Leveraging the Electronic Binky, Part II
SAMR Model Rating: Augmentation
Subject area: Any
Cost: Basic Polleverywhere.com is free
“For this next part of class, I need everyone to get their phones out.” You probably haven’t used that line too often in your classroom. But you can use it more often and be happy about it if you have the right approach. In my last blog I talked about some ways you can use QR codes to create hyperlinks in the real world. This time around, we’re going to add in another tool to make those ever present devices useful in the classroom.
Polleverywhere.com bills itself as a ways to get your audiences engaged in the discussion. It does this through polls which can be free form or multiple choice which can be displayed in real time as the participants respond. You can create your own polls or you can choose polls from their fairly extensive library of questions which is divided by subject. Your class (or audience) responds by using almost any type of device they have with them: smart phone, dumb phone, tablet, or laptop. If you have two minutes, checkout their video which quickly describes how it works.
For one of my lessons I did at the start of the year with my U.S. History classes, I used my own questions to survey what students thought about five ideals which help form the core of what the United States stands for. (See handout. If you take a look at the handout, you’ll notice that I included a QR code to help lead the students to the website where they can vote.)
The lesson starts with the students reading an introduction to the ideals and then they get the survey questions, which they respond to individually on their own sheet. I emphasize that each student is to respond based on his or her own opinion, but he or she needs to give a reason for that opinion. The questions are deliberately vague and subject to interpretation because they are supposed to generate small group and class discussions. Once it looks like the students are done, we go into small groups and we start responding to the polls on Polleverywhere. With the free version of Polleverywhere .com, you can only have one poll active and displayed at a time, so we respond on to each question in turn. As the students respond, the graph changes. Once everyone has responded to a question, then the groups can discuss what they collectively think the results mean and I randomly choose a couple of groups to share their conclusions for each question. Then we repeat the process for each question.
I know some of you are thinking that this sounds interesting but you are put off by the idea of having to get a device in the hands of every student. There are fairly easy ways around this problem. You can set the polls so that one device can respond to a poll question multiple times. One device per group can be quickly passed around the group and everyone gets to vote. Also, because almost any phone can be used to vote, the number of students who already have something they can use will be relatively high in many school, especially in the upper grades.
Polleverywhere can be adapted to nearly any situation where you might ask students to raise their hands as a formative assessment. So what are the benefits of doing Polleverywhere.com verses the old raise-your-hand method of formative assessment? I’ll give you three:
1) Reduce social pressure. Anonymous responses allow students in the minority to voice their opinions without the social pressure of knowing they are the minority or having to display their minority status through hand raising. As a bonus, if you don’t display the graph as the students vote, you can also eliminate the type of follow-the-leader voting you can get with hand raising as the class watches the star student for her response. It’s a slick way to remove social pressure from the students’ decision-making process.
2) You know exactly what the student responses are. Need to check for understanding? Use a quick poll and you’ll know where your class stands, exactly. You can then move forward or re-teach as appropriate.
3) It is engaging for the students. It’s a fun, different way for your students to engage, and thus learn. It’s pretty cool to watch the graphs change as the students vote and the possibilities for class or small group discussions expand significantly. We are always looking for new ways to get our students to engage. Here’s one; give it a try!
The basics of Polleverywhere are free, but “free” does have some limitations. One of the most significant is that each poll you set up is limited to 40 responses. This is plenty for most classes, but if you want to use the same poll with several different classes, you’ll have to clear the poll at the start of each class or set up a different poll for each class. There are lots of other cool things that Polleverywhere can do, but almost all of those are behind the pay wall. That said, I think there is plenty we can do with our students with just the free version. If you’re ready to try it out you can find Polleverywhere on the web or via app on iOS or Android.
Next month, I’ll continue following my theme of using what we already have in different ways and take a look at some ways you can use EDU 2.0/NEO and Google Drive to collaborate with other teachers, provide materials to your students, and do less work over the long term. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!