Issue 28 – Rethinking Education in the New Normal: Digital Tools for Online Teaching

By Jessica Lee (ELED Year 1 student 2020-21)

What’s worse than teaching in a noisy classroom where naughty students are jumping around? Facing a blank screen and talking to no one in particular, perhaps. Or, calling out names but everyone happens to have “gone to the bathroom”. 

Under the “New Normal”, most classes have shifted online, and this imaginably frustrates many teachers – students could be doing all kinds of things behind the camera, and it may happen that “paying attention” is not on their list. In their defence, all temptations aside, staring at a screen for prolonged hours can be very taxing to their already short attention span. The good news is, by adding some fun, interactive elements into the online class, we could draw their attention back. In fact, a lot of existing digital tools have already been designated for this purpose. Below are three free and easy-to-use online tools that could spice up online teaching.

1. Kahoot!

I believe most, if not all, have used this online platform to host or join a live quiz. With colourful blocks, upbeat background music, dramatic transition effect, and lively animation for ranking, Kahoot easily creates an exciting competition. It also serves as a great revision on students’ understanding of different topics. Teachers can then pin-point the topics or concepts that students are likely to get wrong and provide further explanation. Since the host can decide when to move on to the next question, explanation can also be made in between. Its player and question capacity are also quite generous – for school-use, each live game allows up to 1000 players and 100 questions. After each quiz session, a report will also be provided for teachers to keep a record, tracking in-class performance. 

One point to note is that students can name themselves however they like. While it may add to the fun factor, keeping track of individual results would be difficult. If you want to know how every student performs, remember to ask them to put in their real name before the game starts!

Additionally, for the free-of-charge basic plan, only multiple choice and true or false question types are available. For other question types such as fill-in-the-blanks, polls, and open-ended questions, subscription is required. If that is not versatile enough for your lesson, read on to find out the alternative!

2. Quizizz

As its name suggests, Quizizz is another platform for both live and take-home quizzes. Unlike normal quizzes, however, its quizzes can be considered the epitome of gamification. Not only are there rankings, but also answer streaks, power-ups, and redemption questions for students to score higher. These features certainly make the boring quizzes game-like and much more exciting. While the answer streaks give bonus points, power-ups are given at random after getting several correct answers. Some interesting power-ups include power booster, which increases all participants’ score for a certain period of time, and time-freezer, which allows students to take as much time as they want to answer the questions. 

In regard to question types, it also has high flexibility. Besides multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks and polls, it has open-ended questions and slides. While the open-ended questions allow students to brainstorm ideas, integrating slides can facilitate explanation. The tool enables up to 100 participants for each quiz with no limitations on questions. What makes this platform even better is that it offers a comprehensive report. Apart from overview, results can be sorted according to participants and questions, so teachers can cater to individual needs. 

3. Socrative

Similarly, Socrative allows teachers to create live quizzes. Although most humble-looking of all, Socrative is undoubtedly the most all-rounded tool in terms of creating questions. The platform goes beyond one answer per quiz – you can ask students to fill in the answer and give explanation at the same time. In addition to showing explanation after each question, viewing detailed results of the on-going game, teachers can also give individual feedback.

One special feature of Socrative is “Space Race”, where participants compete by finishing questions quickly and accurately. What makes it different from Kahoot and Quizizz is that it has a “team” option, where students could be assigned into groups to compete for the first place. This could increase social interaction among students and serve as another motivation to get the questions correct quickly. This feature can also work with breakout rooms, where students can discuss the answers in the assigned groups during the live quiz.

Conclusion

While the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the prominence of digital learning to another level, it is axiomatic that integration of technology into education is inevitable. With rapid information exchange, our world is fast-shifting. Teaching, too, requires adaptation. And that’s why we should always keep track of the most updated teaching modes and utilize them in the best ways possible.

Leave a Reply