Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Increase Motivation and Classroom Time with Online Quizzes

Today the CollabLab welcomes Mark Heintz, a history teacher and Department Technology Coach at Elk Grove.  He can be reached @HistoryHeintz

I started using online quizzes several years ago to increase motivation for reading and free up classroom time.  I first utilized a Classroom Response System. The school had a set of 32 clickers that only a few people were using, so I checked them out for the rest of the year. I typically used them as a bell ringer.  I wrote questions from homework or previous days’ material.  The questions served as a way for me to see how many of the students in the class knew the information instantly.  Students thought learning was “sick” because it was fun to see who “buzzed” in first.  But, for me, the best part was the instant feedback.  The clickers turned into an opportunity for everyone to see what they knew.  The questions let the class go over distracters, get immediate feedback, and ask questions in a low-stakes environment.   Today, the easiest way to mimic this structure would be Socrative.

Classroom Response System "clickers"

Over time, other teachers started using the clickers. Because I couldn’t guarantee I would have them, I moved on. Lesson learned about technology.  You have to have it readily available for teachers to use it and learn it. So, I moved to Moodle quizzes.  I liked Moodle because it was free and always available.  I used the Moodle quizzes in hopes of motivating students while reading. The first few reading quizzes were pure comprehension questions.  They were low-level learning targets that the students should have understood from the reading.  It turned out that kids didn’t have to read that closely to get them right.  To adapt to their crafty ways of getting out of reading, the questions became more analytical and required students to read closely.  Here is a sample question:

Moodle Quiz

I liked the quizzes because they helped slower or more careful readers have time to read and take the quiz on their own time.  The problem is a lot of students didn’t have access to a computer or the Internet.  So I typically allowed one weekend and a full school week to complete the quiz and the reading. I wanted the students to see the quizzes as a learning tool instead of punitive.  To ensure this, I gave the student four retakes and eventually put page numbers for each question. I put the page numbers because I wanted the students to know it came from the reading and in hopes to get them to read those pages.  Over time, it became easier for the students to do the work instead of cheating off their friends.  The cool thing about most online quizzes is you can see when they take it and how long it took them.  If a quiz was averaging around 45 minutes to take and a kid took it in 90 seconds, I could call that student out.  Big brother working for me! I have only had to do this a few times in the past four years. Some students did take the test with others, so they could talk it through with one another.  I only saw this as a positive because students were talking about READING.  

An unintended consequence of using the online quizzes was students emailing me throughout the week with questions from the quiz.  They CITED--actually cited--textual information as to why they thought they were correct!  It was very encouraging to see students citing evidence to back up their thought process.  I do not care if it was for points; they were using information in a meaningful way.

How did I use the quiz?  Well, after the students completed the quiz, I saw commonly missed questions.  I could go over the most missed questions or have students go over them in class.  Now that our school has iPads, this has become a lot easier to do in the classroom. A huge bonus is the quizzes freed classroom time because I did not need to quiz as often in class.

I have since moved on to Schoology, and I was able to migrate my Moodle Quizzes over.  I like Schoology for online quizzes because of the student completion option.  I used the feature to get students to complete them before tests.  Any time I can make education compulsory, I do.   If they do not finish the online quiz, whether it’s a vocabulary or reading quiz, they cannot take the test in class.  This gets me away from the question, “is this for points?” It is for learning, and you have to do it!  I used this to show students their readiness in the subject.  If they know it, it doesn’t take long.  If they don’t know it, try it again or go back over the material so you do!

Schoology Quiz
Essays are another way I used quizzes.  I put a quiz before an essay prompt.  Once the students pass the quiz, the essay prompt became available.  You do not have to grade the quiz or put it in for points in the grade book. The essay was what you cared about, and the quiz will help them with the content for the essay.

Parents and guardians seem to really like the online quizzes. At parent teacher conferences, I showed parents the quizzes and how many times their son or daughter took them.  Parents liked that their kid got to retake it until they get it right.  Some were very impressed with the time their son or daughter was putting into the course.

If you have information you want students to know, online quizzes might be a great way to get students to demonstrate it and free up class time. 

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