02 December 2012

Part3: Classroom motivation and assessment : Infuselearning

In two blog postings (Part 1 / Part 2) from January 2012, I presented several options for classroom evaluation and activities using computer-based sites and hand-held devices. Included in that discussion was the web-based "Socrative" that can be used on any device (computer, phone, tablet) and that is available as an iOS app

Over the Thanksgiving week-end, Kathy Schrock tweeted that she was demonstrating a new student response site, Infuselearning.  What captured my interest the most about this tweet was the TwitPic of the participants' pictures that they had made using Infuselearning. I often use whiteboards in class to assess student comprehension through drawing. Additionally, 1st and 2nd year students draw their vocabulary in their notebooks. Sharing student drawings involves soliciting volunteers and projecting with the document camera. This practice has worked well, but I was interested in saving student work for others to see. 

I visited the Infuselearning site, signed up for an account, and spent roughly two hours exploring the site and its capacities. My main concern: How did this site compare to Socrative, a major favorite for me and my students? My criteria included:
1. Tracking student progress through downloadable reports.
2. Multiple assessment options including short text, multiple choice, and true/false.
3.  Option to uploaded images to the assessment.
4. Room number/identifying code for the classroom. Students prefer to log in with the same room code each time. Infuselearning provides this code at the top left of the teacher screen. (See dashboard picture below.)
5. Student opinion of the interface. Their opinion is important as they are the end users. 

Infuselearning offers intriguing options to assess student comprehension. From the dashboard, teachers can choose to do "Quick Assessments" for on-the-fly type questions or they can build and save quizzes for later use. The Quick Assessment options include: Draw Response, True/False, Multiple Choice, Sort and Order, Open Ended Text Answer, Numeric, and Likert Scales.  

As I was most interested in the drawing component, I explored that option first. When students log in to the system with the provided classroom code, the teacher is able to "push/send" out tasks to everyone who is connected. Participants do NOT need to be in the same room. This could be done from miles away. 

When the teacher chooses the "Draw Response" option, participants automatically see this screen. It allows users to change the colors and the size of the brush. They may rotate the drawing and erase what is not wanted. When the drawing is completed, it is uploaded to the teacher dashboard by pushing the download arrow button. It's the last arrow on the left side. 

As the participants send their drawings, they appear on the teacher dashboard for all to see. These drawing can be saved as PDF files directly to the teacher computer. This is a view of the teacher dashboard with one picture submitted. 

Under the Interactive Tools option (right side of the dashboard), teachers are able to push/send pictures and links to student devices. The two options are: Infuse Draw and Infuse Link. This is a remarkable option that I greatly appreciate. When working online, students are not always easily able to navigate to a Web site. They may spell the URL incorrectly or not know how to use the address bar correctly. The teacher may send the students to a video or a Web site. 

Under the Infuse Draw option, users can upload a picture to the teacher dashboard, draw/highlight the picture and send it to the student devices with a question. In this example, I took a picture of a nose, circled it in red, and chose the "Text" question option. The student device displayed the exact picture and offered a space to write an answer for the picture. As students submit their answers, the teacher is able to collect and save them. 

Under the Quiz Management bar, teachers can prepare assessments using a variety of question types. Again, the ability to use multiple assessment types is highly desired. Students are able to demonstrate their knowledge in various ways. If they are weaker in spelling, multiple choice and true/false type questions will allow them to convey their knowledge. Please note: At this time there is no option to draw in the student-paced quiz. Infuselearning has noted on their site that this is option will be available in the near future. Students may skip a question and return to it later. As an added option, students may listen to the words on the quiz by clicking the sound button. At this time, this option for language teachers is not ideal. If you don't switch the language at the bottom of the page, the phrase will be read in English. If you do choose the target language, the system changes the written text. In this picture, my answer options included the French word "bras" (arms). When I changed the language to French, the word "bras" was interpreted as the French word "soutien-gorge" was means "bra/undergarment." I will be sending Infuselearning a suggestion that they allow quiz makers to select the language of the quiz before they distribute it. However, as pointed out on the Infuselearning site, non-proficient speakers of English could use the language option to help them understand the question better. 

