Part 4: Over 35 Formative Assessment Tools To Enhance Formative Learning Opportunities


I hope you are enjoying this series on formative assessment, and  I am sure you will find these tools most valuable. as you continue to amplify formative learning with digital technology.  In this post you will find some wonderful information on using back channels and games in the classroom. Please keep  in mind these are only tools and are best utilized through the important art of teaching. Do you have some formative tools to share… please let me know and I will share them in an upcoming post. Please take a moment to subscribe by email or RSS and also give me a follow on Twitter at mjgormans.  I promise you will find some great information coming your way this school year…So Sign Up Now and please pass this on with a retweet!   – Mike Gorman (

Booking Info – It is time to think about your school or conference needs.  Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page.  Please contact me soon if you have an interest. I am almost booked through August and fall dates for 2015 are now over 3/4 full and the 2016 calendar is beginning to fill.

Part 4: Over 35 Formative Assessment Tools To Enhance Formative Learning Opportunities

The two categories to be discussed in this post include Games and Back Channels. Both allow for a wonderful formative experience. There are a number of resources that can be found on the internet in these two areas. The back channel in the classroom is powerful and your LMS (Learning Management System) may serve this quite well. You also may get some added privacy which is important. While I believe kids can create games as a awesome formative experience, I will save that for a later post. In this article I wish to focus on how educational games provide a wonderful learning experience perhaps going well beyond content. As in all online tools be sure to check your district AUP along with the terms and conditions of the website you are using. Enjoy the resources and please let me know what I should add for a future post!

Back Channel for Formative Assessment

  • Collaboration
  • Student Interaction
  • Notes
  • Feedback
  • Temperature Read
  • Understanding Check
  • Archived for Students
  • Contribution for all
  • Allows for Future Instruction

So many times I hear the idea of back channel and how it is a relatively new phenomenon. Back channel refers to the idea of a secondary discussion happening in the same environment as a primary presentation or demonstration. In reality the idea of back channel is really as old as formal education itself. Before the era of digital communication there have always been back channel discussions in the classroom whether it be spoken word, nonverbal gestures, or old fashion paper notes. In today’s classroom there is the possibility to use digital technology to allow, promote, and sanction secondary communication. A digital back channel allows students to have a conversation in the background during a presentation, lecture, video, or in the middle of a PBL activity. This back channel is actually a chat or forum provided by the teachers. The footprint left by a back channel allows for some wonderful insight as to how to meet needs of the group and individuals planning future instruction. The live interactions also allow for feedback and learning through the back channel process.  Many times the LMS (Learning Management System) may have this built in, or you may wish to check one of the options below. It is important to teach and promote proper digital citizenship and also understand your district AUP (Acceptable Use Policy).  Be sure to also read and understand the terms and privacy agreements for the tool you are using. A back channel can allow the formative learning and assessment essential for 21st century learners.

Today’s Meet – Create a virtual chat room for students to collaborate and learn from each other. Explore ways to even make it private and save the conversations as transcripts that can be a valuable resource to teachers and students later.

Chatzy  – Encourage the chat in your room. Note how it actually can support the academic areas that are being addressed while providing student voice and choice. There are private and virtual rooms that also can be learned about.

Backchannel Chat – Another wonderful tool that allows classroom back channels with so important teacher controls. Check out all the features as you encourage formative learning in the back channel.

Google Docs – It is easy to use Google Docs as a back channel. Not only that, you may already have it deployed in your school. Not only does it have a chat feature to serve any of its apps on Drive, but the documents app can be used as a back channel by itself, allowing for an archive of discussion.

Games for Formative Assessment

  • Engaged Learning
  • Individualized
  • Iterative Process
  • Naturally Formative
  • Motivation
  • Metacognition
  • Failing Forward Allowed

A game is a wonderful formative learning tool. Kids enjoy a great game and accept the formative process of iterations that are a part of an engaging game. Working hard and even experiencing an occasional failure along the way provides the learning and an eventual win… or level up. Those bumps along the road can be interpreted as falling forward. Success is celebrated and the formative learning opportunities along the way make success possible. Some educators are embracing a classroom gaming culture to encourage learning. Students learn, earn badges, experience and overcome hurdles, and eventually obtain mastery as they soon enter a new level. Those educators not ready to turn the classroom into a gaming experience can still bring game ideas into the classroom. There is so much to be learned on a quest or conducting a simulation. There are resources that include already built games and simulations along with tools for teachers to build a game for their students. In fact, it might be amazing to turn students loose on some game building possiblilities using content standards in the foundation. The processes of designing, playing, and testing are formative experiences that have so much to teach.  Below you will find some ideas that just might allow for some real neat formative learning… courtesy of a game or two.

Utah Education Network – Are you looking for some interesting games and simulations that can fit into almost any subject area? Then check out these wonderful possibilities which are listed by subject category by the Utah Education Network.

Jeopardy Labs – This game has always been fun whether it is analog on the television or cardboard as a game. Many teachers have even taken it digital using power point. If you are a fan you may wish to check out this Jeopardy digital site.

Brain Rush – It doesn’t take long to see how this wonderful resource and its adaptive learning games will fit into your formative portfolio. Best of all, anyone can share, build, and try. Here is a chance for student s to become not just game consumers… but game producers.

3D Game Labs – It is time for educators to explore this 3D collection of over 20,000 quests. It is possible to venture into a multitude of subjects. Games can also be shared and even remixed. Think of the formative possibilities!

Thanks for joining me on this wonderful journey of 21st century.  Join me in future weeks as together we continue to explore several more posts devoted to the Flipped and Blended Learning, Project Based Learning, Assessing 21st century skills, PBL, STEM, technology integration, web resources, and digital literacy.  I enjoy learning from all of you. Also remember to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email and follow me on twitter at mjgormans. I also appreciate your sharing of this post and any retweets. Keep up the amazing work,  have a great week, and a enjoy this wonderful new school year. Welcome to the Future! – Mike Gorman

Booking Info – Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference?  I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have done 100’s of workshops and presentations.  Check out my Booking Page… Dates are going fast, with time up to and including December just about filled,  and I am  taking 2016 dates.


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4 responses to “Part 4: Over 35 Formative Assessment Tools To Enhance Formative Learning Opportunities

  1. Javier Tourón

    Dear colleague, I find the informantion you share of great interest aldo for my readers. I would like include it( specifically the posts on formative assessment) in my blog that has a good reputation in my country. Provided I use the proper attribution do you grant me the permision? Although you indicate a Creative common licence I prefer to ask explicitly. Thanks so much

    2015-09-09 3:40 GMT+02:00 21 st Century Educational Technology and Learning

    • You are more then welcome to share this information with others. I do hope it provides and serves you and those you work with in a wonderful fashion. Thank you for providing credit and please feel free to reach out anytime!

  2. The back channel seems to be a good solution to check wether the students understand the subject or not. When it comes to gamification I do really love this concept. Games are highly beneficial when talking about improving knowledge retention since theyhave the power of engaging.

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