Dunottar is a secondary school with over 400 students aged 11-18. Sparkjar was introduced over the course of 2018-9.
What were your initial impressions of the app?
When I started looking into it I saw the interface and I was blown away, I loved it. I liked the fact that you had listened to teachers, you know? And the chat was fabulous because the children use it very constructively and support one another through it.
It’s all that, it’s the whole package.
What’s been the most useful thing about Sparkjar for you as a teacher?
There’s two things: with my form I use the chat only – I have a group of very young children and they forget everything; today I sent a message reminding them about their PE kit and things like that, so that’s useful.
The main use in my teaching is setting homework. I’m able to see very quickly who hasn’t done it and then I can have a 1:1 conversation with them, through the chat or in class. I’m able to see what they’ve done and I’m able to plan my lesson accordingly.
If the homework is for students to submit a recording of themselves speaking, for example, I will listen to a few of the submissions but I won’t necessarily mark them every time. I use it to inform my teaching. So it’s that flexibility that both enables me to pinpoint what they need for the next lesson and to monitor my students much better.
How would you describe Sparkjar to another teacher?
It’s a time-saving app that makes your feedback more efficient. Everything is in one place.
Do your students like Sparkjar?
They love it. I’ve had all sorts of comments like: “It’s the best app we’ve used”; “I know I’m tracking my HW now”; “I know where I am”; and “if I don’t understand something there’s always someone that can help”.
They like the fact that they can share their progress in the chat and see each others’ good practice – they’re so supportive of one another.
The older students really like being able to go back to it and look at the comments that are made, so that’s nice. They can also go back and re-listen to things when I give oral feedback and that’s been effective for their learning.
Any other comments?
Personally, I love it. I think the app has been beautifully created. It’s so simple and looks gorgeous. That’s a big thing for me, and for the children – it needs to appeal to them.
It’s easy and it’s straightforward. It’s very quick to review what you’ve set and to avoid conflicts with students. If assignments are not returned, then straight away you can look at it and say ‘right you haven’t done your work, what’s the problem?’ You can talk to them, they can submit it on paper – whatever works for them – but straight away you’re on their case. And at Parents’ Evening the marksheet is great for sharing that tracking.