As students progress through the quiz, the teacher is able to watch the progression of correct and incorrect answers. If a student demonstrates too many red marks, the teacher could intervene immediately to help the student. It is suggested that the LCD projector be frozen or not in use during a quiz as this information is sensitive and private. 

Under Class Setup, teachers are able to build classes with student names. I have only added the classes, but no students at this time. It seems that is possible to track student progress when they sign in (not using open enrollment) with the name that has been entered, but I have not been able to find how to do this yet. I will be exploring this option more over the Winter break. 

Lastly, under the "Preferences" link, Infuselearning allows users to modify their preferences for quiz navigation (skipping questions), audio, and translating. There are several helpful video/presentations under the "Help" button and the option to send a help ticket to the support team.  By following the support team on Twitter (@InfuseLearning), users may send questions to the support team. I received a reply to my first inquiry within a few minutes on a school day. 

Issues: As I test piloted with my French IV group, we found a few buggy moments. None of their pictures appeared during a Draw Response question. We refreshed the site and tried a second time and it worked. This happened a few other times with the Draw Response. The support team sent me some pointers on how to avoid this error. 

Using iPod Touch devices (we have 21 in our classroom) works well for the quizzes, but not as well for the drawing. The surface is a bit too small and the tools take up some room on the canvass. Nonetheless, the students LOVED the drawing function. Students who have SmartPhones are able to connect easily, but I would advise that they use the WiFi (if your school has it), as data plans are expensive. Students can log out and share devices if not everyone has a phone, tablet, computer, or iPod Touch. 

I highly recommend Infuselearning to World Language teachers. The various types of assessment options, the easy of use, and the ability to share quizzes corresponds exactly to our needs. Pictures, both uploaded and student-drawn, are exceptional ways to communicate language and culture. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about using Infuselearning or any other interactive student assessment tool. I have been piloting them for over a year and feel fairly confident on recommending options. 

If you have an iOS device, explore an app that was recently suggested to me on Twitter, "Nearpod."

Bon surf à tout le monde!
Catherine Ousselin: Co-Chair for the Commission on Technology, AATF 

11 November 2012

November 2012 Updates: Delicious bookmarks and online audio recording

Since September 2012, the AATF has a Delicious bookmark site with 100 + useful links for World Language educators and students. Delicious is an excellent option for sharing your favorite sites with your colleagues or students. The links are categorized and searchable. Sites are added weekly and suggestions are always appreciated. 

Please send your favorite links to aatfrench@gmail.com or catherineku72@gmail.com

Tech tip of the week: 
Audio recording on mobile devices and computers

Few World Language teachers have access to a dedicated language lab, yet need to record student work. There are many free options to record audio that allow users to share through social media, embedding, or e-mail. Several of the sites also have mobile device apps for iOS (Apple) and Android users.

AudioBoo - Record online from a computer, upload previously recorded files, or record from a mobile device for free. AudioBoo encourages social sharing of audio files. Users can subscribe to each other and listen to their updates. It is a highly interactive and engaging environment. 

Vocaroo - One of the easiest and most useful sites for students and teachers. Using a desktop microphone or an internal laptop microphone, users are able to record audio, and share it with others. The recordings can be embedded in a blog or saved locally (on a computer) as an Mp3 file.

Chirbit This is a free, user-friendly site on which users may record directly. It is also possible to send voice memos from smartphones to the user account. Files may be shared, downloaded and edited.   

SoundCloud - Quite similar to AudioBoo in that the site encourages social sharing of audio recordings. The site is free, users may record from a computer or a mobile device, and files are able to be downloaded. 

iPadio - iPadio is a highly involved site designed for the power-user of audio for specific purposes. To learn more about the features, visit their tutorial site and explore their videos. 

Google Voice - When you sign up for a Google Voice number, students can call and leave a voice message that will appear in both your Voice Inbox and in your Gmail inbox. These files may be downloaded to a local computer. You will need a Google/Gmail account. It is suggested that you create a separate school account. 

Audio Apps for iOS 
Voice Memo (Dictaphone) comes pre-installed on iPod and iPhone  4th generation iPod Touch and iPhone. iPad users will need to download either a free (usually Ad-supported) app such as AudioMemos or a paid (non-Ad) app such as iTalk ($1.99) that allows files to be sent to Dropbox or SoundCloud. Visit this site for more app suggestions. 

