Tag Archives: tools

Flippity flash cards

I like tools that are flexible and easy to use. So while I was recently looking for a flash card tool to use with my students (there are many!) I found that lots of them required registering, or were pretty but limited in what they did, or wouldn’t allow images or text formatting. Formatting is important – I teach science, so I use a lot of subscripts and superscripts.

I was pleased to find (somewhere on page three or four of my search) flippity.net. This simple tool uses a google sheet to generate flashcards. You grab a template, enter your information in two columns (the two sides of the flash card), along with colour formatting if so desired. Publish your spreadsheet, grab the link, and paste the link into the second page of the sheet, and voila, instant flash card set. No sign in required.

flashcard image

There are ads displayed prominently on the site, which may make it unsuitable for some. But as a simple, non-login flashcard game/study aid, that allows html formatting and embedding urls for images and video, I think it has a lot of potential. I could see having students easily generate flashcards for themselves and each other as well.

The site also has templates for generating quizzes, a Jeopardy style game, name picker and  progress indicator, so there’s a lot of potential there.


A little organizational idea

So, I had this idea. And here’s the funny part – it came to me in a dream. No. Seriously. But it’s not the sort of thing I would ever think up, so I must have heard it from someone and it’s been fermenting in my brain for lord knows how long. But anyway…

In this dream I was volunteering somewhere (because it was a dream the “somewhere” was kind of vague, but maybe a museum?), and there was a box full of little slips of paper. On each slip was a job that needed doing. We volunteers would take a slip, do the job, initial it, and drop it in the “done” box.

See? beautifully simple. Totally unlike me.

This little idea, id seems to me, would be perfect in the classroom (and is probably being used in classrooms all over the place – like I said, this is not likely an original idea). Not only can you get jobs done – sorting craft supplies, organizing resources, returning materials to the library, etc – you have a record of who did what, and you can do a quick check to see how well each job was done.

While this would likely be very useful in an elementary class, an art room, music class, etc, I am not entirely sure how to implement it in a grade 11 Physics class, nor what motivation I could use even if I did have jobs.

But if I was organizing volunteers…

Socrative: web based response system for the classroom

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.


Another look at Microsoft Mathematics

I have had a few days to play around with this software, and my initial enthusiasm has been somewhat diminished. It has many powerful features, including the equation solver I mentioned previously that will list the steps. But it falls short for use in the Physics classroom for a number of reasons:

  1. No regression analysis. It will plot a set of data points, but won’t create a line or curve of best fit. Have to use Excel for that.
  2. No vector addition, except as coordinates or matrices.
  3. Area under a linear function – useful for displacement and Work, not there.
  4. Here’s a biggie – powers of ten are treated as simple multiplication.

Let me elaborate on that last point. Every year I run into the same issue with students not knowing how to use their calculator correctly, and making technical calculation errors as a result. One of the big ones is they enter scientific notation as 1.6 x 10^6, instead of using 1.6E6. The difference is in the order of operations; 1/1.6E6 = 0.000000625, while 1/1.6 x 10^6 = 625000. Try it yourself.

Microsoft Mathematics has a built in “*10^” button, but it does not behave the same as the E button on the calculator, meaning it is prone to the same kind of errors. (The image shows what happens when you enter 1/1.6[*10^]6 using the “*10^” button.)

So as a tool in my classroom, I think its use will be limited. A shame really, I kind of had high hopes for it.