Formative is similar to other tools in that a teacher can set up an account and post an assessment for students to take on their mobile devices (must have Internet access). However, Formative goes one step beyond just watching live (via a teacher's computer) as students work on their assessment, the teacher can actually give real time feedback as they watch a student work. For example, a student may be writing a response and the teacher can comment (just to that individual student) in the middle of the response to remember to include their punctuation marks. Or a student could be drawing a picture and if it is a student that struggles with their fine motor skills, the teacher could send them a note of encouragement as they work. In addition, the teacher can give grades (rubric scale points such as 0-10) to the student as they are working.
I use the Triple E Framework to measure technology in lesson planning, which focuses on ways to help students engage, enhance and extend learning goals. What I like about Formative (besides the fact that it is free!) is that the focus is not on the final product or grade, rather it is on the process of learning (and the learning goals!). It allows teachers to personalize (and perhaps differentiate) learning based on students needs in the moment. They are able to co-use the software in a mindful way. Research tells us that it is very important for children to be able to talk about what they are doing in software and how it connects to the learning goals with others (more learning gains this way). The teacher can make sure the students are staying focused on the learning goals through the messaging system back and forth. In addition, the grading system allows for learning from failure and mistakes, and allows opportunity for students to correct their mistakes without fear or penalty.
Note to Formative: I would also like to see this extended to parents, so they too can see their children's work in real time and comment.
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