13 July 2012

AATF Annuel Conference: 7 & 8 July 2012 - InterContinental Hotel - Chicago, Illinois

AATF Commission on Technology's work session and workshop updates:
Both sessions were well-attended and offered excellent opportunities for sharing useful Web tools for students and teachers. 

Web Tools presented at the Commission Work Session: 
We will be adding to this list on the designated pages of this blog throughout the summer. Please subscribe to the blog to receive updates! 

1. BonPatron - Although a basic and limited tool that will ask users to contribute to the site, this is an interesting way to help learners proofread their written work. BonPatron will suggest, but not correct, text that has been either copy/pasted or typed directly into the text box. For $15 a year, users may access the complete site with no limits or ads. 

2. Pixton : Comic strip maker - Pixton for schools allows teachers to purchase class licenses or use a 30 trial for 50 students. It is quite easy to use and has preset templates if students need assistance. Users may choose the language of their strip. There are many props, speech balloons, and accessories to add that enhance student work. Comics can be saved, edited, and embeded into blogs or printed out. 

3. ToonDoo : Comic strip maker -  Create eye-catching strips using text boxes, props, and characters. These may be saved and embeded online. Easy to use! 

4. Make Belief Comix : Comic strip maker - More designed for younger students, this basic strip maker allows users to choose several elements to build their projects. 

5. Bubblr : Use pictures from Flickr to make comic strips. I have not used this tool yet, but will experiment over the week-end. 

6. Socrative : This free Web site allows teachers to build quizzes for students that can be taken on any device that has a web browser: computer, phone, iGadget and through any operating system (Android, iOs, etc). It is a powerful tool that generates complete downloadable reports of student progress. This is a highly suggested site! 

7. CorkboardMe : Free site that promotes collaboration through virtual sticky note posting. Suggested uses for this site included adding favorite quotes from movies, books, or speeches. 

Web Tools SlideShare presentation from the Commission on Technology Workshop (Lara Lomicka Anderson)

View more PowerPoint from Lara Anderson

17 June 2012

The 2012 AATF Conference will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago, IL from July 5th through July 8th. As always, there will be a wealth of information shared by educators from across the continent. Members of the AATF Commission on Technology will offer two sessions: 1 workshop and 1 working session. 

Beyond the Commission sessions, several educators will present their experience and knowledge on technology in the World Language domain. Please consider attending the following sessions! 

Le jeudi 5 juillet:
Heure: 14h-15h / Salle: St. Clair / Public: secondaire
 S108: Effective Techniques for Using Smartboards, Laptops, and iPads to Teach French brevet and Baccalaureate Curricula

Intervenant: Adam Steg, Miami Dade County Public Schoools

The presenter will describe effective techniques for using Smartboards, laptops, and iPads to teach French brevet and baccalaureate curricula.  Emphasis will be placed on practical techniques using readily available resources and technology. PowerPoint illustration of screenshots and appropriate content will be included. Links to useful sites will be distributed.

Heure: 15h15-16h15 / Salle: St. Clair / Public: general
 S118: The World In Your Pocket!

Intervenante: Melinda M. Larson-Horne, Pewaukee High School (WI)

Technology has become portable, allowing learning to occur anywhere, any time. Students read, write, create, collaborate, research, and practice. Mobile devices can help motivate reluctant learners, support struggling learners, and challenge advanced learners.

Le vendredi 6 juillet

Heure: 8h45-10h00 / Salle: Holabird / Public: general
S215: La Technologie aux bords et au sein de la Francophonie

Intervenantes: Polly R. Duke, Friends Academy (NY), Jacqueline Friedman, Horace Mann School (NY), et Diane Paravazian, St. John's University (NY)

Complexe, nuancée, variée, la Francophonie devient accessible aux élèves et aux étudiants à travers les outils technologiques qui sont à leur portée. Les intervenantes présenteront une variété de ressources, de projets et de destinations virtuelles et francophones.

