I guess the best way to describe a heat map is probably to think of it as a table or a spreadsheet. Rather than detailing information with numbers, however, heat maps highlight the same information but use colors instead. This makes it clearer and easier for experienced users to analyze certain aspects of information. Read Heat is an education application that uses this technology to better analyze students to see how they react and respond to questions posed in the new Common Core standards testing. It aims to find out more about how students respond to the latest formats of standardized tests and puts that information firmly into the hands of teachers to analyze.
Recently in the US, education chiefs and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core - a set of clear college and career ready standards for kindergarten through to 12th grade in English language arts / literacy and mathematics. Today, 44 of those states have voluntarily adopted and are working to implement the standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two or four-year college programs or to simply enter the workforce. Read Heat allows teachers to see exactly how their students are reading through the newest Common Core test questions. Using the heat-mapped mouse tracking technology, a teacher can evaluate where individual students may be having problems and whether that problem lies with fluency, vocabulary or comprehension. Basically, using Read Heat, teachers are able to see where a student is spending the most time on specific parts of the test.
I've learned a lot about heat maps while i've been researching and reviewing Read Heat. It seems for a start that heat maps are particularly well-suited for visualizing large amounts of multi-dimensional data. This educational app goes the other way, however, and allows teachers to much easier visualize where individual students are going right or wrong when dealing with a specific piece of text. The heat map shows exactly where the student might have had problems in identifying an answer or comprehending the meaning of the piece. While I'm hardly an expert on teaching matters, I can see straight away where the benefits might lie. The app is geared towards the Common Core standards testing that exists in most US states now and will make it easier and quicker for teachers to understand when the test is not fulfilling its purpose or the student is just not getting it!