In the past, as we've written our "Focus on Active Learning" series, we've mainly talked about styles of teaching, but we've never really gone into the nuts and bolts of how to carry them out. Here, we'll take a look at 5 web applications that you can use in an active learning classroom, as well as give you a few tips on how to best use them during a lesson.
Socrative is an interactive quiz site, accessed through software on either a Windows computer or a mobile device. When the Socrative Teacher app is opened on the instructor's device, students can connect to it for a variety of different quizes, such as true/false, multiple choice, and even short answer. The app supports up to 50 users for free, but more connected users and more personalization are possible with the paid version of the app.
One of the coolest things that Socrative offers is called "Space Race", where students work together in groups to answer questions correctly. Each correct answer pushes a cartoony spaceship further along the track toward the finish line, giving students incentive to arrive at the correct answer quickly.
Socrative also offers some very cool teacher functions, like the ability to log and archive the students performance on quizzes given with the app. This not only makes grading much easier, but gives teachers a way to monitor which skills and topics students need assistance with.
The free version of the app brings a lot of functionality, but the paid version gives you a bit more, plus it's only $29.99 annually. The ability to ask questions on the fly, to collect survey data as students exit, and the ability to see results in real-time all come standard on the free version, though, so it's certainly worth a try.
Not on board with your students staring at their cell phones at all? You're not alone. Most primary and secondary educational institutions are still wary about allowing the dreaded cell phone to be used during school hours. Plickers is a polling system for those institutions; instead of a vote counting system that relies on "clickers", cell phones, tablets, or other devices, students are given a piece of paper with a shape on it.
Using it is easy. Ask a question, have students hold up their paper, then use your cell phone camera to scan the room. Individual students can be given their own unique Plicker card so you can find out who answered what. It works great for small rooms, especially in schools where tech funding might be limited, but instructors still want to take advantage of curriculae that might involve electronic polling. It's also great if polling/quizzing isn't something you do all the time to justify the ongoing cost of using another app.
Maybe the best part about Plickers is that all this is offered free of charge. According to their website, a paid version might be in the works, but the basic functionality will always be free.
Not every classroom is the right place for multiple choice answers, for polling, or true/false questions. Sometimes, say in English class, you'd like to get an idea what's on everyone's mind quickly, but without having to resort to going around the room and speaking individually. AnswerGarden makes that possible.
By now, you've seen those "word clouds" that everyone creates. They consist of a group of words, arrayed around each other in a "cloud", and the more times a certain word appears, the larger that word gets in the cloud. AnswerGarden is the real-time equivalent of a word cloud you can use in the classroom. While it doesn't have any of the right/wrong answer dynamics of other apps on this list, it will give you a quick notion of what your students are thinking.
Like Plickers, AnswerGarden is free to use, and easy to set up. It will even work great as a distance learning app, since you don't necessarily need to have the input displayed in real time.
Economics isn't just about prices, supply, and demand. Sometimes it's about the choices a society makes, or even choices an individual makes. It intersects with philosophy, game theory, and logic. So while it might seem strange that we include economic-games.com on this list, trust me, as a business student, most of these games have varied applications.
If you've been to business school, you've likely played some version of these games. The teacher sets up a problem, and then students, who represent actors in an economy, use the game to run through a real-time simulation of economic events. This includes pretty basic supply and demand stuff, but also some very interesting problems like the Prisoner's Dilemma. These games certainly have a place in just about any modern Economics classroom, but might also be used in history, philosophy, or programming courses.
economic-games.com is another free resource. Though many of its games are in beta testing, there haven't been many complaints as to the effectiveness of the browser-based games.
Quizlet Live (Link)
If you're teaching in a modern classroom your students probably already know all about Quizlet. Quizlet started as a web-based flashcard program to help students study, allowing teachers and students alike to design flashcards that can be used to aid in studying. Since, it has developed into a full-fledged class participation model, especially excelling in small groups.
Quizlet Live allows teachers to gamify the studying process, getting students in small groups to work together to "race" to the finish line with the requisite amount of correct answers. Multiple choice questions, short-answer questions, and more are available for teachers to unleash on their students. If you're working in a huddle-style active learning environment, Quizlet Live can really cement the bonds between small groups.
Quizlet basic is free for use, but to eliminate ads, unlock unlimited classes, and more, the app costs a mere $34.99 a year to use in your classroom.
See anything that wasn't on the list?
We'd like to hear about which apps and program you use to enhance active learning in your classroom. Get in touch with us on social media and let us know if you use an app you think deserves a mention for its active learning potential, and while you're at it, you'll get updates and news about our award-winning wireless presentation gateway.