Heure: 10h30-11h30 / Salle: King Arthur Court / Public: secondaire universitaire
S220: The iPad in the 21st-Century French Language Classroom

Intervenante: Franca P. Gilbert, Franklin Academy Charter High School (NC)

Participants will be introduced to a multifaceted approach to incorporating the iPad in the foreign language classroom. The presenter will include tips on how to use applications effectively with students. Discussion will focus on use of applications to develop the communication skills needed to become proficient in any language. From podcasts and virtual museum guides to Francophone television, the presenter will give tips and ideas on how to maximize the tablet technology available and make it work for the teacher.

Heure: 14h15-15h15 / Salle: Toledo / Public: secondaire
S242: Technology in the French Classroom: Effects on Language and Cultural Competence

Intervenante: Elizabeth E. Zwanziger, University of Northern Iowa - Malcolm Price Laboratory School

The one-to-one computer initiative is becoming more common in schools, but how does the implementation of digital tablets or laptops for each student affect pedagogy and outcomes in the French classroom? Digital devices bring many advantages and brand new possibilities to world language teaching and as well as a number of challenges. The presenter will provide examples from a French-teacher perspective of how one tablet or computer per student has  impacted students' reading, writing, listening, speaking, and cultural competence during the past academic year in high school French.

Le samedi 7 juillet

Heure: 8h00-9h15 / Salle: Toledo / Public: general
S302: Do You Have the Latest Free Technology in Your Classroom?

Intervenante: Adina Alexandru, Southington Public Schools (MA)

This session will explore multiple venues to keep the foreign language class alive while getting updated on the latest free Web technology. With nothing more than a reliable Internet connection, you can create documentaries, entertainment, and how-to videos while helping your students develop outstanding speaking and writing skills.

Heure: 10h00-11h00 / Salle: Michigan / Public: general
C319: Working Session of the Commission on Technology

Animatrices: Lara L. Lomicka, University of South Carolina, Co-Présidente de la Commission, et Catherine Ousselin, Mt Vernon High School (WA), Co-Présidente de la Commission

Interested in using technology to teach French? Bring an idea to share, a project to discuss, or a question. The Commission on Technology will host an interactive working session that encourages the exchange of ideas and fosters stimulating discussion about the use of technology in language learning. Come and find out more about the Commission and about using technology in language teaching.

Heure: 10h00-11h00 / Salle: Ohio / Public: général
S317: Digitally Speaking: Free Digital Resources to Improve Oral Proficiency

Intervenante: Catherine T. Ritz, Arlington Public Schools (MA)

This session will focus on how to use free digital resources to improve students' oral proficiency. Participants will learn how to use a wide variety of Web sites, such as Google Voice, Voki, Blabberize, GoAnimate, and more to make speaking tasks engaging and fun. We will also discuss how to share student work digitally through blog sites, thereby transforming a class assignment into "published" work.

Le dimanche 8 juillet
Atelier (pré-inscription recommandée)
Heure:  8h00-11h00 /  Salle: Holabird / Public: general
 W405: The Commission On Technology Presents: Thinking About Syncing? Connecting with World Language E-Learners

Intervenantes: Lara L. Lomicka, University of South Carolina, Co-Présidente de la Commission, et Catherine Ousselin, Mount Vernon High School (WA), Co-Présidente de la Commission

The Commission on Technology will host a collaborative, hands-on workshop to promote the exchange and development of technology-enhanced lessons and projects. An interactive discussion will encompass attitudes, experiences, and challenges in the adaption of technology in world language education. Participants should bring a laptop computer or iPhone/Pad/Pod or Android device.

17 March 2012

Web Tools for WL Teachers: Using Symbaloo to organize links and ideas

Symbaloo - A visual organizer of your links and ideas. 
To see this Web Tools for World Language Teachers Symbaloo in its entirety, please click on the link.
If you have a tool to add, please suggest it in the comments
or send an e-mail to aatftech@gmail.com
Apps for French teachers will be added this week.
Many suggestions are made on our Twitter feed
Are you following us

24 January 2012

2012 South Central Association for Language Learning Technology Conference

The South Central Association for LanguageLearning Technology is pleased to announce its annual conference and invites submissions for individual/joint presentations, product demonstrations, workshops, and panel discussions.

SOCALLT 2012's conference theme is:

Success Stories in the 21st Century Foreign Language Class: Transforming Teaching & Learning with Technology

The conference will be held on the campus of the University of Colorado-Boulder, April 13-14, 2012.

