Tag Archives: Poll Everywhere

Free Classroom Polling service via Web or App with Poll Everywhere

One of my favorite polling services, Poll Everywhere, has just issued a series of updates including iOS and Android Apps, integration with Flickr, and a new, faster system for registering students.

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Poll Everywhere offers free and paid services for quizzing and polling students. If you need ideas, check out their repository of user submitted ideas and examples.

Teaching With SmartPhones

This has been reblogged from my post at PLP Voices of the Learning Revolution.

Teaching with SmartPhones

Posted by  on Nov 21, 2012 in The How of 21st Century TeachingVoicesWeb Tools That Deepen Learning0 comments

If you ask educators about cellphones in their classrooms, they will all have a passionate response and a story (good or bad) about their presence.

Most will express frustration at their problematic nature: they’re a distraction; they make noise; they can be used for cyber-bullying or cheating. That said, I think that more and more educators are recognizing that cellphones, and especially smartphones,can be a useful learning tool. But how do teachers make that happen?

As an early adopter of smartphone technology, I immediately recognized the incredible computing power they possess. Many students now have pocket technology that’s much more powerful and innovative than the equipment used in early manned space flights.

Still, like my colleagues, I imagined cellphones as a huge classroom management struggle.

So I set out to test a theory, with this basic premise: If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence.

I am the first to acknowledge that my teaching situation is not the same as many other educators. I teach in a small, independent school. My students generally come from a financially stable background and I teach fairly small classes (15-22). All of my students have some type of smartphone device. I understand this is not the case for all teachers. But most classrooms will include some students who have internet-capable devices, and many of the activities I will discuss here can be done in groups with just one device per group.

Supporting lessons & activities

A good rule of thumb for any classroom use of cellphones: the lesson/activity must be engaging as well as productive. You don’t want technology for the sake of technology (and students aren’t going to be intrinsically fascinated with a device they use routinely when they’re outside of school). If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately.

In Class Polling/Quizzing – One of my favorite tools to use in class is a program called Poll Everywhere. I wrote about this service in an article at my personal blog: “Poll Everywhere – A Free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”

This is a great piece of software to use in the classroom (and it’s free for audiences up to 40). You can create quiz questions for which students text in their answers.  No expensive clicker systems to buy, set up, and maintain! If students register their cellphone numbers (a requirement in my class) you can even track their answers for impromptu quizzes or review!

In-class Backchanneling: Backchanneling refers to the use of networks & social media to maintain an online, real-time conversation alongside spoken remarks.

For example, if you attend a keynote presentation at a conference these days, you’ll often find that some listeners in the audience are using their mobile devices to comment to other audience members about things the speaker is saying, while the speaker is saying them.

Backchanneling  can be a great way to give quiet students a voice, to introduce additional facts and insights during a lesson, or simply to encourage “conversation” during lecture or group readings when you don’t want to actually interrupt the presentation.

While Twitter is probably the most popular medium for backchanneling news and entertainment events (using #hashtags to create an instant network), teachers will probably want a more controllable platform than Twitter provides.
Educators can readily set up a private backchannel using free webtools. One popular program is Today’s Meet, which allows individuals to create temporary rooms to host backchannel discussions.

Poll Everywhere can also be used for this purpose. Plus, it allows you to moderate comments and prohibits any anonymous contributions.

In-class Readings & Handouts: Smartphones can also be used productively in the classroom as eReaders for books and handouts. I place all student handouts into DropBox folders (see my previous Voices article: “DropBox – a Superb Classroom Tool”). If we are reading or doing work in class, they can access our Dropbox space via the internet and open reference material without printing it up or asking for a new copy. It’s literally right in the palm of their hand.

Of course, for traditional reading materials (textbooks and paperbacks), you can use mobile apps like Kindle eReaderNook AppiBooks, or Google’s Play Books (just to name a few). Many of them host free content and some allow you to load content of your own. This is a great way to save money on book purchases and photocopies. Using these apps, students can even highlight and annotate.

Doing research

One of the greatest active uses I have found for smartphones is in the area of research. I remember the days when I made photocopies, took meticulous notes, and tried to employ a series of notecards in a vain attempt at some semblance of a coherent organized system. Smartphones do a much better job. In this case, the power is in the apps!

My favorite research tools on the smartphone are “camera scanners” (which capture information using the phone’s built-in camera). One of the best apps I have found is a program called Genius Scan+  – available for iOS, Android, and Windows based phones. This app allows you to take pictures of documents (even books with those bendy pages), crop them, and then enhance them for ready viewing. You can create notebooks of documents (if you are copying sections of a book or article) and then store them on the device or export them (as a photo image or PDF) toGoogle DocsDropBoxEvernote, and more. It’s a great tool for you or your students to organize research materials.

Evernote is another great application that students can use to organize their notes and images, take voice notes, write notes by hand, gather web clippings, sort emails, and more. You can put them into pre-categorized folders (class, project, theme, etc) as well as give them “tags” which makes them easy to search and sort later.

Google Search on the Go!

Most people can grasp the power of having Google in their pocket, but few recognize that the mobile version of Google is much more than a web browser. The Google Search App can be used not only for traditional searches, but has a voice search feature as well. You talk — it searches.

My favorite feature of the Google Search is its ability to perform searches using images! This feature, called Google Goggles, is a creative way to search the internet for image based content (watch the video). I employed it last year in a creative field trip experiment at the local museum.

These mobile Google capabilities offer a great way for students to explore material on the fly, using a variety of media. Any content, images, etc. that they find can be sent to a Google Drive account.

Stepping out with smartphones

I hope these ideas will be enough to stir the interest of fellow educators and encourage you to begin experiments of your own. And if you’re already using smartphones in your classroom and you’re doing something you don’t see here, please share in the comments!

