MySciHigh: Instant Feedback & the Teacher’s Perspective
So, currently, I spend a great deal of time on a laptop while our MySciHigh platform is being used during class time at SMASH. In fact, I would say that I actually am just in the classroom as tech support for the students and the teacher, Mr. C, and for crisis management – NOT actually as a teacher.
But, on Wednesday, Mr. C had an appointment and I ended up stepping in to teach his two chemistry sections. So let’s call this, “My First Time with MySciHigh.”
As the students filed in to the classroom, all the feelings of nervousness from having to cover for teachers during the school year came flooding back into my conscious memory. Seriously, mad props to all the substitute teachers out there; it ain’t easy.
The students took their seats, opened up their laptops, and I began class. True to my normal teaching style, I ran Mr. C’s class as I normally would my own – giving the students time to work on the lead-in (or Get Ready, Do Now, whatever you’d like to call those questions that teachers give students to start of class) he provided, going over some quick announcements, and then giving a quick review of the lead-in, an introduction to new material, and procedures for the lab for the day. The only change for me? The students sat in front of computers. And, well, I had to be okay with that.
But, what was the biggest difference between this technology-supported class and the one I typically teach during the regular school year? Was it management? Engagement? Behavior? Actually, no. In fact, the most powerful part of having this technology in the classroom was actually the real-time feedback.
Oh yes, I remember all the teacher-credentialing classes and professional development courses talking about the “power of quick feedback” and what educators call, “formative assessments”, but honestly, don’t knock it until you see how real-time feedback can really change the way you can subtly and effectively direct passive learners towards being unconscious active ones.
Here’s what happened:
In MySciHigh’s platform, we built in Teacher Pages. These pages allow us to view student work immediately – think of it as if you could view what your student was typing all on one page…instantly. So, if students are truly participating in class, you could surmise that the responses you see on your page are accurate representations as to what a student is thinking at the time. Think: an instant check for understanding without the dread associated with cold calling.
I kept an eye out on what the student responses were for the lead-in question, “What are fats made of?” Noticing that in the first class, a lot of students were giving the incorrect answer (lipids) instead of a more correct answer (like, glycerol and fatty acids), I was able to hone in on the second class’ responses on my page. Since about 40% of the students had “lipids,” written down by the time I paused the class, I now could make sure that this was corrected in my review of the questions. AND, without having to embarrass any students, I could really give a gentle nudge to those students who didn’t have the correct answer on the first try to make those changes before submitting their final answers.
That was so cool to me. It’s not that I don’t value feedback in my regular teaching job, but it’s just so much more work to get all of that info ALL THE TIME. And, while I have used clickers and scantrons before, I’ve got to say that being able to aggregate data from answers that weren’t just multiple choice letter choices is something that was much more helpful than I originally had thought. I’m all for clickers, but they can only go so far. To me, this was like spying on their thought process. And it was amazing.
Let’s see what other neat little revelations I’ll be able to take away from this experience.