Part 2: Using student responders responsibly

A wonderfully amazing thing happened here on Radical Nation last weekend.  Were you paying attention?

You see, after I shared a response detailing how I thought student responders could be used to encourage higher level thinking in the classroom, several readers stopped by to add their own thoughts to the conversation.

And honestly, their thinking was better than mine!

Here’s a sampling:

Nancy Blair—one of my favorite Twitter follows—started things off by suggesting another way to use responders to ask higher level questions.  She wrote:

In addition to the Likert-like questions, it is also possible to structure multiple choice questions that require inference, application, analysis, etc. by asking students to decide upon the “best” choice or most likely outcome from the scenario posed in the question stem.

An example I encountered on a social studies test years ago asked, “Which quotation below best reflects the political beliefs of the speaker?” Quotations from four U.S. presidents where listed as the choices.

Damian Bariexca—a brilliant school counselor and former high school English teacher who blogs over at Apace of Change—followed followed with another practical example of how responders can be used in classroom instruction:

I’ll just add two quick bits: another interesting exercise you can do is to use the feedback in sort of a data analysis exercise.

In addition to discussing whatever topic is at hand, it’s often also interesting to ask students to consider why they think the results came out the way they did – what is it about US as a group that made the results skew this way or that, and do we think these results are representative of the student body as a whole, or the state, country, etc….

You could always ask students…to choose the option that most closely fits their opinion, and then ask them to elaborate upon what they agreed and disagreed with about the statement.

Marsha Ratzel—a middle school teacher blogging over at Teaching Techie and friend who has influenced my thinking more than almost any single person I know—pushed back a bit, arguing that asking low-level questions with student responders has a place in our bag of tricks too:

I agree with your hesitation about clickers being used with low level questions. I don’t agree that asking low level questions is always a bad thing.  I use clickers with low level questions and I feel like it one of the best tools in my arsenal. Here’s why.

Although I ask those kinds of questions, it is the instructional setting that differentiates the student experience. Immediately students know if they were able to perform the math process correctly. Immediately I know what processes I need to reteach and I do it right there and right then.

We talk about what worked, they learn to analyze their mistakes and they learn to trust. They learn to trust that if they can’t work the problem correctly, they need to ask questions in specific ways. They grow in their understanding of themselves as mathematicians.

The last step that I utilize is to have them write reflections of each question they miss. Right there when they figure out what they did incorrectly. These are probably the most empowering things that math students can learn…they realize it is their education and their learning. They take it back from me and they begin to own it.

And Russ Goerend—one heck of a young mind who blogs over at TAGmirror—got me thinking about whether or not technology should be used as a motivator:

Your post has sparked some thinking for me on what I’ll call the elephant in the room in regard to digital technology in the classroom: namely what I have seen as a disconnect between edtechers’ calls of “no tech for tech’s sake” and what I see as the undeniable fact that kids are enamored with shiny stuff.

Give them clickers and an instantly-updating graph on the projector and you’ll get a jump in participation over raising hands to vote on the same questions. Put a map in the textbook on a document camera and you’ll have all kids’ attention versus having them open their own textbooks to the same map. The comparisons go on and on.

I’m not afraid to admit that shiny/digital stuff draws attention. Why can’t we as educators admit it and go with it? It’s what happens with that attention that matters, so why can’t I use tech for attention’s sake?

Good stuff, huh?  And it’s not to late to add your two cents!  Student response systems are a tool that many school leaders are enamored with—which means we’re likely to see more and more sets of responders trickling into our schools.

If we’re going to make those investments worthwhile, it’s important that we begin to systematically document the kinds of practices that we’d like to see our peers pursue.

So leave a comment already!  Tell us how you think class sets of student responders can be used responsibly.