The smartphone has become an essential part of everyday life. We use it for everything from keeping in touch with friends and family to monitoring the weather and traffic and reading up on the news or other topics we enjoy. Up until now, the most notable exception has been formal education where it has been seen as a distraction to students, adversely affecting their learning and focus. However, that’s all changing now too… With the blessing of more and more teachers and lecturers, smartphones are now starting to be used in education in many different ways - from tracking students’ progress to aid formative assessment to helping increase engagement, identify knowledge gaps and support more in-depth learning
Formative assessment and smartphone apps
So what exactly is formative assessment? It’s a rather formal-sounding name for a new and more relaxed style of teaching that is currently achieving excellent results across a wide range of age groups.
Formative assessment is a simple and effective method of monitoring student-aggregated understanding in real-time. Its aim is to foster a deeper level of collaborative learning. It makes use of apps such as Vevox to check how well a class understands the topic being taught. You create your questions using the app dashboard, your students vote using their mobile phones or tablets, and their result is shown in real time. As simple as that! This means that lesson plans can be quickly changed if a class needs to spend more time on a certain subject.
Most lecturers like this because they feel it bridges the gap between them and the students. It helps lecturers create interactive lessons and assignments that encourage every student to actively participate. Traditionally, lecturers have provided information from behind their desk, creating a sense of distance between them and their students. Formative assessment is more about interactive teaching, engaging with students on their level and adapting lessons where needed, to make the most of the time available.
First, students feel comfortable answering questions using their smartphones or other devices such as tablets. To them it’s second nature, so they act more naturally and honestly.
The use of tools such as smartphones, and the real-time nature of Vevox enables teachers to quickly spot errors and misunderstandings and allows quick and easy communication between teacher and student.
It also helps teachers to gather results from polls and multiple choice questions to create discussions in class. It is perfect for teaching students that their opinions are never ‘wrong’ as such, but that they can benefit from taking the views of others into consideration.
Another huge area that teachers love about using smartphones for teaching is the sheer range of content that this approach puts at their fingertips. No more lessons spent simply reading to students or just writing on a whiteboard. Using smartphones drives access to video, audio, images and even virtual field trips where the class can ‘visit’ a location and learn from the experience.
This range of multi-media content also helps students learn in their own way. It is well known that people learn in different ways but including every style in one class can be tricky. However, providing individuals with different content styles allows them to pick up the elements that work best for them, thereby enabling them to and get the most from their learning.
Lessons can be less formal and stilted using formative assessment and the smartphone in class. There is no overriding focus on a whiteboard or a single screen, making for a more relaxed environment.
It is an approach that builds on the natural appeal of smartphones but turns them into learning tools. To those growing up in the digital age, this can appear far more ‘normal’ than reading a textbook or coursework file.