So, yesterday I mentioned how effective Class Dojo was at managing student behaviors. Today I am going to discuss another technology, a relatively new software called Smartest K12. In a nutshell, Smartest K12 is a paperwork management system. In just a few steps you can reduce a pile of worksheets, quizzes, or pretty much any type of activity or assessment into a digital treasure trove of interactive handouts that students can access on a computer, tablet, or their smartphone.
So, you're probably asking yourself, "If it's going to help me, it must be a significant investment of time." Well, that's half true. There is going to be a time investment, but relative to what you (the teacher) are usual tasked with during supposedly off-hours, it's a net gain in terms of free time.
Rather than try to explain what it is, I'll start off this blog post with a scenario. (one of my own)
Mr. Bajor has 6 seperate classes, all of which require 3 assessments per week. If I were to spend 1 minute grading each assignment (conservatively low time) for each of my 300 students, I would be looking at roughly 5 hours of grading. And that's only ONE assessment. Typically I have 3-5 per week. So, that comes out to around 20-30 hours of grading PER WEEK. Mind you, I'm talking about a 1 minute glance of the assignment. I don't even feel like I'm doing each student justice by spending that little bit of time grading something that may have taken the student 30-45 minutes to complete. So that's where Smartest K12 comes in.
So, what's the catch? How do I use this thing?
- First of all you're going to have to sign up on their website, it's totally FREE and painless.
- Drag and drop a digital assignment to the upload box and it will digitize it for you.
- Once you have a digital version of the document, you can use their markup widgets, (one for multiple choice, one for open ended, one for drawing, etc.
- Give your students the code (I usually tweet it) and they can start the assignment immediately.
So now, the obvious question... how does this save me time?
Well, it's not obvious at first, but while the students are working on the assignment you can see what they're writing as they're writing it. This gives the immediate benefit of immediate feedback.
Example: Juan is completing an assignment on Biodiversity and he writes an answer that is not quite right. I can see Juan writing this answer and immediately visit his seat, or use his answer as a way of assessing the rest of the students.
So, now it's time for my critique. I've been using this software for the past 2 weeks and there are some hangups. Here are a couple my students and I noticed after a day or two of using it.
- The box where students put their names is not obvious, If the student doesn't find where to put their names, then I have to take time pointing that out.
- The software grades for completion rather than from an answer key. I know the company is currently working on this, but I haven't been able to get it done. So any assignment I use Smartest K12 for is typically a Grade for completion type assignment.
- The drawing widget is a lot like an etch a sketch. In other words it isn't very sophisticated.
- The classroom would require some kind of tech to use this software, so if you haven't been graced with classroom computers, you would want to make a trip to the computer lab in school.
Other than that, the software is a boon. Seriously, I've been using it for 2 weeks and simply not having to walk around with a stack of papers, possibly losing some along the way is reason enough to try this out. My suggestion is to use it for a single day, ask your students how they feel and the replies will speak for themselves. This company is also in it's infancy at this point and I'm excited to see where this software is headed. So what are you waiting for? Get your weekends back! Try a handout out, mark it up, and see what happens. I know I'll be using this every week from now on, simple do nows will be a breeze, and I might possibly make homework out of it from time to time.