Deadline for submissions is Monday, February 13, 2012 (5PM CST).

22 January 2012

Classroom motivation and assessment with iDevices (Part 2/2)

This is Part 2 of 2 of an investigation on the use of clickers and iDevices. Please visit Part 1 to learn about platform-specific devices and programs. 

Part 2 - Supplanting platform-specific devices for iPods and other handheld iDevices. 

In my quest to find a student response device system that 
meets our curricular and functional needs, I have looked to using non-platform based devices. Specifically: iPods (Phones and Pads) and Android-based devices. I currently have 17 iPod Touches and one iPad in my classroom. For two of my classes, this is enough for 1 device per student. For the other four classes, the students share or (and this is more powerful), the students use their own phones or iPods with which they can connect to the campus-wide student WiFi access. 

Over the years during which I have purchased expensive  devices using school funds and grants, I pondered the feasibility of students using their phones as response systems. While there are options such as PollEverywhere and AskingPoint that allow users to answer basic poll questions by texting a code to a number, I was more interested in using the Web-browsing capabilities of the devices. In the early 2000s, it was not practical to browse the Web with a non-smart phone and data plans did not allow for much freedom. Within the past years, an increasing amount of students are using smartphones with better data plans and WiFi capabilities. Increasingly, school districts are providing student WiFi access with strong filters. For the students who do not have these phones or devices, I am fortunate to be able to provide them a classroom-only iPod Touch. In other situations, teachers could pair students in order to insure that all have access. With the question of devices covered, I looked to find Web and App-based programs to run the assessments.

Pilot #1 "eClicker/eClicker Host" App-based program 

As an avid user of Twitter, I noticed a posting last summer 
about a new Apple App named, “eClicker Host.” The app is $10 for the teacher version and free for students I purchased the app before I had an iPad and before I learned that I could build question sets and run assessments from my desktop. I wish that I had researched the system a bit more so that I could have used it earlier in the school year. Due to this lack of research, the app sat dormant for a few months until I received an iPad from my district.  What is useful about eClicker is that is both a device and computer-based product. While it is possible to build the question sets and run the assessments on an iPod Touch, I found that the smaller screen took extra time and efforts. The addition of the iPad to my classroom greatly encouraged me to use the app more! I built a very quick 10 multiple-choice assessment (on the iPad) based on furniture and home vocabulary. The 4th year students are normally the test group on any new app. As they are juniors and seniors, they have the ability to express their opinions at a higher level than, “It’s cool!” The options for question types are limited to multiple-choice, True/False, and Agree-Disagree. The options may be changed from English to another language. There is, however, no option for texting the answer.


Pictures, graphs, and images drawn on the iPod can be inserted into the questions. I used pictures that I saved from the Internet to the iPad’s camera roll. To do this, choose a picture and press down on it until you are given the option to save it. From start to finish, it took about 30 minutes to make the activity.

Test run on French 4 students!
 I gave a brief explanation to the students on how to evaluate the app and we began the assessment. The students logged in with either their French names; and as it is their first exposure to the platform, I allowed them to also remain anonymous. I connected the iPad to the LCD projector so that the questions were visible on the screen as well as on their devices. The pace of the questions was controlled from the iPad. It was not a very smooth interface and I dealt with some difficulties advancing through the 10 questions. A better experience would be to allow the teacher to progress effortlessly through the question set. Instead, time is wasted cycling through the program to get back the questions in order to proceed to the next question. The students were able to see their replies and the answers of their classmates. 
 The program indicates if the answer is correct, offers a basic explanation of the answer (that I provided), and ranks the participants in the assessment. This final data is optional and can be turned off. 

At the end of the each question and activity, the teacher is presented with a summary of the data collected for each participant.  

 I queried the students and they all agreed that it was an enjoyable platform and that the preferred it to our previous devices, although Qwizdom games were again mentioned! It is amazing how they impressed on that antiquated system. We discussed as a group the positives and negatives of the app and students voiced their opinions in a thoughtful manner. They would have preferred the opportunity to text so that they could perfect their spelling skills. This important aspect to self-assessment was to become the subject of my next investigation.  

