Something I did try the other day was Socrative.com.
Following a demonstration of it by two students on an inset day, I was excited about using this tool. For those who haven't heard of it before, it is a free web tool which allows the teacher to create and control a quiz; students access the quiz by entering a specific room which is only accessible via a specific serial number, and the teacher can see live responses as the kids answer the questions through their phones or computer. It reminded my of the Playstation game, Buzz. Plus, with its total lack of students' personal details required, it is a safeguarding dream too. In short, I walked away from the training session thinking 'free, fast, safe and use of technology: win.'
Alas, it did not go quite to plan...
I decided to do the quiz with my Year 9s who are currently studying spoken language and so I set up a six question quiz on accents, to use as a starter activity. In my head, I envisioned them all having smart phones and the activity taking 10 minutes at the start of the lesson.
The first problem was that only five kids actually had phones which could access the Internet so I divided them into teams, which took time and involved arguments ("why does E get to work with J and I can't?" and yes, I did say Year 9). Then, some of their phones wouldn't actually access the page (I'm looking at you, Three UK users) and so, in the end, we had to wait around for people to log in to the computers and then retry accessing the site. Then, of course, because they were working in teams, each question resulted in lots of noise and discussion, added to the fact that they were up and excited because they were using the computers and it was... hectic.
In the end, the task took 40 minutes of an hour lesson. It was a disaster: the kids didn't learn anything, I was stressed out, my classroom was in disarray but, in the end, we all had to laugh.
On reflection, I'd have all kids come straight in and log on to the computers. I'd avoid having the need for external resources too (I used YouTube for presenting the accents in the questions) as that added complication, and I would plan a lesson around the computers so there wasn't too much to-ing and fro-ing.
Lesson learned: do not rely on technology and/or kids!!! But, it is still a brilliant resource if it is used correctly. I don't think I planned sufficiently for it but, it was a real 'try it and see' lesson that didn't work this time but, maybe, with a tweak or two, it just might next time!