A colleague wanted to see if his students had learnt a vocabulary item he had taught in the previous lesson. He had made up a multiple choice question to test the item and would usually put it on the Promethean Board and asked for a show of hands. Human psychology applied to the classroom, in my experience, would often result in those who had no idea, or were unsure, to wait till the student they deemed to be best at the subject had raised their hand. The rest would then raise their hands in unison and the teacher would be pleased that the teaching had been successful.
Not so this time. I had suggested to the teacher that he try an online poll to see what the students thought. Only about a third gave the correct answer using this anonymous poll, much to the bemusement of the teacher!
Pollanywhere is a free software anyone can use just by registering. You can register, create a poll, get participants to vote, and have all the results showing in a chart inside 15 minutes – less if you really try. One really neat feature is the live chart with the lines dynamically expanding and contracting as the students vote. It encourages the students to take part if nothing else. You can set it that each student votes only once – this translates to only one result per IP address. In a non-testing classroom situation this is fine.
Although the voters are anonymous, it can still be used for fun class quizzes by making up multiple questions with different urls – each group sees the same question but are actually responding to questions differentiated by the url. This clearly shows up on the admin interface.
As well as multiple choice polls a teacher can use this to provide open ended questions – “free text questions” as the poll type is called. Great for quizzes. The way to identify each group in this situation is to ask the students to write the name of their group first and then the answer. For example in answer to the prompt: Change the following sentence into the past tense: “I will buy a phone.” A correct response would be: Group 5: I bought a phone. The answers are arranged chronologically on the webpage, so incentives of points for the quickest respondents are easily enough allocated without protests!
The polls can be answered by SMS’s and via Twitter as well as online. A great tool to use in distance education courses where students are not all together but the instructor wants to get quick feedback on some teaching point or issue in the course.
About the only negative of this polling software is that it generates long web addresses. You could shorten this using tinyurl.com. However, this just shortens the complexity for the respondents but doesn’t really get rid of it – and creates an extra hassle for the teacher. In my computer lab I use Microsoft’s OneNote to instantly provide the students with as many clickable links as I like. For classrooms that don’t have OneNote, but each student has a computer, you could start an Evernote account and get students to bookmark this so in a short time they can have clickable web addresses.
In the free version there is a limit of 30 respondents per quiz, but there doesn’t appear to be a limit to the number of quizzes you can create. The free version does extremely well for most situation I can envisage but if you have classes between 30 and 50 students and / or want to identify the participants, you can pay $15 a month. Thankfully there is no expensive year long contract so a teacher wishing to utilise the advanced features for a short time can do so. There are other more expensive and elaborate plans for large institutions.