Pilot #2 "Socrative Teacher/Student" Web-based program

I found Socrative through researching response systems. It is a free program that can be used with computers or handheld devices with Internet capabilities. The one drawback to Socrative at this time is that you cannot add any type of visuals (pictures, drawings, graphs). It is a text-only interaction. Socrative's support team assures me that they are working on this!  However, you can make a quiz on Socrative and place the visuals on your LCD presenter. In this way, students will consult both media. I will be experimenting with this option this week. 

Click on the image to enlarge it. 

To build an activity in Socrative, visit its Web site and make a 
free account. By adding your e-mail address, your activites will be saved online and you will receive an Excel spreadsheet with student responses and scores.  I found this aspect of the program outstanding. I am able to send the students a personalized report on their strengths and areas that need reinforcement. A report is generated for the quizzes and the (very) basic team-based game. In order for the students to be able to “find” your quiz, you will need to name your room. I named mine “mvhs6.” This is a good practice in that if there were multiple teachers using the system at the same time, students may accidently connect to a different teacher’s activity.

Socrative does offer an Excel template in which you can build a quiz to import, but I have not tried this option as of yet. I prefer making the quiz in Word and transferring the questions by copy/paste. Quizzes can be teacher-directed or self-paced by the students.

As an alternative to pre-made quizzes, teachers can use Socrative as an "on-the-fly" type activity by posing questions either vocally or visually on an LCD projector. This type of assessment allows the teacher to "take the pulse" of the class to see if extra explanation or demonstration is needed. Students' responses are calculated and projected in real time. I appreciate this option because you could use a picture gallery from the computer, asking questions as you scroll through the pictures. A PowerPoint (gasp!) quiz could be used electronically. Socrative takes a lot of pre-planning pressure off of the teacher. The options for assessment are: multiple choice, true/false, short answer (texting), Space Race (team game), and Exit Ticket.  

Here is an example of what the multiple choice and short answer questions look like. I put the target point in parentheses so that the question is clear. 

Upon completion of an activity, you have the option to send a report to your e-mail or download it directly to your computer.

Quite simply, the report function is amazing and easy to use! Here is a copy of the first "Space Race" activity that I tried with my Year 3 students. The success rate was quite low due to some silly behavior. Luckily, I have the proof of who answered what! Notice the color codes for correct and incorrect answers. 

Student response systems are a quick, engaging, and unique way to encourage students to share their knowledge and strengths. Use of clicker/device activities should be brief, meaningful, and concise. There are teachers who use these each day in class, but I have found that the students respond better to the activities and assessments when the activities are spaced out. If the activities become too predictive or repetitive or if they are the only means by which they are assessed, the students will not be as engaged or motivated as they are when it is a treat! 

Whether you choose to use a platform-specific clickers and software, classroom sets of iDevices, or BYOT devices (bring your own tech), you will find that your ordinarily quite students will demonstrate their knowledge more readily in the class. I have tried out many different systems - each with various advantages and detractors. I have not found the perfect system, but as for now, I will continue to use a combination of Socrative (who promises that they will be adding visuals soon!) and eClicker Host. 
If you have any questions or comments about student response systems, please contact me (Catherine Ousselin) and I will do my best to help you choose the system that best suits your needs, available tools, and objectives. 
Bon surf et bonne chance!
Catherine Ousselin

Classroom motivation and assessment with Clickers and iDevices

Part 1 – An evolutionary history of software-specific systems and unique clicker devices

Readers should note that I (Catherine Ousselin) am a gadget-geek. I am constantly testing and piloting hand-held devices that can be used to encourage student participation, comprehension, and engagement. This love of the gadget most likely comes from my Sears brand "Atari 2600" system, circa 1980 and the two "Speak-and-Spell" devices that my parents bought us to encourage our spelling and math skills.
Thank you, Mom and Dad!  

I have been using an “Audience Response” system since 2003. I started with Qwizdom and my students went wild. Qwizdom provided me with 30 devices and never asked for payment as long as I demonstrated them to other teachers! The students loved the silly, outdated graphics as well as the 
"Mars Mission" and "FastTrack" games. 


I continued for nearly 6 years with Qwizdom until I noticed that the games were never updated and that my computer no longer appreciated the software. 

