How Do I Know My Kids Are Learning Remotely? (Part 2) | Tom Daccord | 5 Min Read

This is the second of a two-part series on embedded formative assessment in remote learning environments.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been impractical for teachers to monitor students remotely during fact-based tests and quizzes. Students can cheat quite easily and, as a result, many teachers have decided to abandon fact-based summative assessments and rethink their approach to assessment. Fortunately, teachers can leverage tech-aided, embedded formative assessment to gather valuable student information for assessment purposes. In tech-aided, embedded formative assessment, assessment is interwoven with common teaching and learning practices to uncover student learning. 

Part I of this series outlined how teachers can leverage Nearpod to capture and record student participation during a slide presentation via embedded quizzes, surveys, interactive videos, whiteboards, post-it boards, and more. Part I also explained how a teacher can leverage Google Docs to review student note-taking (or essay/report writing) at any time during or after class and even initiate an online conversation with the student about the document. Finally, the article points out that teachers can turn to TeacherMade to add interactive content to their handouts so that student responses can be seen, analyzed, and graded. 

Part II introduces three additional tools aligned with three more common teaching and learning activities: 

  1. Students create and manipulate objects on a whiteboard. Whiteboards are a common space for students to actively demonstrate their learning by creating, inserting, and manipulating objects, including images and text. 
  2. Students reflect on a question and answer it verbally. Teachers often ask students questions that prompt them to reflect and students later answer the question individually.
  3. Teachers collect student work for review. In an online environment, student work can be demonstrated and collected in a digital portfolio.
  1. Jamboard

Jamboard is a free collaborative whiteboard tool from Google that facilitates the introduction and manipulation of various objects by individuals or groups in real-time (during class) or asynchronously. A Jamboard includes colored pens and sticky notes and enables users to add text, images, and drawings. There is even a laser tool for drawing attention to a particular region of the board. 

Each Jamboard can contain one or more panels to work on, so teachers can have students work individually or in groups within the same Jamboard. From there, students can brainstorm ideas and insert, manipulate, duplicate, and organize objects. For instance, students might use Jamboard’s sticky notes to capture their thoughts about curriculum content and then add images, drawings, or sketches to supplement their ideas. 

With Jamboard, teachers could create activities that involve mind mapping, word magnets, virtual manipulatives, and matching activities. Teachers could also ask students to create a timeline or demonstrate steps in a process. 

Objects can be duplicated and moved around in a Jamboard, so there are multiple ways of creating active learning environments for students.

Jamboards are accessible with any device and each Jamboard is saved automatically. Its content can also be downloaded as a PDF. It’s even possible to combine Jamboard with Google Meet to create a live classroom teaching environment.

  1. Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a popular free platform from Microsoft that enables teachers to post questions for students who then respond asynchronously via a video recording. The process is entirely online, so there is no uploading, downloading, or emailing unwieldy large video files.  With Flipgrid, teachers distribute topical questions or prompts using text and/or video and that may include supplemental materials, such as handouts, weblinks, YouTube videos, and more. Teachers can set time limits for student video responses and may allow students to introduce text, emojis, and other elements into their video responses. 

By default, student-created video responses are posted for all other students to see, but the teacher can decide the extent of student-to-student feedback and commentary. For instance, teachers might allow students to post commentaries on other students’ videos and add “likes” and emojis. Teachers can themselves add commentary to student videos and might also decide to share certain student video responses with a broader audience, simply by sharing the link to a particular video response.

Students can add text, images, and effects to their video responses

Flipgrid could be used as a way for students to explain how they tackled a complex problem or equation or to provide commentary on a historical or current-events topic. Teachers might also prompt students to create a video book (or film) report with Flipgrid or perhaps show and explain a piece of art. Students might even plan music as part of their recording. As such, there are many ways for students to demonstrate their understanding and share their opinions via Fligrid.

Flipgrid also has a few special offerings. For example, Mixtapes make it easy to create collections of videos from video responses. Gridpals enables teachers to connect their students to other classrooms using Flipgrid and potentially collaborate on topical discussions. Discovery features thousands of topics contributed by the Flipgrid community that could serve as a prompt to start a discussion in your classroom.

  1. Seesaw

Seesaw is a flexible platform that facilitates the creation and sharing of both teacher-created and student-created multimedia content. It is a “freemium” tool with a limit of 10 free classes; teachers create classes where their students create, post, and share their work. 

Teachers can create or find activities to share with students as Seesaw offers a library full of practical activities. There are six fundamental elements that teachers and students can add to a post: a photo, a drawing, a video, a file, a note, or a link. Students can easily draw, write, take pictures, and record audio and video within Seesaw, so its ease and versatility are two of the platform’s best attributes.

These are the six main items that students and teachers can add to a post.

Seesaw also enables parents to join a class and view their child’s contributions. This feature, among others, has made Seesaw particularly popular in elementary classrooms. 

Many teachers use Seesaw primarily as a place for students to share their work. Teachers can provide students with constructive criticism and encouragement. In all, it can serve as a wonderful digital portfolio that shows the evolution of student learning. 

Fortunately, there are many more tools and strategies that provide teachers with an opportunity to leverage embedded formative assessment. Yet, the six tools outlined in this two-part series offer teachers a diverse and practical set of tools to begin the process. The challenges of teaching in a remote environment are many, but one important step in addressing assessment is understanding the affordances and versatility of technology.

Tom Daccord

Tom Daccord is an international education technology consultant and co-founder of EdTechTeacher. Over the past 18 years, he has worked with more than 10,000 educators in schools and educational organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Tom is the co-author of Best Ideas for Teaching with Technology and The iPad Classroom and his articles have appeared in various educational publications. He has presented on school innovation and educational technology at national and international conferences and helps guide systemic reform in schools using technology via his “Innovation Readiness & Pathways” program for 21st-century school leadership. A former independent school teacher, Tom taught in Canada, France, Switzerland, and the United States and speaks English, French, Spanish and Italian. Tom currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts.

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