Sometimes it’s amazing when you realize how difficult a task is prior to use of technology. One example of this for teachers is the assessment of student discussions during literature circles or Socratic seminars. Peter Gausmann, seventh grade language arts teacher at Minnetonka Middle School East, recently showed me a technology tool that has made these assessments so much easier, it’s hard to imagine going back to non-tech solution.
Recently Peter began using the Equity Maps app on his iPad during student discussions. After uploading his class lists for each hour, he simply opens the app before a discussion and drags the kids’ icons around the table “map” of the seating arrangement for the discussion group. He then taps a record button and begins tracking the conversation and discussion. Tapping on each name around the table automatically tallies the number of times each student speaks as well as places a marker in the audio recording for ease of access when listening to the recording later. In addition to this, Peter can make notes about the comments and quality of things each person says. At the end of the conversation there is a nice visual map showing how frequently people have spoken, who hasn’t, who has dominated the conversation, the gender equity balance, and more. That visual infographic can help guide the students to learn about their performance and improve in future discussions.
Peter explained to me that this tool has made assessing class discussions much less of a daunting task. Using the Equity Maps tool allows him to better provide his students with feedback about their performance. He can actually focus on the content of what’s being discussed rather than having to worry about tallying who said what when and for how long. This is just another example of ways that technology enhances instruction and learning for both students and teachers!