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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Socrative Student Response System

My name is Dennis Villano and I am the Director of Technology Integration for Burlington (MA) Public Schools. Thank you to Richard for this great opportunity to guest post about the Socrative student response system.

Socrative is a rapidly evolving free web application that provides the easiest and most user-friendly experience I've seen from any student response system. Socrative will ultimately provide full-featured apps for iOS and Android devices. The system was developed by MIT graduates.

Socrative provides a similar end user experience to that of the SMART Response System or Promethean Activote. The difference with Socrative is that students can use web-enabled devices as their buzzers and input device. We tested the system with iPads, iPod Touches, and iPhones. The interaction between the teacher created questions and student responses was fast and clean. Teachers can create individual questions, quizzes, and polls. The creation of questions is stunningly easy to use and the steps are easy to explain to teachers.

Teachers can register for a free account. Once you have created a quiz, students login to a virtual room with a number assigned to each teacher. This process was so simple that it could easily be used in an elementary classroom. Once students have entered the classroom, they can participate in any of the activities sent from the teacher. The activities include multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions. The questions can be answered anonymously or with student names so that progress can be measured. Socrative emails teachers reports that include graded assignments for everything except short answer questions.


The system is appropriate for almost any grade level. Teachers have access to live results and can see how students are progressing instantly. Teachers can even create questions for students to answer during a "Space Race" where students answer as individuals or part of a team and try to finish the race first. Socrative also features "Exit Ticket" for quick end-of-class assessment of student understanding. Teachers can send follow-up activities to gage student comprehension.


Socrative is an impressive free application that serves as an important pieces in the 1:1 classroom as well as a great alternative to expensive classroom response systems. Clearly, the best feature of Socrative is ease of use for students and teachers. Socrative's Boston area representative, Ben Berte, also has a great blog about the product and education.

7 Tools Students Can Use to Create Music Online

Yesterday, I gave a short presentation on digital storytelling to the folks in attendance at the Ed Tech Teacher Teaching History With Technology workshop. One of the points I made to participants is that when creating multimedia digital stories the best way to avoid any kind of copyright issues is to have students create their own sounds and images to include in their projects. Here are some tools that students can use to create their own sounds online.

Using Aviary's Roc service you can create your own music loops or samples. After you've created your music samples you can download them, reuse them in Myna, or embed them into your blog. Below you will find a brief tutorial on how to create sound loops using Aviary Roc.



Beat Lab is a free service through which you can experiment with thousands of sound and rhythm combinations. Using Beat Lab is easy. Beat Lab provides a grid on which you select the sounds you want to have played. You can specify how often you want each sound played and how quickly you want the sounds played. There are twelve default sounds provided in the Beat Lab grid. You can add more sounds by selecting "add more sounds" and choosing from the huge catalog of sounds. If the sound you want isn't available in the Beat Lab catalog you can upload your own sounds.

Incredibox is a neat website that allows you to create unique rhythms and sounds from drag-and-drop menu. The sounds in the menus are recordings of a Bobby McFerrin-like artist making "human beat box" sounds. You can experiment with different sound loops, choruses, and instrumental sounds to create your own unique sound loops. To use Incredibox just head over to the website, select the English or French version, then start mixing sounds by dragging from the menu to the "people field." Every time you add a new sound a new person appears in the screen. Click a person to delete the sound he represents.

UJAM is a service that aims to make everyone a singing sensation. Okay, so it might not make you a singing sensation, but it could help you create music tracks that you can share with friends and use in multimedia productions. Here's how UJAM works; you sing or play an instrument while recording to UJAM. When you're done recording, use UJAM to alter the sound quality of your voice, turn your voice into other sounds, adjust the tempo of your song, and or remix a song to include your recording. UJAM is essentially an online, light weight version, of Garage Band. Watch the video below to learn more and see UJAM in action. 


Soundation is a free service that allows anyone to create and remix sound tracks online. If you have used Apple's Garage Band or Aviary's Myna, Soundation will look familiar to you. Soundation provides five tracks on which you can place music clips and sound effects to mix together. To create your original work you can select from Soundation's gallery of 400 free sounds, upload your own sounds, or record new sounds using the instruments and keyboard built into Soundation. When you've created a product you like, you can download it or share it in Soundation's gallery.

From the same people that brought us the great computational search engine Wolfram Alpha comes Wolfram Tones. Wolfram Tones uses algorithms, music theory, and sound samples to generate new collections of sounds. Visitors to Wolfram Tones can experiment with sounds and rhythms to make their own sounds. Wolfram Tones allows visitors to choose samples from fifteen different genres of music on which to build their own sounds. Once a genre is selected visitors can then alter the rhythms, instrumentation, and pitch mapping of their sounds. When satisfied with their creations, users can download their sounds or have them sent directly to their cell phones.

Having students experiment with rhythms on a drum set is usually a very loud experience for the students and for anyone within earshot of those students. That probably explains why my elementary school music class was held in a room behind the cafeteria kitchen and hundreds of yards away from any other classroom. Fortunately, developments in technology have made it possible for students to experiment with drum rhythms on a quieter scale than was previously possible. One such tool that makes this possible is Monkey Machine. Monkey Machine is a free web-based program that allows students to experiment with drum set sounds and rhythms. Using Monkey Machine students can customize the selection of drums and cymbals in their virtual drum set. Monkey Machine also allows students to customize the tempo in their drum tracks and the frequency with which each drum or cymbal is played. All tracks created using Monkey Machine can be downloaded as MIDI files.

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