I would like to give you an overview of how using digital technology allowed me to cut my assessment and marking workload and spend more time creating engaging lessons and teaching my classes.
I am a teacher of Computing Science and before you think, ‘he is an expert and this won't apply to me’ please take the time to read this and reflect on how this could improve your practice as the tools I mention are very simple to use and could potentially save you time.
Bill Gates said, “whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it”. I liked the idea that there must be an easier way to tackle the issue on workload and I will happily admit that I can be lazy. Before any backlash, I am not portraying teachers as lazy people. My point is that I believe if we equip educators with the skills, confidence and knowledge to know when and how digital technology can be used to enhance our learning and teaching, then it will allow us to exploit these skills to improve our practice - as I have.
I looked at many different online assessment tools that would allow me to assign homework and be able to carry out in class tests electronically. I decided the best tool for assigning homework was Google Classroom and making use of Google Forms. Google Forms is an online tool that allows you to create assessments/quizzes/homework and the computer will automatically mark them for you. I used a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions for tests and homework. Multiple choice questions are marked instantly saving me an enormous amount of time and gives pupils instant feedback. When creating the assessment/quiz you just select the correct answer, so the computer knows this and will be able to mark this automatically.
Short answer questions submitted electronically gave me a significant time saving as well. Answers are returned to the teacher in an organised spreadsheet with all pupils answers. I’m sure we all know the hassle when marking prelims of moving papers around and looking back and forth at the marking scheme. When the answers are in a spreadsheet the question is at the top of the document and every answer for that specific question is organised underneath it. This allowed me to quickly work your way down the answers and mark them correct or not.
Another tool that is very similar to Google Forms is Socrative. I used Socrative for in-class tests to gauge pupil understanding on certain units of work. One benefit I found with Socrative compared with Google Forms is that learners do not get to keep a copy of your questions which was beneficial for class tests. Socrative allows questions to be asked in a random order which was useful so that pupils sitting close to each other did not see the same question simultaneously. Socrative works by pupils entering a room code and the teacher assigns an assessment to all pupils in that ‘room’. When I used this for class tests it allows me to see in real time the answers pupils give on my teacher device. Having a holistic view of the class results allowed me to quickly identify questions pupils were struggling with and needed more clarification on. Feedback from pupils was tremendous and with instant or significantly quicker feedback they told me they preferred doing homework and assessments electronically.
Another great assessment tool that I have used with junior classes and shown to primary colleagues is Kahoot. This is an online assessment tool which has millions of already created assessments/quizzes/games that you can use with classes. I ran training on Kahoot with teachers of all curricular areas and they were able to find an assessment they could use with class. Again, this potentially could be a time saver.
Another great benefit of using electronic assessment tools is the fact you have them available whenever you need them. For revision purposes, I would run the old class tests in Socrative using the 'Space Race' feature. This feature allows groups of pupils to work as a team and race against each other to complete the questions. As the pupils work through the questions their progress was shown live on the smart board. Pupils really enjoyed this and I found it made revision engaging and competitive. Usually, pupils would say to me they found revision boring but this was the first time I had pupils asking if they could do an old test again to try and beat their peers.
To come back to the Bill Gates quote about finding an easy way to do something difficult. I found using digital technology cut my marking workload and at the same time enhanced my learning and teaching. Having the assessments stored online saved me time from the admin of printing out tests, filing them away into folders and storing them somewhere. Tools such as Google Forms is incredibly powerful and I challenge you to think differently about how you gather information from pupils, staff and parents. Think about subject choice forms, parents night sign up, clubs and extracurricular event sign up and one great example recently has been permission slips. Google Forms allows users to attach a photo or document using the ‘File Upload’ option. Could this be used to return a parent/carer signed permission slip taken with the pupils/parents smartphone?
I really hope that reading this has given you some motivation to explore Socrative, Kahoot and Google Forms to see how it could cut your workload and allow you to spend more time on teaching. All of the resources mentioned are completely free and I would recommend you signing up using your Highland Google account.
The Digital Learning Team will add news or examples of good practice on here so keep checking back for up to date info.