Bell Image by Jennifer Lebowitz

Response Learning

While cool tech and apps may be what rings the excitement bell for classrooms these days, daily student participation and assessment can drive district tech use further—even in the most difficult economic times. Success shown there can open up more creative-change avenues, too. While success in one area may not lead to success in others, doing something substantially tangible in education has been known to provide more opportunities.

The real value of response solutions certainly hasn’t fully been developed—or realized, in most classrooms—yet. Response devices/solutions have, for the most part, been used for simple polling, or in place of hand raising. While that can be valuable, if done well, response use by students throughout a class to comment and add to the class conversation and lesson, as one would in a social-media way, is a more complete learning approach. If Twitter and social media have shown us anything, it is that a lot can be said with only a few characters, or lines of text. Using this concept as a response learning technique can create a social media atmosphere, even in a self-contained classroom. An added dimension for every class could also be lessons on social-media citizenship.

If done correctly, response learning can help flip the classroom away from correcting homework to where it should be—all students participating in their own learning in class, building upon and constructing deeper lesson meaning. Students who never say anything will find a way to join the discussion by taking advantage of response systems’ texting capabilities (short text phrases/sentences), rather than just Yes, No, and A, B, and C answers. And that fits perfectly into the Common Core goals, as well.

Those text conversations, when added to a classroom conversation, are more than a record of participation—they are a way for students to help direct their own daily learning. The quietest class member has a voice equal to that of the most vocal, and the teacher has a way to reach all students—not just a few during each class. Professional development on how to orchestrate that will be necessary, because it is weaving a different learning style into the fabric of a new classroom environment.

Educators collecting data from each student, using handheld digital learning devices, will know more and be able to make better-informed decisions for individual education plans. Administrators understand that, and parents will love it, because hearing what your kids really do and say during class is important. Teachers will have substantial information about each student’s daily participation. That makes more sense than the usual, “You child doesn’t participate… do his/her homework,” story lines, which occur far too often in parent conferences, e-mails home, or phone meetings.

Making response learning a daily teacher/student goal may not be as fun as drawing on a tablet.  However, using handhelds for data-driven learning decisions may be more important to overall student achievement and instrumental in gaining future tech funding and support. If, as an edtech integrator, your most difficult tech students seem to be administrators, and changing their mindset has been the challenge, using response learning systems—beyond simple “clickers”—can help give technology district-wide goals importance. It will also help move talking about, and with, students beyond storytelling, allowing educators and administrators to share concrete, archived data and student comments from each class day contained in a student’s individualized digital portfolio.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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