Review: Three of the best student response systems

Nathan Ashman

Nathan Ashman is lead teacher for New Technologies at St Wilfrid's Academy in Blackburn, an 1:1 iPad school. He has been a new technologies excellence practitioner and a curriculum leader for Film and Media Studies, and has led New Technology enquiry groups at previous schools. Nathan has been involved in the direction of teaching and learning through focus groups, coaching and mentoring roles at whole school level. He is excited about new technology, although not necessarily in how the technology works, but what opportunities it brings, in all aspects of education, leisure and communication.

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Student response systems are changing the way we interact with pupils in our classrooms. With many schools going 1:1 with tablet devices, or having a BYOD policy, which student response systems are really transforming the way we teach and learn?

"You can make sure that you have an accurate record of the progress students are making."

Through my role in driving forward mobile learning, I have tried and tested many student response systems and found three of the best; Socrative, Nearpod and Classflow.

Teacher Experience

As with any new development in education, time is a key factor in adding something new to your teacher toolkit. It is easy to be put off experimenting with student response systems because of the time it takes to set activities up, however some of these solutions are very quick.

For assessment for learning (AFL) strategies using questions for learning, all three of these services have ad-hoc functions to get students responding quickly. Socrative is the quickest and easiest to set up, by simply creating an account, giving the class code to students and verbally asking them a question that they can respond to in real time. This is a longer process using Classflow, where you must enter your classes’ names prior to them connecting to your virtual classroom. There are some benefits in this; you can make sure that you have an accurate record of the progress students are making, and it also makes it easier for your class to enter your room each lesson. Nearpod requires you to set up a presentation before you can ask any questions to your class, although you could set up an ad-hoc presentation to use with your classes and go back to it when you need it.

If you want more than just multiple choice, open ended or true or false questioning, Classflow and Nearpod have a greater variety of activities. In Nearpod you can create a poll for students to vote on different answers, creating a quick pie chart to display the results of the class. Classflow goes further in providing opportunities for collaborative mind-mapping in a word seed feature and letting students answer using a sliding scale.

Results can be saved in all three systems, and in the case of Socrative and Classflow can be exported to a Microsoft Excel document. Socrative has an engaging Space Race feature which adds a competitive element to question sets, putting them into teams as they watch their correct answers shoot across the teacher’s screen in the form of a colour-coded rocket. Nearpod and Classflow display instant results in a variety of graphs, with Classflow also having a class page where individuals can track their own progress against questions completed.

Due to the extended features offered by Nearpod and Classflow, setting up lessons can be more time consuming, but can essentially put an interactive whiteboard into the hands of each student, where they can be creative, collaborate, receive and send content. Creating lessons is done through the browser versions of each service where images, videos, audio and web content can be added and searched for within the website.

For any teachers used to creating lessons on Promethean’s ActiveInspire or a SMART Notebook, these files can be uploaded to Classflow, and turn your interactive lessons into something that all students can participate in, rather than those you select to step up to the board. I have found this method easier as the Classflow creative interface is not as intuitive as Nearpod, where you can drag and drop.

Student Experience

"All of these cloud-based services offer a student app, where in two touches they can be in your virtual classroom and completing an activity."

In order for these types of activities to be successful, we want our learners to be able to access tasks quickly and with ease. All of these cloud-based services offer a student app, where in two touches they can be in your virtual classroom and completing an activity. Nearpod and Socrative will ask students to enter a class code each time, however Classflow remembers students’ classes and they find security in clicking on their name that has been pre-entered by the teacher.

Students are very fond of the creative activities offered by Nearpod and Classflow where they can draw on their screens with their finger or stylus, often used with prose or images. Classflow also lets students access other features of their devices to take images and videos to incorporate into their responses to the teacher.

In all three systems student responses can be shared with the entire class to peer-asses or deepen student understanding. A feature that Classflow offers that the others don’t is being able to send different slides or cards to different groups of students in the class. This is great for differentiation.

Price

Currently all three systems are free to use, however this is not where the story ends. Nearpod has additional features that can only be obtained through a premium account. One of these features is being able to set up self-paced presentations, where students can be set homework and take part in an online course. There are also presentations already loaded with content for a variety of subjects.

Classflow is currently free, although Promethean are very honest that this may not be the case in the future; they recently revealed their new paid for offering at the Bett show. The free version is still available and is well worth investigating.. It is unclear what the payment model will be but users should set up an account as soon as possible to benefit from the service that currently exists. The Classflow teacher iPad app costs £5.49.

Socrative is completely free and does not offer any paid for content at the moment.

Verdict

For a simple way to use questions in an interactive way for free, Socrative is the answer. If you want a simple way to create engaging, creative lessons, use Nearpod. If you want more collaborative features, more ways to display and analyse results and a secure way to manage your online classroom, use Classflow.

What student response systems do you use? Let us know in the comments.

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