Advanced Technology Fellows 2016

Final Project Report - Karen Baker

Inquiry Question

My inquiry question for the ATF project was:

How can online, interactive, response tools like PearDeck, Zaption and Kahoot be most effectively used to increase active learning in the classroom? Specifically, how can they best encourage student engagement, collaboration and meaningful formative assessment?


Promoting active learning is an important district goal in Chappaqua. Such learning can be fostered in many different ways. I wanted to investigate how certain technology tools could be used towards this end.

The PearDeck blog post below provides a simple, clearcut definition for active learning:

"Active learning engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert. It emphasizes higher-order thinking and often involves group work."

This definition -- and the details in the blog post -- helped guide my thinking as I developed my inquiry project.

My goal for this study was to explore possible ways in which technology can be used to promote active learning. In my professional reading, I had begun to encounter mention of certain interactive response tools over and over. I had also seen some of them demonstrated at conferences. I decided to experiment with several of these tools in my classroom.

Examples of professional articles I read are shown below:

Comparing Classroom Response Systems

A March, 2015 article from

Using Pear Deck and Nearpod

An October, 2015 article from School Library Journal


ZAPTION: A PLATFORM TO SUPPORT TEACHING, AND LEARNING ABOUT TEACHING, WITH VIDEO 2015 article from The Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society

EdTech Quick Take: Zaption vs. EDpuzzle

A February, 2016 article from Common Sense Media

Kahoot App Brings a Quiz Show to the Classroom

An April, 2016 article from the New York Times

My specific goals in using the three online tools I eventually chose were:

  • to help students pay better attention and stay more focused in class.
  • to help students be more actively involved so they would learn the information better.
  • to allow everyone in the class to have a chance to participate more actively.
  • to make learning more fun.
  • to help me evaluate how well students were learning and understanding the material.


I used these tools while teaching the 6th grade WISER course at Seven Bridges Middle School. During the 2015-2016 school year, I taught this course to the entire 6th grade.

WISER is a one-quarter long, research skills course which focuses on the four "big"questions below.


  • I started by learning as much as possible about the three tools I planned to use. I watched videos, looked at examples and experimented with creating my own.

  • I selected lessons in my curriculum that focused on topics such as choosing good keywords, citing sources using EasyBib, evaluating websites, understanding top-level URL domains and using library databases.

  • I revised these lessons to incorporate either PearDeck, Zaption or Kahoot.

  • I implemented the lessons at appropriate points during the course (because I taught the WISER course to different classes during each quarter of the year, I was able to make changes and improvements in the lessons as I progressed).

  • I created a feedback survey form using SurveyMonkey and gave it to all 6th grade students as they completed the WISER course.

  • I analyzed the results of the survey (as well as anecdotal evidence) in order to answer my inquiry question.

The Tools


Using PearDeck, a teacher projects a live, interactive slideshow onto a classroom screen, while it is simultaneously pushed out to each student's individual device. The teacher controls the progression of slides. Interactive student response options include multiple choice questions, open-ended questions, dragging a dot or line, drawing or inserting numbers. The teacher can monitor all student responses in real time, and share any or all of those responses on the classroom screen.

See video and educator reviews below for more details.

How does Pear Deck Work?


Using Zaption, teachers can add images, text and questions to any online video, creating a much more interactive viewing experience. Zaption videos can be shown to an entire class at once, or shared individually for self-paced viewing. Students receive immediate feedback to their responses and class answers can be projected onto a screen.

See video and educator reviews below for more details.

Zaption - Don't just watch. Learn.


Kahoot is a game-based response tool in which students use any mobile device to answer multiple choice questions that have been projected on a classroom screen. Kahoot is fast-paced and highly competitive; players are awarded points for speed and accuracy, and a leaderboard is shown after each question. The Kahoot experience includes high energy music and sound effects, plus immediate feedback sent to each student's device.

See videos and educator reviews below for more details.

Kahoot! Gamify Your Class
How to Create Kahoot Games

The Feedback Survey

I used rating scales to evaluate three aspects of each tool:
  • did students feel the tool helped them pay closer attention in class?
  • did students feel the tool helped them better learn & remember information?
  • did students find the tool fun to use?

After each rating, I encouraged (but did not require) students to share comments to explain their choices.

The link to the survey is shown below:

Objective DATA

Students' perceptions of to what extent each tool helped them PAY CLOSER ATTENTION IN CLASS are shown in the charts below.
Students' perceptions of to what extent each tool helped them LEARN AND REMEMBER INFORMATION TAUGHT IN CLASS are shown in the charts below.
Students' perceptions of to what extent each tool was FUN are shown in the charts below.

Subjective Data

Students had the option to add subjective comments as part of the rating scales. Click below to see sample student responses for each tool.




Technical Obstacles

I encountered several frustrating technical obstacles as I experimented with these three tools:

  1. Students frequently lost access to the CCSD network in the middle of Kahoot games because of WiFi issues, leaving them unable to participate and extremely frustrated.

  2. Although PearDeck has an option to embed a website into a presentation, that feature did not work with our network.

  3. Zaption is designed to be used either as a full class presentation or in a self-paced, individual student mode, both of which have distinct advantages. However, CCSD network issues prevented me from successfully using the self-paced mode in my classroom.


  • Of the three tools, Kahoot was perceived by nearly all students as the most fun and engaging. They did not get tired of it, began using it spontaneously on their own in other classes and practically begged me to use it as frequently as possible. The built-in competition and opportunity for immediate feedback were clearly important factors in Kahoot's popularity.

  • PearDeck and Zaption received mixed reviews from students, and neither engaged the students quite as much as I had hoped (perhaps because of the more limited immediate feedback possible).

  • Each tool helped me formatively assess my students, but with limitations. For example, I wasn't easily able to assess deeper thinking and students' "need for speed" sometimes interfered with demonstrating accuracy.

  • Although some students were still distracted and less involved than others, I did feel the tools were effective in getting all students to participate more actively.

  • As a teacher, I found it challenging to use the tools effectively. It's time-consuming to prepare the materials in advance, and difficult to decide the best type of questions and responses to elicit. Of course, the learning curve did become easier as time went on.

My Questions Now

  • Would these tools be more effective if used in other subject areas?
  • Would these tools be more effective if used in a flipped classroom model?
  • Are there better ways to assess the impact of these tools on student learning?
  • Are there ways to modify the use of these tools to allow for deeper thinking?
  • Are there other interactive response tools that would work better in my classroom?
  • How can I share what I learned with other teachers?

Next Steps

For the future, I plan to:

  • Continue to use Kahoot in the classroom, but expand my repertoire of ways to use it. Kahoot offers many video tutorials and teacher materials; in addition, I've begun following the company on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Experiment with student-created Kahoot quizzes.

  • Use PearDeck only sparingly. It had limitations and did not fully engage my students.

  • Continue to improve my use of Zaption by exploring public Zaptions created by other teachers and gathering feedback from students. I think Zaption has great potential in the classroom and at home, especially if we can find ways to overcome the network obstacles.

  • Experiment with other tools I've learned about, especially SPIRAL, which I saw demonstrated at a recent conference.