Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2018

Sero!

Fresh approach to assessment through concept maps shows promise

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
3–12
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Pros: Several steps above the typical multiple-choice assessment, this tactile and visual tool challenges kids to think critically about big ideas.

Cons: Has some glitches, lacks student-centered and creativity features; teachers might have to sink some serious time into creating and editing quality concept maps.

Bottom Line: This unique formative assessment platform's success will largely depend on teachers to keep content meaningful and relevant.

Sero! has the potential to be one of those neat tools that can be used in nearly any learning situation, from organizing writing to mastering math formulas to planning out yearly goals for student council. Warm up your class with a review of the previous day's concept, or introduce a new topic with any number of blank spots to fill. For example, challenge students to think about the causes of climate change, perhaps discussing them in small groups before they attempt the assessment. Before you read King Lear, map out places, character traits, and relationships so that kids get a sense of the setting, cast, and plot before tackling the language. Or make art history interactive by giving students a chance to learn about artists and their work through the lens of historical events.

You'll have to do some work up front; whether you decide to create from scratch or import an existing map, it’s unlikely to fit your learning goals on the first try. And while the assessments are fun to make, they can be time-consuming. A library of pre-created, editable assessments and student creation options would go a long way toward protecting teacher time and supporting the four C's. 

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Sero! is a visual assessment platform where users create or import fillable concept maps for student completion. Once logged in to a free trial or paid account, Assessors can create from scratch or import supported file types (CXL, CSV, or TXT), editing the maps to fit desired learning outcomes. There are five types of assessment items: Multiple Choice, Fill-In, Drag&Drop, ConnectTo, and ErrorCorrect. Takers log in and complete assigned assessments by clicking or tapping on colorful tabs and providing the correct answers. Both Assessors and Takers can see feedback and progress over time. 

Sero! is still in development, so users will notice some glitches, such as slow or frozen screens, along with problems adding Takers and saving assessments. Teachers who struggle with new technologies would benefit from guidance about how to find and download files to import and edit. And though the Getting Started videos are great for the basics, interactive concept map tutorials in the spirit of the site might be a better fit to help users get a sense of how it works. 

Concept mapping has its advantages, especially for visual learning and, in the case of Sero!, kinesthetic learning as well. By learning to use these efficient organizers of information, students develop their cognitive structures, laying the groundwork for comprehension and memory development. The different types of questions keep it interesting, and the connecting phrases serve as hints without making the answers obvious, engaging students in the kind of logical thinking that helps them to cement understanding. The ability to see completed maps with incorrect answers can serve as a way to reflect on misunderstandings and clarify how the parts fit together to form the whole.

Since this type of visual, connected assessment will be a new way of thinking for many students, teachers should teach them the hows and whys of using concept maps for learning. One of the best ways to do this is by having students create their own using tools such as Popplet or MindMeister. While Sero! is certainly a refreshing step up from typical multiple choice and fill-in worksheets, students may disengage quickly if that's all teachers assign. More student-centered features -- like image capability or letting kids create their own maps -- would definitely enhance learning and engagement.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

While the initial novelty of filling in concept maps may entice kids, without a lot of options for creativity, they may soon come to see this as just another assessment tool. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Concept maps are a welcome break from multiple-choice and basic recall assessments; when learners have to think critically to make connections, they're more likely to retain knowledge.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site is uncluttered and designed with ease of use in mind. It would be great to have more accessibility features like images, text to speech, and support for ELLs.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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