classes.
Probably the best feature of Socrative is its simplicity. As a teacher, you connect to http://t.socrative.com, and register or sign in. When you register you designate a room number – this can include letters and numbers, so you can use a school name or your name as well as a room number. Once signed in, the screen looks like this:
Students connect using http://m.socrative.com/. No login is required, they just need your room number. They can log in using a computer or mobile device. Their screen looks like this:
Once students are connected, you can ask a question (T/F, MC, or short answer) – shout it out, write it on the board, pull it up on a PowerPoint – and simply click the question type on your screen. The answer options appear to the students, and as they respond the results show up on your screen. This can be used for pre-planned understanding checks, or spur of the moment queries or polls.
You can also create and save quizzes, and then activate them when you want. Quizzes can be automatic or teacher paced, or they can be done as teams with the result showing up as a “space race”. There is even a selection for using Socrative as an exit ticket, using your own questions or the built in ones. For the quizzes and exit tickets, on completion the results are emailed to the teacher directly as a colour coded spreadsheet for later analysis.
As with just about everything, moderation seems to be the key. Using it judiciously seems to refocus and engage the students, while excessive use tends to be tiring. It is simple and fairly foolproof, works through our school firewall (not all web 2.0 sites do!), and works on any web-enable device. Feedback from students is positive. One student in particular who has a great deal of trouble remaining engaged in Science reported that he was complete “sucked in” by it and found himself engaged almost despite himself.
Socrative is in beta at the moment, and all features are free. When it goes to full release, they report that there will always be a free version, but that advanced features – such as uploading quizzes as a spreadsheet – would require a subscription.