Friday, December 05, 2008

Live classroom polling without clickers?

Almost everybody these days has a cellphone - especially students! So a company called Poll Everywhere has decided to deploy an Audience Response System (aka, clickers) by using text messaging on a cellphone instead of a wireless clicker transmitter. A colleague of mine (thanks Katia!) first let me know about this company by a comment she left on one of my blog posts. Today I spent some time trying it out and my initial assessment is that this is GREAT! It really works.

  • It's fast. When I send a txt msg it takes about 2-3 seconds for the vote to be captured in the resulting graph

  • It's easy for students to participate. As easy as sending a conventional text message and they do not have to buy a 'clicker' they can use their personal cell phone.

  • It's easy for instructors. No longer must the presentation room be equipped with a receiver to capture the signal from the clickers. All you need is an internet connection to capture the data from the live graph.

  • You can embed the 'live' graph as a PowerPoint slide into your classroom presentation. No need to minimize PowerPoint to go to a website to view the results.

  • It's cheap! In fact, you can try it for free with a maximum of 30 votes per question. For larger numbers of votes you can subscribe to the system for a monthly fee.

  • Web-voting is enabled. If you have students without a cellphone but with a laptop... then they can still vote by going to a specific link the instructor provides.

Want to try it? Here's a poll that I created below

Try it! Vote! If you want to vote by cell phone then here's how to do it:
  1. As the poll says, write a text message to this number: 32075 (Note: this is a text message short code - it is used like a telephone number for text messages.)

  2. In the text message you will place your vote. The format of your text message is specific: "Cast xxxxx". Where 'xxxxx' is a unique number associated with the option you wish to vote for.

  3. For example, in this poll, if you want to vote for Desire2Learn then write a text message to 32075 which contains this text "cast 29368". 2-3 seconds later you will see the graph change to incorporate your result. Note: Once 30 votes are tallied the poll closes so I will try to reset this poll once in awhile so that people can continue to try it.

Note: Poll Everywhere only works in some countries. Check their list.

If you want to try the web-based voting, then you can vote here.

I think this is great and I am definitely going to use it in class. What do you think?


Tony Karrer said...

This is really neat and something I definitely think is going to be the future. However, it currently would take people too long to do this during a live session. Way harder than in a virtual classroom.

Instead, we need a way for people to be on a site on their mobile phone or laptop that allows them to watch along, chat, vote, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

This is Brad from Poll Everywhere. You'd be surprised how fast students are at txting these days. If an educator sets up polls before their lesson, they can get through a poll in just under a minute and have a great idea of their classes comprehension.

I noticed you mention a virtual classroom; we believe one of the best ways to learn is by sitting down in a real classroom with a group of people. Nothing beats that interaction; so we designed Poll Everywhere to work best with a group of people sitting in a classroom.

Also, we have web voting for both laptops and mobile devices, like iPhones. We're working on a few features that would let people follow along.

Eric said...

Hi Brad,

Thanks for checking in.

I agree with you Brad with regards to classroom usage. My students average in age between 17 and 20, and they can txt msg faster than I can write my name on the white board! So I am very confident that this will work great with junior level college students.

Tony, many virtual classroom applications (such as Adobe Connect, Horizon Wimba, etc.) have live polling features built-into their system, so I would default to using these ‘built-in’ polling features in the synchronous virtual classroom scenario. However, consider for a moment an asynchronous distance course. I believe that Poll Everywhere would be an excellent way to poll a group a distance students over a 2-3 day period asynchronously. I am definitely going to try that too!!!

Brad, consider creating a free "educational" account. Clearly, the current price plan of $65/mo for a "presenter" account is cost prohibitive for community colleges like the one I teach at. My class has 80 students so I will use the 'free' account and only accept the first 30 'quick draw' voters as a compromise.

If you created a 'free' educational account for confirmed educators then many educators would be supportive of your product and its penetration would grow immensely. That is food for thought.

Take care


Anonymous said...

Eric, I think you're absolutely right. More teachers at our school should be using this. The buzz about your Molecular class and the excitement to have another lecture and text in answers again was incredible. Thanks again for your dedication to teaching. Someone must have told you a long time ago that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well, and you really have done that with our class.