Implementing and using the SRS at our school has been, and still is, a challenge. The SRS is not compatible with the Linux system, and the computer room is only equipped with 12-15 computers, not enough for a full class. In addition, the room is evenly allocated to all classes, leaving two hours per class per week. However, the remaining challenge today is only the limited time and space at our disposal in the computer room.
The world today looks quite different from the one we grew up with, and I would claim that there is a gap between what is being taught in school and what the pupils experience outside the classroom. Everything is out there and what they should learn is how to grasp it and also to bring «their world» into the classroom. This will motivate and I would argue, as an end result also promote learning.
Anything that looks like one of the favorite hobbies among the pupils in class, namely «playing on the computer», is motivational. So was introducing the SRS. After a couple of “fun” tests, a test was given to check out whether goals in using digital tools had been achieved. This fall the pupils have done one assignment per week at the computer. They have also assessed themselves on a piece of paper, and the result to be presented in an interim report. This may seem boring way to use the SRS, but on the contrary, they expressed that it was fun and it was exciting to see the result of the vote so quickly revealed in the histogram. I had made it a point that the result was anonymous and had planned to organize a digital task in small groups. This in order to conceal that some would not have reached their goals. That was not at all necessary. They called out loudly their votes and started helping each other right away. Nobody was ashamed if they had not achieved all their goals, and the atmosphere in the room was very nice.
Still, in another setting and in a larger context, the individuals who will benefit the most from using the SRS are the “silent” pupils and those who for some reason or other drift in and out of focus. It can literally be an eye-opener for some and the silent pupils can be given a voice in a small group. The next step would be to speak out in a full class.
The Student Response System, or SRS, is one of the latest new technologies to be brought into the language classroom. As I don’t have a class to experiment with at the moment, I haven’t had the joy of seeing the system in use by students, but I have had a play on my own computer and I’m impressed. The possibilities are endless in this very intuitive teaching tool. The SRS can be used with any number of activities: Task feedback, checking for understanding, lead in to group and class discussions, revision and competitions – the list goes on.
Using anything other than pen and paper in class is enough to make most students sit up and listen, so it definitely brings a welcome break in the classroom routine. But not only that: The SRS provides a structure and a framework. Instead of asking the class “What do you think?” and being met by an audience of blank stares, the teacher can run a poll and create a discussion from the results. Students get an opportunity to communicate in a more focused way, because they would either have a defined result to discuss or a final question to answer together after interaction with peers (depending on at which stage of the discussion the poll is held). Even quiet and/or less confident students get to give their input in a way they are comfortable with, and the discussions can be made more relevant through personalisation of the questions or the angle of the discussion.
However, there are always issues to keep in mind when introducing technology into the classroom. My main concerns when it comes to the use of SRS, are mostly of a practical nature of things breaking and not connecting properly. This fear would probably settle a little as you come up with coping mechanisms for those issues. A more serious concern is lack of resources. If students are to supply their own devices, there might be families who can’t afford to give their child a laptop or smartphone. In those situations, the school could have some to lend out, but it still leaves those students in a vulnerable position where they stand out as different from the rest.
The greatest quality of this tool I think is this: It’s very democratic and non-judgmental, and it gives all the students a chance to have their voices heard, when they all have access to a device and can feel included. It’s also very versatile, and this variety makes the SRS an excellent tool for learning and gives it a motivational function to boot.
First of all, I have to say that the SRS-system is a good motivational tool. After a few initial ‘hick-ups’ due to me being unfamiliar with the programme (and some compatibility issues) it was clear that the pupils liked the SRS from the ‘get-go’. Students who normally do not contribute in class – and who have showed a lack of interest for the subject (In-depth studies of English) – were suddenly engaged in the activities (the questions and answers sequence). If I continue using the SRS, some of the quiet ones will probably contribute more in group discussions. My experiences so far support this assumption. Expecting them to contribute in class discussions, however, might be too much to ask for as they have never said much (or anything) in front of the group. I took over the group this year and having thirty-one 10th grade pupils, many of whom are not too interested in the subject, has not been easy. One of the first times I managed to ‘find’ all of them was when I used the SRS with multiple choice questions about crime. This gave me the ‘proof’ I needed to test the system in other subjects as well.
Secondly, it is most likely also a useful tool for learning. Since some kind of motivation is important for learning, the SRS has so far proven useful as regards getting the pupils’ attention. One of the aims in English where you really need the pupils’ attention is that the pupils should be able to select listening (…) strategies adapted to the purpose and situation. In one lesson the pupils were given the task of making up their own statements (true/false) and questions with alternatives. Then they ready them out loud and the others had to listen carefully to understand the statement or the question and afterwards pick the correct alternative. This proved to be quite challenging on some of the tasks – especially when there were many alternatives, so next time we will have to make a ‘compromise’ where the pupil reading the question writes one keyword for each alternative on the board. This will make it easier if the pupils are to discuss which option to choose.
The learning effect of the SRS I cannot ‘vouch’ for yet. I have not measured whether they have learnt what the SRS-sessions were supposed to cover. Still, it has given me several good opportunities to engage with my pupils in discussions. Of course, this can easily be achieved without SRS, but this added element of voting makes the whole session more interesting (and even fun), thus making it more memorable and perhaps it leaves a lasting ‘impression’ on some, if not all, of the pupils!