There is nothing quite like real-time feedback to determine if students really got it! Just about every faculty experiences that look—students’ eyes indicating that they understand or do not understand the explanation given or the conclusions just drawn. But how do we really know that our students are not merely acting the part when they nod in agreement, trying to get us to believe that they understand something when they do not? I have no idea what is really taking place behind those eyes or what is going on in a students’ brain so this is where Socrative comes to the rescue.
Socrative, which runs on tablets, smartphones, and laptops, is an interesting app because it allows me to pose a question and have students respond in real time to my inquiry. I can assess on the fly and best of all, students can use their portable media to provide me with near instant feedback. Clickers do this but the benefit of Socrative is that students do not have to buy anything and I do not have to spend a lot of time developing quizzes using any certain format.
There is, however, one challenge for anyone wishing to use Socrative and that is managing students’ use of their personal portable devices. I well remember reading a blog in The Chronicle of Higher Education where the author said that allowing students to use their portable devices in the classroom is like giving them permission to bring their entertainment center to class. Interesting! That being the case, if you plan on using Socrative or similar apps, you will need to have a plan for how, when, and where during class that you will allow their use. Purposeful use of technology is one thing, but unplanned and unstructured use is an invitation to possible distraction. That being said, finding a way to obtain feedback, using the feedback to create opportunities for expanded discussions, and having the feedback influence students learning is one of the benefits of using a tools such as Socrative.
OK, enough of the preaching; more to the point of using the app. There are two versions of Socrative—a student version and an instructor version. Upon logging in, students enter a room number. The instructor can then see how many students are in the room (he/she can also clear the room), and begin posing questions to the students. The different question options range from multiple choice, True/False, or open-ended questions. Socrative also compiles all the answers and presents it to you on your screen or via email.
How should you use Socrative? When would the app prove to be most useful? What guidelines need to be in place to ensure that the focus is on the task at hand and not somewhere else? These are questions that faculty will have to consider prior to using this interactive app. Socrative is a really neat tool and one with a lot of potential as faculty gain experience using it. There are other ways to obtain feedback, e.g. Twitter, e-mail (sounds strange but yes this can work), Blackboard, and another app that I recently found— BaiBoard HD—and need to spend some time with. Best of all, the app is free for both students and faculty (a teacher and student version) and it works well with existing Wi-Fi systems in college classrooms. Best of all, it’s not just for Apple products, there is a version of Socrative for Android users as well.
Dave Yearwood is an associate professor and chair of the technology department at the University of North Dakota.