Thursday, May 16, 2013

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

I just read this article on harnessing mobile technology in the classroom, and as my post title implies, I agree. I just finished teaching two sections of advanced conversation (in Spanish) this semester, and every student had a laptop, tablet or smart phone (or some combination of those).

One way to incorporate this technology is to incorporate anonymous polls. In a conversation class, many students are reluctant to discuss or give an opinion on a polemic issue. One way to break the ice is to use an anonymous poll, using a site like Poll Everywhere. This is one example of a question that I posed to the class.

While there are several polling platforms that allow text message responses, Poll Everywhere has a free account option that allows up to 40 responses per poll, and an unlimited number of polls/classes. There are other paid account options at educational pricing, including the option to have your school purchase a system-wide license. Other sites include SMSPoll (free account includes 15 votes per poll) and Top Hat Monocle (free account includes 30 votes per poll, and has a one course limit).

Once you've created an account in Poll Everywhere, it's easy to set up your first poll. Just click the "Create Poll" button and enter your question (and answer choices if applicable). Once you've created the poll, there are a number of ways you can distribute it. Since I use PowerPoint for all of my classes, I use the option "Download as Slide". However, you could also embed it in a Blackboard announcement (or assignment, or anywhere else in Blackboard or another Learning Management System) using "Share and Publish" and selecting the "Blog or Webpage" option. This option will generate the code you need to embed the poll in the page. (Coming soon: Video on how to embed content into a web page by using the "Edit HTML" feature in blogs and other websites.)

There are a number of ways that students can respond, including using a laptop or tablet and navigating to the webpage, responding via text message, responding via Twitter, and responding via a private link. Choose how you want students to respond, and then start the poll. If you want them to be able to respond on the web, make sure to click the button circled below.
Make sure to start the poll, and click the circled button if you want students to be able answer on the web.
Here's what a live embedded poll looks like:

To respond, students can text an answer code to 37607, or go to the website . As soon as they respond, the chart changes to reflect the response. Feel free to try it if you want!

I usually use this at the beginning of a discussion, especially if I anticipate that it may be difficult to get students to give their opinions. This lets them know that they're not alone, whatever their opinion is, and has helped get past the awkwardness of discussing controversial topics.

Do you have other suggestions for how to use anonymous polling? Leave a comment, or submit a tech tip!

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