Saturday, January 5, 2013

Online Tools: ScootPad

There are a number of products out there that provide students with increasingly difficult math problems and generate lovely graphs and charts showing their progress.  But I don't know of many sites that do it for the price of zero dollars!  Which is the budget my school has allocated for technology!  However, there is ScootPad.  And it's pretty awesome.


Name: ScootPad


Category: Social Networking, Practice.

Subjects: Math, English.

Grades: 1-5.

Skills Requirements: Reading, Basic Mouse Skills, Entering information using the keyboard.

System Requirements: Works on all browsers and has apps for ipad and android tablets.

Access: Requires login. Teachers assign usernames and passwords to students and distribute access codes to parents.

Cost: Free without ads.
I discovered ScootPad via Edmodo.  (Have you checked out their apps?  That's another post.)  But you can also access ScootPad without signing into Edmodo--in fact, it's easier to do so.  The site allows you to create accounts for your students and select concepts you want them to practice (i.e. "multiplying by 2"), assigning each concept to a "unit."

When students sign in, they click "generate practice" and answer 20 questions. Then they receive instant feedback on how many they got wrong, what the right answers were, and what skills they need to improve on.  Once they consistently get a certain percent right (you choose the percent or it defaults to 80%), they move on to the next unit/group of skills you selected.

I thought the site was cool, but since it has students practice math and English skills, I didn't see how it fit into the library curriculum.  However, this is one of those sites that is great to use in your role as Ambassador of Technology.  This is a role I just made up, but it definitely describes part of what I do: try to get teachers to consider technological solutions to instruction problems. 

::Why Teachers Like ScootPad

It's easy to set up.  If you want, you can just use the default settings, which divide grade-appropriate skills into units and require students to get 80% correct before moving on to the next unit.  If you're not going to make any changes to the way the units are set up, all you have to do is enter the names of your students.  Scootpad will automatically generate usernames and passwords and you can print out a little card for each student that has their access info.  Hand them out and your students are ready to go.

You can turn off the ability for students to talk to each other.  I know lots of teachers worry about cyberbullying and would rather not have the students chatting or posting messages.  With this site, they can see how they stack up against other students in their class even if they can't chat with them--or you can turn off the leaderboard if you don't want them to know how they stack up.  Personally, I like a little healthy competition.

It automatically differentiates instruction.  It pinpoints exactly what students need help with and continues to present them with similar problems until they get it right.  Then it gives them harder/different problems.  It's both a diagnostic tool and a way to keep your entire class busy doing something productive.  I sincerely think ScootPad has made our students more reflective and more interested in their strengths and weaknesses.  If you have a class in which there's a wide range of skill levels, it's invaluable.

It creates beautiful reports.  In this age of accountability and assessment, ScootPad gives you more graphs and charts than you will know what to do with.  Print 'em out and send them home to parents, find out what your students are mostly likely to struggle with before they take a test, or just admire their beauty.

::Why students like ScootPad

Easy.  Because it has many game-like features:
  • avatars with lots of options
  • leaderboards
  • a bulletinboard where teachers and students can post messages to each other
  • digital badges, trophies, and coins you can earn

At the same time, it's no nonsense.  It's not a game.  You can't choose an avatar that looks like an alien.  It's basically like the sheets of multiplication problems I did in 4th grade while my teacher held a stopwatch.  But it's much prettier.

There are only two areas where I think the site could grow--although I should mention that I haven't used the English section at all--only the math:

If you want to make lots of changes to the units--adding, removing, and rearranging concepts--it can be a pain.  Sometimes I can't get all the concepts to show up, and I always have to scroll through them in order rather than doing a keyword search for, say, "multiplication."  When I start adding concepts from other grades, it gets even trickier.  I wish I could do something like drag and drop or at least check and uncheck boxes rather than going through a multi-step process every time I want to add or remove something--and I have to do it for each class individually.

My other complaint is that you can't print out a batch of student progress reports--you have to click on each students' name, one by one, select their progress report, and print.  However, I emailed ScootPad about this and they say in their next release, which should come out around the end of January, you will have this ability.  Yay!
Other Reviews:
@EduKate and Inspire (7/7/12)
@iLearn Technology (9/26/12)
@FreeTechnology4Teachers (9/28/12)

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