What if your class only had smartphones, not tablets or laptops? My students have a mixture of Android and Apple phones. So that eliminates using any app that isn’t on both app markets. Even so, I’m reluctant to request that students get any particular app as some phones may not have much space for them. With my old android HTC Desire I quickly got to the stage of only being able to add an extra app if I deleted one of a similar size. It also eliminates flash sites as the Safari browser on iPhones doesn’t support flash websites, although the blue Puffin (paid) browser in the Apple App Store does. Websites that support HTML 5 are fine with both android and Apple phones. I check the websites with my android Samsung and Apple iPad to see if they are in fact suitable for both operating systems.
I often use Google forms to create an online quiz then get students to take the quiz using their smartphones. For example, I can create a quiz for an exercise that requires short text answers or multiple choice selection. There are 7 types of quizzes that you can make using Google forms. If the quiz requires a reading text I usually provide it on paper – there is a limit to what you can reasonably expect from students, and scrolling up and down PDFs looking for answers and the questions is a bit too much.
Students can answer the questions online using the Google form. They just need the url of the form. That is a bit tricky as the url of a Google form is very long – far too long to write accurately in a small space of time – here is an example (I’ve changed some of the characters so it won’t take you to a real quiz): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10qdKnhGQhgXWyb54IcQjTo3yc8rHoIT0F6G0Rp-7pMQ/edit#gid=0
So how do I get the weblinks to the students? Emailing them is too time consuming – creating a group emailing list is tedious and then the time taken for the students to open their emails, if they can remember their usernames and passwords, is a drag on class momentum. If you are suddenly faced with a new student or have to take over a new class then emailing is certainly a poor option. A problem with both iOS and android is that it isn’t very easy to highlight and copy text on smartphones – especially from kl1p.com, which used to be my favourite link sharing website. I also used tinyurl.com and bitly.com a lot in the past. They are good for shortening one-off links, but again, a bit tedious to keep creating new ones. My pick for sharing links is Justpaste.it. This website allows you to create a webpage full of hyperlinks which means students are just a tap away from the place on the web that you want them to be. You can create a hyperlink you can just tap to take you to your web address in Justpaste.it and by default only you can edit and delete the content. Once the students have bookmarked your Justpaste.it website, they can quickly get to this gateway and with one more tap they are in the website you want them to be.
You can check if the students have finished their Google quiz by looking at the response spreadsheet on the teacher’s computer or iPad, because their answers appear on the response spreadsheet immediately the students have completed the test and pressed the submit button. When everyone has finished you can then display this on an eBoard or via a projector. A nice feature of this is you can hide the column with the names of the students and show everyone what answers everyone else gave – without revealing individual identities. For the teacher, you instantly know if the class found it easy or difficult, and precisely which questions were the hardest and therefore worth spending feedback time on.
The combination of smartphones, Google Forms, justpaste.it and a way to display the results can make for a livelier and more informed class.