When Technology Ends Up Being So Much More Than That

Today’s Contributor: Helen Wilson

Helen is the CIC at LASA. She teaches PreAP Chemistry and Scientific Research & Design (Wicked Problem Project).

I can be uncomfortable around data. That’s especially funny seeing as I am a science teacher. If your experiments are well designed and performed – if the research behind them is solid – scientific data is generally clear cut. It has rules and structure and patterns. Students are, however, not as well defined. And, every day, I need to help my undefined quantities be successful – so how do I do that, change instruction as needed, and reconcile with my discomfort – and really reach them?

Since I am me, I need a simple solution. So I turn to GoFormative. I first got into GoFormative because I originally wanted a quick way to get data. It ended up being so much more.

But first, mechanics: GoFormative is a simple Google-connected tool designed for getting quick formative assessment. You create the classes; students sign up using a class code (similar to GoGuardian); and then you assign the GoFormative assignment to that class. You can embed your GoFormative in a BLEND page if you get an embed code, or have your students go to the website directly and log in. Use it for warmups as I do, or exit tickets, or regular assignments. You can even upload a PDF and have students work directly in GoFormative to answer the questions on that PDF!

The setup for a GoFormative assignment is very Google Forms-like – you create questions, choosing the format that is the most appropriate for your topic. The night before my last warmup, I had assigned a video to watch and some questions to answer in BLEND as flipped classroom work. And I really wanted to know: how much did they understand from the flipped work? What did they know?

Before I give you the big reveal, let me show you how I set this up. This was my warmup question:

I wrote the electron configuration in Google Drawings, did a screenshot of it, and uploaded the image directly into the question. I chose Multiple Selection for my format because there are two errors in the electron configuration for germanium, and I wanted students to choose all the statements that applied. (Can you spot the mistakes?) Then, after I wrote this GoFormative, I defined the answers so that it could check them for me. 

So, here’s the reveal:  Remember what I said about simple data collection?  As students are answering, GoFormative “graded” them for me and generated a chart. A colored chart. Easy for me to navigate. Here’s a snippet (left). I saw immediately who got it and who didn’t, since the student’s name is right next to the checkmark, and I saw that, by and large, they understood the material from the video.

If you want to see what each and every student responded with, you can!

I clicked on the question on that same screen I got all the responses of each and every student on my screen – by name! Another screenshot below:

I could tell that the third student from the left did understand the material and almost had it in the bag, as opposed to needing a full reteach.  

I do not always use multiple choice or multiple selection. When it comes to more complex questions,  I choose “Show Your Work.” This gives the students a whiteboard that they can type or draw responses! So great for chemistry. Here’s a snippet of student work (right).

Best of all are two features that you can use for every question type: The rainbow slider at the top allows you to “grade” the work – just swipe! – and below the screen you can type individual feedback to that one student. My students love getting that personal feedback, as they always want to know if they’re right, right now


The unexpected, unlooked-for benefits came about because of that feedback feature. Using GoFormative like this helped me connect to my students. You are just one teacher in a classroom full of students, and this helps me do that. I’m intentionally fostering a positive relationship with them. I want to help them and I’m showing them that I do. If the work is really off, I can see it because you will see all their screens at the same time. I will type hints and encouragement to them if they are having trouble, and right away, I see them correcting their work. (Growth mindset – fostered!) That also tells me that I know I have to work with them that period to help them shift those misconceptions around.

Either way – whether they got it correct on the first try, or if they needed another try to be successful – I will happily celebrate that success through the feedback option. They learned! Every GoFormative, in this way, ends up growing your relationship with that student, one assignment at a time. And I get to see what I need to do in that class to help that class as a whole. It tells me what I need to go over again and how fast I need to be. It also tells me that I need to acknowledge them for their hard work and success.

As you can tell, I’m really into GoFormative. I’m hoping you can see why I am this way, and why I use it almost daily in my classroom. If we are to help students be successful we need to first start with what they know, and we need to develop that positive relationship with them, too. I am grateful that we have tools like GoFormative and BLEND that help us do that. If we use them intentionally and thoughtfully, these high-yield tools end up being so much more than what you dreamed of. I’m hoping to find other ways to use GoFormative, so if you have ideas, you should collaborate with me! I’d love to work with you!

(Bonus: You can share GoFormative assignments with colleagues! If you’re a chemistry teacher and you want the GoFormative that I screenshot above, here’s the link!)

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