Wednesday, December 15, 2010
In the past, I have blogged about using Twitter in the classroom. My dream has been to create a venue for 100% student participation where student responses immediately pop up on the Smart Board for the entire class to discuss. This method is possible through Twitter when every student tweets their responses to a teacher prompt using either a laptop or a cell phone and these responses are projected using either a Twitter app or the class Twitter page. However, this approach requires a great deal of setup time. Every student needs to create a Twitter account and to follow a class Twitter page, usually one that is private so no one else can follow these tweets. Also, many students are hesitant to use Twitter and certainly don't want a Twitter account created in their name. This has caused me to use Twitter infrequently in class.
Enter Poll Everywhere. Poll Everywhere is a free web-based tool that allows teachers to post questions online using a "hidden URL" that students answer by texting a code followed by their response to a specific number. When students hit send their responses magically appear online or on a PowerPoint slide.
This type of response system has been proliferating in higher education as evidenced by the NY Times article: More Professors Give Out Hand-Held Devices to Monitor Students and Engage Them. A similar clicker type of system called the Smart Response PE Interactive System is being marketed by Smart Technologies, makers of the Smart Board. The problem with these types of systems are they are expensive since you have to purchase a set of clickers for every class which can easily malfunction, be lost, or stolen. Furthermore, these clickers usually only allow for multiple choice or true/false responses which I consider to be a low level of student participation.
Poll Anywhere does not have any of these problems. Firstly, it offers a free version which is adequate for most classes and a more robust version that is still very inexpensive. Also, Poll Anywhere lets you post either multiple choice or free response questions. Most importantly, it harnesses a technology that virtually all high school students already have, the cell phone, and uses a medium that adolescents already use on a constant basis, text messaging. Students love this because they feel that they are doing something devious by using what is normally contraband in school, the cell phone, for educational purposes.
I highly recommend that you give Poll Everywhere a try in your class and please send me your feedback so we can continue the conversation.