It's budget season around these parts (always good times, especially in a recession) and my first pass at a budget was cut by around 50%. I have a week until our next round of meetings to fully justify the items that remain.
The 50% cuts were hardly unexpected. I used the first round to inform the school committee and the administrators about what we could really use well, what makes sense as we transform our schools into "21st Century Schools", as well as what we really need. However, one thing that I was sad to see go was several sets of interactive response systems (so-called "clickers", in this case made by Turning Technologies). Turning, by the way, was featured yesterday on NPR as one company that is managing to weather the economic downturn fairly well, having started relatively recently in a new-business incubator in Cleveland.
Of course, no matter how slick they are, we won't be affording them this year. Which leads me to the real point of this post: there are other ways to collect responses from students quickly and efficiently and provide them with rapid feedback. I ran across a video in which Google Docs is used to do just that. Since we'll be rolling Google Apps for Education this summer/fall, I'm always looking for new use cases. In fact, we decided on Edu Apps over other solutions because of its potential to enhance student learning.
While it can't quite match the immediacy of interactive response systems, as shown in this video, Google Docs allows teachers to gather information similar to that which they might collect using interactive response systems. Thanks to the creator - this is a great step-by-step tutorial.
In some ways, however, this approach has advantages over interactive response systems. While it assumes that students will have access to a computer (whether 1:1, in a lab, or at home), teachers can save and use the data. It's far easier to turn these into a test/quiz than it is with the clickers, which are more designed to immediately gauge audience participation and understanding.
As one Googler, Leon Kotlyar, noted when we discussed this video,
Teachers can use this to create quizzes and send them out to students. Because the information is stored in a document, they can do a number of things from here - keep it saved online, share it with other teachers, or share it with students so that students can review answers from their peers (for a prep test, for example).
I have to say, I'm really excited about rolling Google Apps this summer; a little bit of creativity will go a long ways in terms of finding new ways to integrate it in the classroom.