Make Data Matter With Formative Assessment & Technology

Tuesday, February 14, 20174:01 PM

Technology, learning, and data. These are three of my favorite things. And when they can come together to provide meaningful information about learning, it can transform teaching and learning.

In Data Driven Duds: The Problem with Formative Assessment, I wrote, “As great as a formative assessment tool or strategy may be, it’s a dud if the data is not used to drive future instruction and learning. Too often, we are so distracted by the shine of new edtech and engagement that we don’t take advantage of the powerful data they can help communicate.”

There are so many tools and strategies for all kinds of assessments, so it’s important to make informed choices. My favorite tools tend to have the following:
  • An easy sign in process (Google single sign in is a plus!);
  • A web-based platform that works on all devices;
  • Easy creation and management for teachers;
  • Effective learning or assessment for students across content areas;
  • An engaging, interesting, and creative experience;
  • And best of all: data, data, data

But this isn’t the post where I explore a deep dive into these tools--I may plan for that later on, but a quick Google search will find so many. Instead, I want to share some tips and strategies for making the most of formative assessment technology and the data it provides. For the record, three of my favorites are Kahoot!, Pear Deck, and Google Forms. I’ve rarely seen students have more fun than with Kahoot! Pear Deck does a wonderful job with a range of formative assessment strategies and question types. And Google Forms is a wonderfully powerful and versatile tool.

What do they all have in common? Spreadsheets.

All three tools are engaging options for formative assessment and data collection that organize the information in spreadsheets for feedback. With a few simple tricks, this data can then be organized and sorted to make the students’ learning more actionable. If I can’t understand the data, I can’t provide the right feedback.

Learn Spreadsheet Magic

Whether it’s simpler sorting functions or more advanced queries, the ability to sort data is essential. I want to sort student responses by class, last name, total score, or any other variable as needed. Sheets provide a real flexibility to make the data make sense and matter for you and for your students. In The Schoencast: Viewing Form Responses, I screencast some tips for making sense of Spreadsheets.

Have Naming Conventions

So many tech tools allow students to sign in or create accounts. For me, a single Google sign in is always best, but a standardized naming convention is essential. For example, students always join a Kahoot! game with their last names for a simple reason. I won’t be able to make sense of a student’s learning or needs unless I can easily identify them. Then, by sorting the last name column, my students are suddenly alphabetical order. Nicknames, first names, and silly responses to join a game are fine and fun sometimes, but the data loses value if you can’t identify the learner.

Format Fun

A lot of data on a page is overwhelming. But it’s less overwhelming when it’s color coded, word wrapped, or aligned effectively. Explore the basic sheets options for formatting to add visual cues to better understand data. Even better, practice conditional formatting rules or the explore feature to automate the process. Earn a passing score? Then turn the cell green. Have five questions wrong? Make the name red. Customize the settings to meet your needs. You can also run an add-on like Flubaroo to any sheet, which will help analyze data and provide visual cues.

Assessment for Learning

There are too many tech tools to name, and just as many strategies for understanding student learning. The tool is the activity, not the lesson. It’s the feedback towards learning and instructional goals that really matters, and when technology can help make this easier, clearer, or more transparent is when it matters most. No one tool can do it all, but Kahoot!, Pear Deck, and Google Forms are three powerful tools for any subject area or age level that help drive assessment for learning and make the data matter.

How do you make sense of data in your classroom? What are your favorite tools or tips for using technology for formative assessment? Share your ideas in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.

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