Have Questions? You Need ‘The Answer Pad’

the answer padThat’s right…not just any old answer pad. THE Answer Pad.

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!

About karen mahon

i am a behavior and learning scientist. i hold an ed.d. in educational psychology and am trained as an instructional designer. i have spent more than 15 years working in education and instructional software design.
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3 Responses to Have Questions? You Need ‘The Answer Pad’

  1. Puget Sound Parent says:

    Sorry, Karen. This “Answer Pad” was junk. As a product manager for the past 14 years at three different technology companies, I’m used to evaluating products from a variety of vantage points. ”

    But now I’m also a dad of a child in elementary school. And I’m very carefully looking at every product that claims to “help” our students. The majority, I’m afraid, are ONLY about marketing, promotion, image, placement and related, often non-tangible aspects of the product.

    So, going beyond the hype and the surface claims that everyone makes about this product, I see little here. And what I do see has convinced me that this is yet another in a long line of mendacious efforts to capitalize on the deliberately deceptive narrative about our “failing” schools and how they can only be rescued by brilliantly designed, “futuristic” gadgets and code that can “compensate” for and maybe even ultimately replace the “terrible, lazy, worthless teachers” that supposedly comprise the overwhelming majority of our public school educators.

    My first instinct is to laugh. I’ve seen this type of things so many times before. Full Disclosure: I’ve participated in it. We all have to make money. I’m a hypocrite, I’ll fully concede.

    But, as a marketer, and parent, I feel that there is a special place in hell reserved for those who market to our children.

    Whether you’re consciously shilling on behalf of this and the other private interests who see our tax dollars as their future “Revenue Stream”—and our kids, their teachers and school buildings themselves, as “overhead to be reduced or eliminated due to its adverse impact on ROI”—or just doing so due to a seemingly benign and quaint naivety you might possess, I don’t know.

    But I do know that this silly machine and others like it, are not the answer for my child or anyone else’s child.

    A couple of years ago, when my son was a first grader, I understood nothing about any of this. Now, I’m plugged in. And I’m spreading the word to other parents.

    You’ll privatize our schools over our dead bodies, quite literally, over our dead or imprisoned bodies. Like MLK, we’ll stay nonviolent at all times. Somehow I don’t expect the same from the people who are paying you, Karen.

  2. karen mahon says:

    Dear Puget Sound Parent-

    First, let me clarify for you that I have not been paid for any review of a product that I’ve done on this page (or anywhere else for that matter). I write both positive and negative reviews of products based on my own professional opinion, nothing else.

    Second, I think you’ve made a huge leap in your conclusions about my motivation in the edtech industry, as it certainly isn’t to privatize schools, as I am a proud product of public schools, from kindergarten through graduate school. I’d love to know what you read, anywhere on my blog, that suggested otherwise. My approach is functional. I’m in favor of approaches and practices that produce meaningful student outcomes, whatever those might be. As a father of a child in elementary school it seems you would want the same.

    Third, this post certainly doesn’t fall under the category of “marketing to children.” I certainly know of no children who would be interested long enough to read this.

    Finally, any technology product is only as useful as its implementation, which depends on willing and capable teachers. I have recommended The Answer Pad for use in formative assessment, something that teachers already do, and that can make easier and more productive for them. Is it possible that you don’t have expertise in the methods I discussed and thus have dismissed their utility out of hand because technology is involved?

    It seems to me that your anger is misdirected here. But I thank you for reading and commenting just the same. I welcome disagreements on my opinions about products.

  3. Pingback: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things 2013 | disrupt learning!

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