Florida elementary monitors progress while teaching

Monitoring students’ progress is a critical aspect of education. But are students losing valuable instruction time to increasingly frequent testing? At Bunnell Elementary School (BES), of Flagler County, Florida, they’re trying to integrate time spent assessing progress with time spent learning.

In September of 2009, the school used Title 1 funding to purchase Turning Technologies' ResponseWare Web licenses. The licenses allow a teacher to collect real-time feedback from every student using desktops, laptops, or the school's cart of 30 Apple iPod Touch devices. As the teacher poses questions, the students read the questions from the device display and select the multiple-choice answer or fill in the blank with their own response. Responses are then immediately transferred via the internet to the teacher's laptop for evaluation. Once the teacher closes the time available for responses, students get immediate feedback on whether their answer was correct.

Currently, third grade teachers Kimberly Westerhouse and Kristi Booth are using the ResponseWare licenses on a daily basis with students in their reading groups. It took the students about a week to get used to the process. Most of the students use the iPod Touch devices, but the teachers will have some students log in with a laptop computer, which offers a full keyboard for longer essay responses. The Touch also has a miniature onscreen keyboard, but it is not as familiar to the elementary students as the laptop keyboard. During a session, students can type questions without raising a hand or feeling embarrassed in front of their classmates.

Because of the initial positive response from teachers and students, RepsonseWare licenses will be introduced to BES teachers who may have multiple students on an Individualized Academic Plan (IEP). These students will be assigned Touch devices or laptops to encourage them to become more active during class.

Evans noted that not enough laptops or iPod Touch devices are available for each student, so he plans to use the TurningPoint Reponse Card systems in the inclusion classrooms, while integrating laptops and Touch devices for students who have IEP's. The TurningPoint Reponse Card systems are small hand-held devices with a numeric keypad.

“This allows our special education students to read the questions right off the iPod or laptop screen, without having to read the question off a whiteboard or projector screen - sometimes an issue with some students,” explained Evans. ”It also offers them the flexibility to communicate more freely with the teacher while still participating in the same activities as the rest of the class."

Evans foresees the response devices becoming “as common as pencil and paper in the classroom." He is currently putting together a case study to determine whether the use of ResponseWare Web and Turning Point's Response Cards can be directly tied to student achievement. He says it looks promising so far. "The teachers love them and the students beg to use them."