Do you have a Fitbit or some other fitness tracker? Why did you get one? What do you use it for? What kind of results are you seeing? Do you share your results? Have you connected with others using fitness trackers? As you can see I have lots of questions for you about this topic. More and more fitness trackers are appearing on wrists – when I watch the news I see them on reporters, in the store I see them on cashiers, and in professional development I see them on teachers. Why are people purchasing these and using them and how does this item relate to formative assessment?
Consider what you want students to be tracking regarding their learning “fitness.”
First let me explain a fitness tracker for those who may be less familiar. Multiple companies offer a product that can be worn on your wrist, shoes or clothes that registers your activity, sleep, and heart rate, among other features. For me, my purchase was early and primarily to identify sleep patterns. The use for steps (exercise) was actually secondary. However, I started like many others – I had a clear goal – figure out how much (or little) sleep I was getting each night. Many of these devices allow you to sync with a computer or smartphone so that you can see visual displays of the data the device accumulates. These data displays allow you to monitor your progress over time. Some devices provide lights or gentle vibrations when pre-determined milestones have been reached. Some of the accompanying software also lets you track weight, food and water intake. So what is the connection to formative assessment?
Let’s revisit the three questions of the formative assessment process:
- Where is the learner going?
- Where is the learner (right) now?
- What does the learner need to do to get where they want or need to go (the goal)?
Now let’s think about the fitness tracker.
- Set a personal goal
- Continuous feedback on progress toward the goal (clear and timely data)
- “Celebration” when the goal is met
Now let’s connect the two. When we set clear learning targets and success criteria for our students and share those targets in different ways, and assure that all students have a similar understanding of where we are going, we are getting clear on our direction, our goals. We are also providing a criteria to help students determine where they are in relation to the target with clear success criteria. As we check in on our students’ learning along the way through various methods of eliciting evidence (discussion and diagnostic questions, classroom quizzes and short writing tasks, and the use of entrance and exit tickets for example), we create multiple opportunities for us to provide students with clear and timely feedback (data), as well as for they and their peers to do the same. This feedback may be visual and graphic; it may be oral; or it may come in other formats.
A key similarity here between the fitness tracker and our formative classroom assessment it that we immediately get to use the feedback. If it is 9 PM at night and my tracker tells me I am 237 steps short of my goal, guess what I do before I go to bed? I walk 237 steps. Another connection might be that when we help students track their progress through visually vibrant displays of their data, they get a quick read on where they are in their learning. The first piece of formative classroom assessment is doing it. The second piece is providing students the results – feedback. The third and key piece is building in time for students to use the feedback.
Some of these fitness trackers provide feedback along with the data. Some allow you to earn badges. For some of us, these provide feelings of accomplishment (of course so does losing the weight and getting in better shape). Think about your students. Feedback allows students to get a picture of where they are in relation to the goal and reflect on what they’ve learned. I have colleagues who smile big when their tracker vibrates and the lights flash. The feeling of accomplishment is important, just as it is for our students.
Consider what you want students to be tracking regarding their learning “fitness.” Where are they starting? Where are they in the process? And what can they do next to keep moving forward?
What “fitness trackers” are present in your classroom? Reach out and share your ideas on our Facebook page or via Twitter @NWEA.