Over the past couple of months I’ve had the good fortune to meet and get to know Anna and Hal Sturrock, founders and inventors of The Answer Pad, at a couple of edtech trade shows. If you’ve done many trade shows then you know there can be a lot of down time while conference attendees are at sessions, so having some fun people to hang out with during the down time is a happy relief!
So imagine how pleased I was to find out that not only are Anna and Hal really great company, but their product, The Answer Pad, is just as awesome as they are.
I’ve written before on this blog about the importance of frequent formative assessment and tips for using formative assessment. And in last year’s Best of 2012 post I even included another assessment tool that I liked. (Which reminds me, I need to get busy on my Best of 2013 list!) I’m a big fan of ongoing feedback loops telling instructors what students can do…but many of the edtech tools on the market today that are used for formative assessment are still selection-based responding or very limited constructed responding, like constructing words. That means the big focus is on multiple-choice, true/false type items, polling, etc. Not my favorite kind of student responding, not least because its utility relies on teachers writing really good test items, which is difficult and time-consuming. And “difficult and time-consuming” isn’t quite amenable to “on the fly” checking for understanding, is it?
But The Answer Pad is a breath of fresh air because it’s a graphically-based student response system. That means that kids can construct their answers to questions by writing text, drawing pictures, shading in parts of a pie chart and a number of other onboard templates. The multiple-choice, true/false kind of options are still included, so you still have those at your fingertips to use when they make the most sense. I think it’s really exciting because no longer will teachers be required to force questions into a selection-based format when it doesn’t really work or tell you what you want to know about what students can DO.
Some technical details: The way this product works is the teacher has a dashboard on his or her computer. The dashboard controls the content and questions and pushes out the “answer page” to students’ iPads (or other device). As the students submit their answers, those answers show up on the teacher dashboard. Depending on the type of answer, the dashboard even aggregates student response data (when possible) in real time into an onscreen report for the teacher.
Sound interesting to you too? The cool thing is that you can try out The Answer Pad for FREE. Just visit The Answer Pad’s homepage and get started right away. I think this is a game changer for formative assessment and gives us the chance to make it much more meaningful.
Go check it out and tell me what YOU think!