Friday, November 9, 2012

Online tools for creating engaging activities for students

Someone asked on a list I follow if there were more updated tools for creating activities for learners online apart from old standby programs like Quia and Hot Potatoes.  From this posting there ensued a lively discussion, pointing to some creative online possibilities. This posting has evolved from the original discussion but those evolutions have been fed back to the original thread.

Compiling this list of tools was only the first step.  Now I am in the process of trying out and evaluating these tools.  One particular need we have in our context is to find tools that will feed back to teachers what the students are doing during class-time in ILC and one-to-one (each student has a laptop or iPad) environments.  As I identify such tools, I'm bringing them to the top of the listing below (some of the other tools might do this, we just haven't identified them yet).

Quiz, exercise, and polling tools that provide feedback to teachers

LearnClick - recommended by Nik Peachey and Larry Ferlazzo, the free trial is for only 7 days, it's $15 a year if you want to just make quizzes, and a pro subscription only a whopping $25 to get the basic features plus ability to collect statistics and grades.  The site is plain, but it's easy to create quizzes here, and if you want feedback on your students, LearnClick will generate user names and passwords for them (doesn't need their emails), you can assign them to take your assessments, and you'll get a report back something like this:

LearningClick lets you make multiple choice quizzes or polls, as well as gapped exercises that work off texts that you supply.

Socrative - allows teachers to create quizzes and polls which students can answer at their own computers and mobile devices (see review,  The teacher logs on to the site and opens a room which has a number.  The students visit the student interface and put in the number, then JOIN the room. 

At his or her end the teacher activates exercises which the students can take.  Students are asked their names and a report with those names is emailed to the teacher when the teacher requests it, in the form of an Excel (or Google Docs) spreadsheet.


This one looks promising, at

Here's the catch:

ProProfs - The site has been reviewed by Mike Marzio on his Real English blog: He says in his comment (below) that "this site has it all" so certainly worth checking out ...

Here is a quiz created in ProProfs (go ahead, try it out):

On completion, students are awarded certificates, which can be printed or downloaded in PDF format and emailed to the teacher:

But the teacher also gets a report (available via login to the site) that looks like this:

A serious caveat: So that's why the call it PRO profs
This just in from the ProProfs team, free version not very useful for classes larger than 10

And it gets worse ...

Tools that will create exercises based on texts supplied

Textivate - creates a large variety of text-manipulation exercises from texts you provide. The site is free and allows uploads of texts that can be stored and tagged on the site, then shared via a URL such as this one:

Textivate is made by a company that created Task Magic, which seems to be the site's money spinner: This site allows creation of a range of exercises via a tool that you must install to your computer.  You can run it on a 1-month trial and after that prices range from $185 single user to $335 for ten users, and almost $600 for a school site license, so not in everyone's budget.


Lets you create numerous kinds of simple exercises and share them and access those of others at Activities include apps for making

  • matching pairs and matching pairs on images
  • matching grid and matrix
  • pair game
  • number line
  • sequence and order
  • cloze test
  • crossword
  • fill table
  • hangman
  • quiz with text input
  • guess
  • horse racing
  • multi-user quiz
  • order challenge
  • where is what?
  • App matrix
  • Audio / video with notices
  • collaborative calendar
  • chat for your website
  • Mindmap
  • Notebook
  • Pinboard 
  • Etherpad
This was recommended by colleagues at BaW (Becoming a Webhead).  They list other computer-based exercise creation tools here:

  • LearnClick, mentioned above
  • Triptico, suggested by Phil Oxtoby, has some activities where you supply text. From its web site at, "Triptico's desktop app contains over twenty interactive, fully-customisable resources for you to use in your classroom... and it's completely free!"
  • Phil O also uses Dragster from Dragster 2 is free though you have to register with the site to store your resources and download the tool to your computer to create them.

