Socrative: An Online Alternative to Clickers
Socrative is an online alternative to clickers. Lissiene Neiva presents an account of her use of this resource explaining a number of advantages as well as its limits.
I had used the regular clickers available at Vanier College on and off for a couple of years, more at the beginning, but gradually I gave up. Although it doesn’t seem like a good reason to stop using technology, I found carrying the kit holding the clickers was too heavy to lug up the stairs to my classroom from the audiovisual office. I was actually complaining about carrying the clickers to a teaching intern whom I was supervising, when she mentioned the Socrative site.
I went on the website, and the next day I was using it in my classroom because this application is so easy to learn. It’s also extremely easy to use and compared to the clickers that I had been using before, it’s much easier to prepare the quiz, and it’s much easier to deal with the results because they are sent by email in a very well-formatted Excel spreadsheet. I spend less time preparing, and I spend less time getting the marks. And, you don’t need to carry the clickers to class, which I disliked, because students can vote with their cellphones. Now, I’m teaching in one of Vanier’s versatile classrooms with laptops, so students without cellphones can vote on the laptops if they don’t have a smartphone.
I’ve used Socrative mostly in General Biology, and I also have used it a few times in my Botany class. Student response has been great in both classes. I actually find using Socrative superior to clickers in my classroom, even without taking the transport of the clicker kit into account. You can use it the same way you use regular clickers, which is called teacher paced. You give students the first question, they vote; you give the second question, they vote; etc. But, you can do this thing called the Space Race. You present all your questions, and students can vote. They see the next question immediately after submitting an answer. Meanwhile on the teacher’s screen, you have these little rockets representing each team that advance as the team chooses right answers. So, students are in a race. In the end they will get the points they make, but they always want to see who gets more points and who gets there first. Student response is enthusiastic. The week after I tried the Space Race, I reverted to the teacher paced quiz because I wanted to discuss each question before going to the next one. My students complained about it, because they liked the Space Race so much. They wanted the rockets!
Another Socrative question category is the open-ended question. Students write their possible answers which can then be posted on the teacher’s screen, visible to students if projected, but anonymous. These answers can then be transformed into multiple choice questions, so that the class can vote on the answer that they think is the best. This is an excellent point of departure for a discussion. If I ask for the explanation of something, students come up with their hypotheses, and then they can vote on which hypothesis they think is the most probable.
In the Botany course Socrative quizzes were formative; I just gave them as an end-of-classroom activity. I’m planning to make them count for the next semester. The questions that I ask on Socrative are summative in my General Biology course. Students are assigned group marks for class activities in General Biology, so Socrative questions done in groups were not only a great way to initiate group discussions, but fit perfectly into the grading rubric of the course.
In Vanier’s Versatile Classrooms, because there are laptops available, I am not dependent on my students having Smartphones. My Botany course, however, was in a regular classroom. I resolved a potential problem by asking students to form groups of three in which at least one of the students had a Smartphone, and they answered as a group. It worked, because most students do have a Smartphone.
The only small advantage that I have found using traditional clickers over Socrative is that I was able to have one unit per student. The version of Socrative that I use is free, but the teacher is limited to fifty users. The Space Race is limited to 15 users. If you have a large class, students need to work in groups.
Socrative is a great way to make your classes more interactive and to foster peer instruction. Once you start using it, you won’t want to stop. Your students will love it as well, and the equipment is free and light as a feather!