Space Race by Socrative

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is the latest trend in student response systems that let teachers and professors “flip the classroom” and encourage more student involvement during time previously filled by teacher lectures. Buying a set of classroom clickers is no longer necessary – with BYOD, students can log into the web-based system with any smartphone, tablet or computer. In the TESL world, our classrooms have always been “flipped” by necessity, but boosting student engagement in large classes or among phone-addicted students is still a struggle.

Games and competitions have always been a great way to raise the energy level in a class, but judging who raised their hand first or which team shouted what or who slapped what with their flyswatter can be a minefield for the teacher. Now, thankfully, BYOD technology can be used to set up competitive review quizzes for your class and have the computer determine who answered first and who was correct.

BYOD student response systems could be a huge timesaver in large classes and a new way to do a little formative assessment of all your students in a fun way that doesn’t involve lots of grading time. Exit tickets are another cool use – ask students to answer one last question before they leave class. This could be some kind of self-assessment such as “What did you learn today?” or a quick review question.

There are more and more BYOD student response systems available, but here are a few that have special capabilities for class competitions.

Kahoot! is a free web-based system that lets you show questions and pictures on a smartscreen or projector screen while students answer on their own devices after logging in with the code you provide and a username that they choose. This website is very colorful and plays cute gameshow music, too. Students’ answers are scored for speed as well as accuracy and a scoreboard appears on the screen for all to see. One very cool thing about Kahoot is that you can save your quizzes and choose whether to make them public. You can also use quizzes that other users have saved and made public.

Socrative is another free tool that has been around for a while and is highly regarded. Questions can be posed in many formats including the “space race,” in which teams of students compete to answer questions most quickly. Their progress is shown with a space rocket icon on a shared screen. On its blog, Socrative recommends setting up a shared online quiz with other classrooms or schools so that your students can compete with teams from outside their room. Just as the real space race warmed relations between Cold War countries, a little space race quiz could help your students form great bonds across many kinds of borders!

Schools may want to pay for more advanced systems if they have a standard curriculum across classes and want to be able to download and manage student data. New York University’s Center for Faculty Innovations in Teaching and Learning describes how to set up class competitions with Turning Point, which can rank participants by individual scores, team scores, speed of response, and more. For an added level of excitement, it even lets participants bet a percentage of their points on their answer to the next question, just as contestants do on Jeopardy.

A 2015 article in the journal Computers and Education reports on a study of whether this BYOD gamification system led to increases in student engagement and motivation after daily use over a five-month period. The author, Alf Inge Wong, found that there was little wear-out effect, making it a positive addition to the classroom even after five months. The author identifies the competitive aspect of it as the key factor in keeping students engaged.

We’ll be teaching a class on Assessment of English Language Students here at S-TESL starting in April where we’ll be trying out more great tech for assessment. Stay tuned for more tips and recommendations!

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Julia Sandler

Teacher Educator at School of Teaching ESL
Ph.D. Educational Linguistics & MS.Ed. in TESOL, University of Pennsylvania. Since 2000, Julia has taught ESOL mostly to adults in a variety of settings in Hungary, South Korea, and both coasts of the US. She has been part of the faculty at the University of Washington’s International & English Language Programs since 2010 and has also trained ESOL teachers at several US universities and in Taiwan and South Korea.