I had heard that there were new “clickers” that allowed students to text their replies. After contacting Promethean (known for their boards and ActivInspire software), my students were treated to a beautiful new set of clickers that allowed them to text complete paragraphs and to use accents.


The software is exceptionally easy to use. A basic review with multiple styles of questions could be created in under 15 minutes. The only drawback of the program was that there were no games or challenges to motivate the students. Whereas Qwizdom provided the space ships with their ranks and times, the ActiveInspire only allowed the students to see a bar chart with times and answers. Although outdated and malfunctioning, the students preferred the Qwizdom games. They enjoyed the competition. ActiveInspire seemed dull. I appreciated the data collection provided through the ActiveInspire software because it could track student progress and other important data. Unfortunately, when I proposed the clickers, students would slightly roll their eyes. Although I had piloted the devices with them, they soon grew weary of this tool. Perhaps they were put off by the numerical (“old-school”) texting operation. By the time I had purchased the devices, pull-out keypads were everywhere. QWERTY texting was more natural to the students. Their attitude was disappointing since I had used the last of my technology grant to purchase the system. 

Update 1: Promethean World now has QWERTY keyboards on a new device called ActivExpression2.

In an attempt to find yet another system, I turned to SmartTech as I have a SmartBoard in the classroom and had seen a demonstration of their newest XE Response System. I was excited to offer my students what they wanted: QWERTY keypads and SmartTech. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Smart Notebook software, you might wish to download for the trial period. You do not need a SmartBoard to run the software, just an LCD projector. Notebook offers Flash games that allow students to interact with the material in creative and thoughtful ways. The games are fun and productive. Most of all, they are magnificently easy to create. Type in the words, click “Create,” and the
 games are ready. Here are a few examples of Flash activities that I made for my TPRS story on «La légende de Carcassonne» These activities do not require (and don't accommodate) the use of clickers. They are an engaging way to start a class or to review before an assessment.   

The activity building template is as easy as typing the text, choosing a picture, and adding the answer.

There are 18 games/activities to choose from.

I had assumed that Smart would incorporate their Flash games into the Response system.  
Regrettably, this was not to be the case. The system was quite similar to the ActiveInspire software: multiple-choice questions, true-false, short-answer, agree-disagree, etc. 

Strangely, though, there was no option to use accents on the student devices. With the Promethean devices, accents were available by switching the device language. This lack of accents stunned me because Smart is a Canadian company. They market their devices and software in Quebec and around the world! During my one-on-one training (in my classroom!) with a Smart Rep, we contacted the company to inquire about the lack of accents. It was not in their plans to add them. This was an issue for me. To spend nearly $3,000 on a system that had neither extra motivational software nor accents for World Language teachers led me to heavily consider the purchase. 

To be fair, I tried the XE system in its Beta state. The devices were weighty, but not too cumbersome. The buttons were similar to most phones and math teachers could incorporate functions and graphs into their lessons as the keypads included math symbols. The devices stayed with me for one month during which I used them twice. While not a determining factor for me, an important issue for the students was the lack of student response time data. If there are no games or quirky graphics to hold the students’ attention, there should be at least the possibility to show which student answered first and correctly. They relish being the quickest texter in the class. I politely returned the system to Smart and informed them of what needed to be improved if World Language teachers were to adopt this system.

Note: Since my last exposure to Smart and its Response software, I have learned that the company has Beta software available that will allow students to connect their iPods/Pads, etc. to the teacher station. I have downloaded the software for a trial use, but receive messages that I need a code to activate the system. This will be a project for Spring Break.  Software-specific clickers will soon be obsolete. 

Before purchasing any devices or deciding on software, please continue reading part 2 which will be uploaded later today (22 January 2012). 

I have continued to use the Promethean/ActivInspire software as it does allow me to quickly assess basic knowledge and skills of the students. I offer small rewards of points and (yes) candies for the top five students. I don’t use it too often or they tire quickly of the repetition. Additionally, the assessment sets are never more than twenty questions. I have learned from many experiences that Freshman through Juniors need small doses of different exposures. Clickers are wonderful to engage quiet students who will not raise their hands to participate, but who will text any verb conjugation in less than ten seconds!