As many teachers will be aware, one of the biggest headaches of our job is the often unfathomable amount of admin that we have to deal with on a daily basis; marking children's books, marking assessments, writing risk assessments, updating pastoral records, and so on. Whilst these may not occur every day, when they do occur they take an awful lot of time.
It didn't take long into my latest pile of 96 KS2 maths papers to decide that I needed to try something different. Whilst I had got voice-recording the answer key and bulk marking 4 papers at a time down to a fine art, the process was nonetheless soul destroying. So it didn't take long before I turned to tech. I'd played around with digital assessment tools over the past few years, having been introduced to Socrative a few years back, but I'd never truly utilised them in a way that made assessing pupils a slick, automated process that not only saved time and money but also saved my soul.
So lets begin...
Before heading out on a digital assessment venture of your own, you need to consider a few important factors. First (and most important of all) is whether your Internet connection speed is up to it. Regardless of what devices you are planning to run assessments from, if it takes you 15 minutes to download a PowerPoint presentation from TES, then it's probably not the right time to try and get 32 devices to give you live assessment data, At least that's what I discovered when my first attempt at a "modern" maths test on the iPads turned into disarray, with cries of "it's not connecting" and "the app keeps crashing" filling the classroom. Cue old-fashioned test papers on standby just in case.
The second thing to consider is the devices themselves. Luckily, many online assessment tools run from web browsers (and that includes the anti-flash iPad) or from a dedicated app. That means you can run them from the ICT suite, a set of laptops/netbooks or from handheld devices that your school may already own. My top four digital assessment tools (which I'll list later) can be run in this way, with no specific device exclusivity.
The third and final thing is to consider exactly what you want to achieve. If you're looking to turn those mock SATs papers into a jazzy online quiz that marks itself, then Formative is your best bet. But some of the question types will need to be adapted. For example, if you want everything to be automatically marked, you can use multiple-choice, true/false or other types of closed questions with specific answers. Reasoning questions or "show your working" questions are impractical here as you will still need to mark them manually. If, on the other hand, you want a quick, buzzer-style end of lesson/topic quiz to ascertain pupil knowledge, then Kahoot is right up your street. Quick, simple and colourful with just two question types- multiple choice or true/false- which are automatically marked. Bloss!
So if it is a venture that you'd like to explore, then here are my top four picks for online assessment tools, with a brief description of what they are good for. Please note that at the time of writing, all of these were FREE with few limitations (and hopefully still are).
1. Formative- turn an existing test/worksheet into an online one simply by uploading it and assigning questions to the relevant part of the page. Or make one from scratch.
2. Socrative- create pre-made quizzes with text and graphics before assigning a true/false, multiple choice or short text answer choice. You can also send out questions on the fly to keep pupils on their toes!
3. Kahoot- fast and effective multiple choice/true or false buzzer-style quiz tool with a library of pre-made quizzes from other teachers.
4. Plickers- QR code-based quiz tool where only the teacher needs a device to scan answer cards held up by pupils. Simple but highly effective (especially if your Internet connection speed is poor).
If you would like to let me know how you get on, want to share other online assessment tools that you have found, or want any advice, then tweet me at @wnfranklin.