How Sierra Canyon School Enhances Teacher Creativity and Student Engagement
“With Classtime, my students instantly know why they got a question wrong and why the correct answer is right. I can immediately identify if the majority of the class is struggling in a particular area and decide to open up a class-wide discussion to provide further explanation. That instant feedback is very valuable.” – Laura Connor, PhD
Challenges Throughout Laura’s Teaching Journey
Coming from a long line of educators, Spanish teacher, Laura Connor has been teaching in some capacity for over a decade. While she finds teaching to be very rewarding, she knows it can be a challenge to create one lesson that effectively engages a class of students who have a range of different learning styles and capabilities. One student might soar through the material and excel, while another student may require further explanation. “Some students will hear a lesson once and they’ll just kind of get it, other students will really struggle with that same concept.” She has always found that student engagement can be a struggle, but being online this past year has presented its own set of difficulties. From the question of academic integrity to the added challenge of students joining a class with their microphones off, making it difficult to gauge if students are actually absorbing and interacting with the material.
Assessing students has also been a challenge throughout distance learning, as it takes time to find new ways to make tests as secure as possible. “We’ve had a lot of issues school-wide with cheating. It is difficult to know if students have been using outside resources, texting with their friends, or looking up answers online. There are ways to discourage it, like creating thirty different versions of the same test, but that is extremely challenging.” She expressed that while there is never enough time for an educator, over the past year the separation between home and work life has been almost non-existent. Laura had found herself using personal time after work to finish grading and to begin preparing the next day’s lesson.
In Search of a Solution
When looking for a solution to her challenges, Laura looked for a platform that would allow her to give instant feedback to students and track student progress so that she can identify struggling students as quickly as possible. She was in search of a solution that could be adapted to different activities that would allow her to engage her students in a new and exciting way while also giving her real-time insight into their level of understanding. Upon finding Classtime, she was a bit apprehensive about spending the time to learn how to use a new platform and incorporate it into her curriculum but decided to give it a try with her students.
Diversified Learning & Educator Creativity with Classtime
To Laura’s surprise, Classtime was not only easy to use but also allowed her to get creative and diversify the learning experience for her students. Laura first used Classtime for a digital escape room to help her students review for a Spanish II exam and immediately noticed a positive response. She says, “Classtime provided a different experience than what they were used to, which they appreciated.”
She has continued to use digital escape rooms with Classtime by building a puzzle for each review topic, whether it be vocabulary, grammar, cultural topics, or listening and reading comprehension. Laura then projects her session dashboard for her students to see how far they are coming along and who is closest to finishing their review and “escaping the room.” Some questions will be completed solely in Classtime, while others she accompanies with a worksheet to add more complexity, like the following crossword puzzle:
Students will fill out the crossword puzzle on their worksheet, then enter the vocabulary word unscrambled in Classtime:
Click here to add Laura Connor’s Spanish II Escape Room Question Set to your library.
“While students are working on the escape room, I project the session onto our whiteboard so that students can see how they are progressing through the escape room: they can see what questions they have answered correctly, which they need to go back and revise, how much they have left to do, and where they are in the escape room in relation to their peers. To introduce a little more motivation, I offer extra credit to the top three finishers applied to their assessment score, and I offer everyone who completes the exam room within the allotted time one point of extra credit.”
Track Student Progress and Discourage Cheating
After using Classtime for months, Laura has been able to track student progress by revisiting her old sessions via the sessions tab to see that individual student’s understanding of the material has improved. She often recycles questions so she can check and see if students have learned between the first time she asked a question and the second time.
Not only that, but she says, “My students get excited when I say we are going to do a Classtime exercise.” Laura was also thrilled to discover that assessing her students with Classtime is not only easier but addresses the question of academic integrity. She uses the shuffle question and answer settings to discourage cheating along with the session timer:
Laura also reduces cheating by slightly modifying her question sets for each class. With Classtime, she can easily copy question sets and make slight adjustments for different classes without having to write out various versions of the same test. She first makes a copy of her entire question set:
Then with a few clicks, she deletes, rearranges, and adds new questions to create a modified version of the same test:
To educators who might be facing the same challenges Laura had, she says, “Classtime is a great solution that allows you the chance to be creative, and I have fun planning question sets, puzzle challenges, and escape rooms. I would encourage educators to check it out.”
About Laura Connor, PhD: Throughout her career, she has taught A.P. Spanish Language and Culture, as well as Advanced, Intermediate, and Beginning Spanish. She has tutored middle school, high school, and college students in the Boston metropolitan area in French and Art history. Laura is a passionate educator who loves to find new ways to engage and excite her students about learning. She is currently teaching at Sierra Canyon School in California.