Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2017

Spiral

Provide instant feedback with collaborative, multimedia assessment tool

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3-8 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Quick setup and a varied platform allow for instant feedback, class discussion, and student collaboration.

Cons: Creating and assigning effective content can be confusing and requires some legwork and technical problem-solving skills.

Bottom Line: Engaging, easy-to-use tool that supports both formative and summative assessment while allowing for student collaboration.

Spiral is an interactive learning platform that teachers can use for quick assessment, student collaboration, interactive video, and flipped classroom activities. Probe deeply by discussing an essential question or a video with students in real time. Use the Team Up feature and monitor progress as students create collaborative presentations about current events, novels, or math and science topics. Show exemplary responses with the class as they create so that they can see models as they work, and cut down on the conundrum of "Who did what?" by viewing each student's contribution on your screen.

Grade assignments automatically or individually, and check whole-class understanding by viewing question-by-question statistics. Want to have students work independently or flip your classroom? Create an assignment, and then send students the link for them to access at school or at home (with the Teacher Pro version). Finally, sync your classes quickly with Google Classroom to enhance learning and provide variety.

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Spiral is a multiuse platform that allows teachers to create interactive learning experiences, pre-planned or on the fly. Basic account setup is easy and free, and it stops short of trying to do too much by offering just four types of activities: Quickfire, Clip, Team Up, and Discuss. Quickfire allows teachers to assign a quiz or ask a question. Teachers can send back inadequate responses immediately and ask students to improve and resubmit responses. Clip allows users to create interactive videos, stopping periodically to check understanding or discuss content. Team Up allows teachers to randomize or assign teams and have students create presentations that hold each member accountable. Finally, Discuss allows users to participate in interactive presentations by asking questions, sharing pictures, and responding to others.

Teachers can sync up to five classrooms from Google Classroom and create activities within Spiral or using G Suite. The paid version offers more features, such as the ability to flip your classroom by giving students access to assignments at home.

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Spiral allows users to freely create learning activities that inspire the four C's -- creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking -- while promoting understanding and accountability. Teachers can quickly assess students' understanding of concepts by asking open-ended questions and seeing all answers at once. Teachers can also ask a student to improve an answer with one click, enhancing the learning strategies of iteration and feedback. The ability to launch and populate learning activities within seconds prevents lost instructional time, and Spiral's integration with any internet-connected device is a plus for both one-to-one computing and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments.

Where Spiral falls short are the areas of monitoring, differentiation, and design. Teachers need to constantly monitor progress and appropriateness of students' responses, and since all users join the same assignment with the same code (in the free version), teachers have to be creative with differentiation. Spiral's design can be confusing in places, and teachers may find themselves requesting features from the developers in order to improve the user experience. In spite of those drawbacks, Spiral provides users with an engaging, interactive experience that reaches beyond the "one correct answer" school of thought.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Student interaction and ability to work on team assignments will engage users as long as teachers create interesting, grade-level assignments.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

Offers a wide range of flexibility to create effective learning activities that can support a variety of curricular goals and instructional strategies.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Responsive to feature suggestions and feedback to improve the user experience, but a fair amount of time and problem-solving ability is needed to get beyond simplistic activities.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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