Saturday, December 8, 2012

InfuseLearning - Student Response System

Every year, I teach a 3rd grade unit on the Nutcracker Ballet.  When I first started teaching elementary, the 3rd grade homeroom teachers would read the story, a dancer would come in and work with the students, and we would take a field trip to watch the Milwaukee Ballet's amazing version of the Nutcracker.  That left me (as a music teacher) plenty of time to focus on Peter Tchaikovsky and his music.  

Over the years, money grew tight (no more field trip) and time grew short (no more story or dancer).  That left me to teach as much as possible about the Nutcracker - Tchaikovsky, his music, ballet, and a video performance - in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Needless to say, the way I have taught the Nutcracker has changed every year.  This year, I decided to use InfuseLearning while teaching.  I had used InfuseLearning with 8th grade students earlier this year, and thought I would give it a try with 3rd grade.  
InfuseLearning is a free, web-based tool which calls itself a "virtual learner response solution".  It is a student response system, but with some really great customizable features.  A teacher logs in and is given a virtual "Room ID" to provide to the students.  The students log in with the Room ID and name and then wait for the teacher to initiate "activity" in the room.  The activity can be questions, links, or drawings.  

Of course, 3rd grade students being who they are were surprised when their screens started changing when I would initiate activity.  The students would get excited anytime I would begin a new activity.  I had to tell them, "I know what your screen says - you don't have to tell me - I made it say that - go ahead and do it!"
InfuseLearning's teacher homescreen
You can ask many kinds of questions in InfuseLearning.  True/False, Multiple Choice, Sort/Order, Numeric, Likert Scale, and Open Ended Text Questions.  But I think the two features that make InfuseLearning stand out are InfuseDraw (which lets the students submit drawings to the teacher) and InfuseLink (which sends a link from the teacher to the student devices which open in a new browser tab).  You can also set up quiz questions ahead of time, and InfuseLearning offers options such as reading questions aloud, grading text answers by establishing key words, enabling a "don't know" option, setting up multiple classes, and more.

One drawback to InfuseLearning is that the entire class must be on the same activity at once.  If everyone finished a quiz except Johnny, then everyone must wait for Johnny before moving on to the next activity.  It is not exactly self-paced.  We also had better success on Google Chrome than Internet Explorer.  Absolutely no problems on iPads or iPhones using Chrome.  If I had students in a BYOD environment, I might use this tool every class, either for reflection, feedback, or formative quiz.  With 3rd grade students, we used a cart of 15 PC laptops, 3 iPads, and my iPhone and I gave students a partner.

The students loved seeing immediately how they performed, and they loved to see what everyone else's answers were, too.  Everyone was accountable for their learning, and sometimes the correct answer came from surprising students!  It created a collaborative community.  

Here are some examples of how I used InfuseLearning with the Nutcracker on just the first day:
• A quiz that I pre-created about Tchaikovsky
• Sending the students a link to the story of the Nutcracker to read
• Listening to selections from the Nutcracker and replying with instrumentation in the "Open Ended Text Answer" response box
• Sending students a link to ballet feet positions and having them Draw the various positions of the feet, labeling left/right in the InfuseDraw tool.

If you are looking for a great student response tool, give InfuseLearning a try (and of course, I am not receiving anything from anyone for this blog post).  

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