A group of Saudi educators have been studying the benefits that a multiple choice sharing app can bring to teaching, in particular to collaborative methods designed to strengthen both teacher-student and student-student interaction.
Computers, iPads, smartphones and the Internet are all increasingly seen as excellent channels for developing and delivering new teaching methods, even more so if they enable a collaborative approach, i.e. fostering the sort of dialogue and interaction among students that will increase their capacity for learning, boost both their self-reliance and hone their critical faculties.
Accordingly, teaching staff from King Abdulaziz University in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah carried out a study using Socrative, a student performance-tracking system which allows teachers to engage students in various activities on computers and mobile devices. Their report, entitled ‘Using Socrative and Smartphones for the support of collaborative learning’, was published in December in the International Journal on Integrating Technology in Education. It looks at the benefits smartphones can bring to collaborative learning, especially when using the Socrative app. The app, which was developed in 2011 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, enables users to draw up and share questionnaires quickly. For instance, with Socrative teachers are able to generate multiple-choice questionnaires at high speed, which their students, having downloaded the app, can answer on their phones. The teachers can then see the student responses on their own screen. The app also has tools which a) display trends in the results over time and b) can track student progress.
To see how the students reacted to using the app, the researchers tested it out in a community college class environment using data from a survey answered by young people studying for a degree in Information Technology. The teachers gave a lecture on a given topic and then posed five questions on the subject via Socrative, asking the students to reply individually. The teacher collected the replies, selected the questions with the most diverse answers and formed groups of three or four students who had answered a given question in a variety of ways. The students were then invited to discuss their replies together before doing the quiz again individually.
The students were almost unanimous in saying that they felt more motivated, more confident and more pro-active than when they were merely following a traditional lecture. They also agreed that using the app encouraged interaction, both among themselves and with the teacher. Most of them also felt that it was easier to remember information provided in this way. The only disappointment however is that the report fails to inform us whether or not the students actually achieved better results in the second test, as this would be the most conclusive proof that this app-based collaborative teaching method really works.