Sunday, May 4, 2014

Formative assessment with Evernote

By Sean Federbusch

For instant feedback, it hard to beat the low-overhead, backchannel solution of Today's Meet.  And if teachers are looking for a tool to offer a quick exit question(s), or a quiz to measure understanding, Socrative is an amazing tool.  While Today'sMeet's offers a place where classrooms can connect to during the day or week and a transcript of the conversation listing individual contributions, Socrative allows teachers to pre-script quizzes, exit tickets, offer a race where students compete to answer questions, review of answers (with or without student names) and the option to save reports for later analysis.

However, sometimes a teacher needs more.  As I search for tools that will allow me to connect to my students and take advantage of our 1to1 iPad program, I wondered if Evernote might be a solution. It's in my top ten productivity tools, so I figured there might be a fit for my students.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it has exceeded my expectations.

After Evernote is loaded onto the device and account is created, (it asks new users for an email, but does not require verification) students can create a notebook and share that notebook with their teacher. Once the teacher has accepted the invitation and joined the student's notebook to the teachers Evernote software, that notebook will be permanently displayed.  Student notebooks and be "stacked" on top of each other, essentially creating a folder with all the students notebooks.

The beauty of taking the time to set up this system is that any note subsequently added to that folder I, as an educator, can see it without refreshing or syncing on the students machine.  If I want to see the notes they are taking during class, I can simply wait five minutes or manually refresh my screen.  If they are taking notes, say in their Science journal, I'll have them take a picture of the entries.  If I want them to summarize, or comment on something, I can have them include an audio recording into a note.  If there is a picture or PDF that we annotated electronically, that file can be included in a note.

This week we participated in the Smarter Balanced practice test, which instructed us to engage in a Performance Task.  This exercise include a brainstorming session where students initially produced a
list of all the Marine animals they could think of.  Some of the students, unprompted, started using Evernote as their recording tool. I overheard one of my students saying, "You can use bullet points and different colors in Evernote!"

As the students completed their lists, I simply refreshed my Evernote software to see the list the students had produced.  I then copied their list into our Smartboard software, where the students could read from and add to.  It was a great compliment to our brainstorming session.  Several of the students then added pictures of animals to their notes.  When students find solutions, or clever options in a tool, I will stop my class to point out this observaiton.  My students know this is part of the learning process when evaluating new software.

Next week I plan to ask for students to record audio files and include them into a note.  I also want to explore clever ways to incorporate annotated PFD and picture files.  The best part of using Evernote happens after I sit down at my desk and review their notes.  I find gems in both the eloquent answers, as well as, the misconceptions I find.  Often, examples of both will soon be on our Smartboard for the teacher to clarify and the students to evaluate.  This type of first draft to evaluation to feedback to revisions loop is something that would be impossible without a tool like this and its assessment would fall between tier three or four using the SAMR model - but more important for me, this tool allows me to connect to my student's learning.

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