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Socrative – My Initial Reactions (and frustrations)

April 18, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

After running across the slick web-based feedback tool Socractive, I knew I had to give it a test run with my Freshmen. While Socrative is clearly designed small screen mobile devices (smart phone, iPod, etc), our district unfortunately doesn’t allow students to use their personal electronic devices on the network, so I couldn’t take advantage of all of the tiny web browsers floating around in my students’ pockets and backpacks. Instead, I took the kids to the computer lab to be my guinea pigs – since Socrative is a web app, it should work on any device with a modern web browser.

I was excited right from the start – Socrative was crazy easy to get going with, both for myself and my students. No setup, or student usernames, or navigating around to find the assignment, just a simple interface and a single “room number” to get in. I decided to go with a Short Answer question, which seemed to work a treat, right up until a student asked if he could resubmit his answer.

That’s when cracks started to appear in the veneer.

There was no apparent way to allow students to resubmit a question, so I figured I would just start a second question for the student to use. That turned out to be a Bad Idea; as soon as I opened up a new question, the old one disappeared in a puff of bits, and with it, the student responses.

Whoops.

Fortunately, my students are used to the guinea pig treatment and willingly, if not without  frustration, tackled the question a second time. As the responses floated in, I noticed that students who had already submitted their feedback were stuck with a “Waiting for teacher to start an activity…” screen, and I couldn’t find any way to queue up a second activity for those who were waiting to move on (I certainly wasn’t going to go poking around and risk loosing all of my responses again). But the real pain came after the students had left. You see, I had intended to actually use the responses I’d gathered, but apparently responses to real-time questions aren’t saved in Socrative, so when your browser crashes because of your obsessive need to leave a hundred tabs open “just in case,” all those wonderful student responses just dissolve into the ether. Ugh.

My experience may sound bleak, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet; there’s a good bit of potential there. For a class with more readily available technology access (particularly a 1:1 class) the ease of quick feedback offered by Socrative’s real-time data collection would be a godsend compared to standalone feedback devices. For those of us who have to schedule our lab time a week or more out, it’s more a question of how best to adapt. Given that I intended to keep my feedback for later evaluation, and that I wanted students to move through a set of questions at their own pace, I probably should have set up a quiz instead of using the on-demand questions (note to the folks @ Socrative, it would still be nice if the responses to on-demand activities were saved somewhere). I’d love to hear from teachers using Socrative with a class set of iPods or iPads – that’s where I see its real potential as a “clicker” killer.

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