Tools we have yet to evaluate
  • - Just adding items at the top here
  • is free, unless you want the plus version for only $15 a year.  Either version will let you use Flickr photos but the basic version only allows you to have 8 classes.  The Plus version allows unlimited classes, and you can upload any images you want.  Teachers provide paired items in the form of pictures or text, or combinations of one or both, and the site provides learning tools ranging from flashcards to regurgitation exercises, plus some games to help reinforce the associated pairs.
  • - variety of activities provided (Interactive Map, Riddle, Fill in the blanks, Crossword, Dialogue,Dictation, Jumble Word, Jumble Sentence, Matching, Word Search Puzzle, Quiz and Collection (mash up). You can add images and sound to some of the activities.), free, easy to use and embeddable.  I'm not finding it as user friendly as some of the other sites but I'll keep working on it.
  • -  lots of templates to create new applications, e.g.multiple-choice-quiz, word grid, matching pairs, find correct order, sequence and order, cloze test, crossword etc. You can add audio or video, too, e.g. a YouTube video.The exercises are embeddable and you even get a QR-code.
  • - If you mouse over the list of Templates you get a little visual preview of what they look like. Post-It is very visually oriented, so it's different from the usual quiz or flashcard set. Dustbin is cute, but the Arcade Game Generator lets you input one set of prompts/answers to generate 5 different games. These are all pretty much on the word/vocab level, but they are different kinds of activities.
  • - Input one set of questions and answers, and create a whole batch of interactive, arcade-style games. Save them for use in the class, embed them in your blog/website/wiki! 
  • - The tools can be used in many different ways: for in-class activities, student projects, homework, or assessment. Because they are tools, not completed materials, they will work with your textbook, language, and level. RIA is a way to help you easily integrate technology into your language class. The programs, shown below, are free and work in your browser:

In the course of this discussion, this interesting site was mentioned, showing how a number of teachers are putting their lessons on video to tackle an amazing range of classroom grammar and vocabulary issues.

And finally, this Prezi was created by a colleague Lawan Dalha in Nigeria to present the affordances of the site

And once the technology is in place, what can you do with it?
In her blog at, Barbara Sakomoto writes about what others do with technology in teaching young people, but some activities apply to any level of students, such as the listening and speaking activities suggested by Juan Uribe in this post:

Finally, don't forget games!
There is a later post in this blog about Trace Effects and Where Gaming Meets Pedagogy

And many sites like this one from Fractus Learning, 5 Fun Online Games that Disguise Important Lessons By Laura Bates, Published January 16, 2013

This post introduces 5 games
  • Immune attack "An incredibly exciting and addictive game from the Federation of American Scientists"
  • Logic Puzzles "teaches students to use logic and reason to solve a problem about a mix up with pet adoption ... A particularly useful feature of the site for teachers is that the puzzles can be printed off as worksheets, making them a great classroom activity whether computers are available or not."
  • World Landmarks Puzzles "turns famous landmarks from around the world into jigsaw puzzles"
  • English Memory teaches "important linguistic constructs such as synonyms, antonyms and homonyms, as the game requires them to match words that mean the same as, or opposite of one another"
  • Element Groups for play with "the properties and groups of elements in the periodic table" 
And there are more here: 

help students make their own games using some of these coding tools suitable for kids and for adults who still think they are kids: Scratch, Alice, Hackety Hack, Code Academy, OpenClassroom, Code School, and for programming apps on the iPod, Codea.


  1. Thanks for this list with your comments, Vance,

    I've tried 3 of the ones you mention, not counting the venerable old HotPotatoes.

    ProProfs has got it all as far as I'm concerned. I even wrote a review of this program, so I'll just type the link instead of doing a copy/paste of my text:

    Just one thing I want to add - The free version has all the important features, despite the fact that when you work with it, you are shown a lot of features which are not available unless you pay. I think that's a marketing ploy more than anything else. The only thing I don't like about the free version is the big "Certificate" of quiz completion, taking up all the space on the smartphone screen. It accompanies the results when the learner completes the last question.

    It's a pretty small price to pay for those of us who prefer free software.

    Oh - almost forgot, the output looks good on a computer too. One output fits all. Quite an accomplishment. I don't know if I'll use it for my traditional site or not, in the future, but it's definitely what I needed for my new mobile site.

  2. Thanks Mike, I notice the was not hyperlinked so I'll try and do that here with a bit of HTML, plus refer to your review in the text above. Thanks for your useful feedback, ^V^

  3. Hello Vance, This is great! Thanks a lot for sharing. Hope it will be helpful.
    Best, Lawan