When we combine the modern smartphone with wireless internet access and the remarkable number of cheap and free mobile apps now available, we find that they are truly amazing pocket-sized learning devices. Whether educators like them or hate them, the reality is that cellphones are going to become pervasive in our classrooms, if they aren’t already.

We can choose to be proactive — to employ and direct the use of these powerful tools — or we can continue to exert our energy in combating them.

If we are truly preparing our students for the future, then I believe it is our obligation to incorporate these ever-present devices into our daily teaching practice.

Image of smartphone: BigStock

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About the author

I teach at Trinity Valley School in Ft. Worth, Texas. I’m a student of the human condition: history, philosophy, art, and culture. I am a passionate educator. I am a lover of new technologies and their ability to share knowledge. I blog at Indiana Jenand you can find me on Twitter @teacherjencarey Meet the rest of our Voices.

Update – Conference Talk: From Enemy to Asset, Cell Phones in the Classroom

Today, I gave my talk “Cell Phones in the Classroom: From Enemy to Asset,” (see my previous post on preparing for it) for the Independent Curriculum Group at the beautiful campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX. Here was the published summary of my talk:

From Enemy to Asset: Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have replaced note-passing as the biggest distraction in the classroom. Schools have tried to attack the problem with blanket bans or restrictive policies. But what if instead of viewing cell phones as the enemy, we use them as teaching tools? Most students have more computing power in their pocket than was used by NASA to send men to the moon. This session will explore innovative classroom uses for cell phones.

I was quite nervous about this talk – my colleagues were entirely strangers, I was in a new environment, talking about a ‘controversial’ topic and at the last minute I found out two horrifying facts: that the session would be 75 minutes (I had anticipated 50-60) and that I would be presenting first! The night before, I spent a lot of time tossing and turning as well as frantically changing my content.

The day began and my room ended up being packed – we were dragging in extra chairs and for a time, it was standing room only. Seems like this was a topic that hit home for a lot of faculty – after all, cell phones are pervasive.

Turns out, I had a great audience. They were incredibly talkative and engaging. They asked pertinent questions, brought up legitimate concerns, and shared constructively. In fact, my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t fill up the time, I just didn’t have enough!

We spent most of our time playing with Poll Everywhere. I’ve posted previously about my very positive experiences with the software in previous blog posts. They liked its ease of use, the broad application, and moderator features. In fact, we spent probably 70% of the time talking about this particular piece. Here’s an example of one of our ‘back-channel’ chats

We next moved on to DropBox (if any conference attendees are reading this, remember this is the link that will get you 250mb of bonus space!) – I was surprised by the number of teachers that were unfamiliar with this program, but they all became excited quite quickly at its cross-platform capabilities, file storage and transfer, as well as means of distributing materials to students who now seem loathe to check their own emails (my students often ask me to text them when I email something important). I highlight DropBox in my post about using your Smart Phone to go paperless (or less paper-y).

By the time I finished both of these products, we had only a few minutes left. I showed them a few examples of other products, namely Scanner Applications (like Genius Scan Pro) that students can use in their process of research (and help organize with DropBox or Evernote).

A few of the conference goers stayed after ‘the bell’ to ask me about some of the creative suites (that I used for digital storytelling projects, which you can read about here). I also put out a stack of business cards that were collected up – hopefully to contact me in the future, but possibly to ensure they got the spelling right on their complaints.

I didn’t get a chance to distribute my handout (not sure what happened to my copies). But you can download a copy of it here: Austin Presentation (it includes all of the software I went over, or planned to go over, in the talk).

Preparing for my Conference Talk – Cell Phones, From Enemy to Asset in the Classroom

On January 3, I will be presenting a talk/workshop for the Independent Curriculum Group at St. Stephens Episcopal School in Austin. I’ve got 75 whole minutes to fill up and am a bit nervous about that – I mean, I love hearing my own voice but that is a lot of time to fill. I anticipate having a lot of hands-on activities, but most people won’t have the software or apps in advance.

So, here’s a summary of my talk:

From Enemy to Asset: Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have replaced note-passing as the biggest distraction in the classroom. Schools have tried to attack the problem with blanket bans or restrictive policies. But what if instead of viewing cell phones as the enemy, we use them as teaching tools? Most students have more computing power in their pocket than was used by NASA to send men to the moon. This session will explore innovative classroom uses for cell phones.

So, here are a few of the points I want to highlight:

Existing Policies on Cell Phones & Administrative Concerns

  • Most schools have prohibitive policies on cell phones – from outright campus bans to limited use policies
  • Most schools are concerned about the rise of Cyber-bullying and the role that cell phones play in this
  • Cell phones can be a huge distraction – I’m trying to lecture and my student is updating their Facebook status

How Can they be Productive?

  • Directed Use Policies – technology can be used for a specific purpose, otherwise, it’s put away
  • Social Media/Technology Behavior policies – just like punching a kid in the locker room isn’t okay, neither is posting nasty things on the internet. Behavioral education, education, education… both for teachers and students.
  • Like a calculator or even a pencil, it can be a tool or a distraction.
  • One of my favorite quotes: “You can use a hammer to bash someone’s head in… but it’s also really great for hammering in nails.” Tools are all about how you use them.

So…. what’s my plan?

How am I going to use up this amount of time and stay dynamic? My plan is to incorporate a series of demonstrations and activities. One tool that I will definitely be using extensively is a program called Poll Everywhere. It’s a great program that I use in my class a lot – in fact, my students will constantly ask “Can we do the texting thing?” If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a couple of previous posts I did on Poll Everywhere – “First Day Using Poll-Everywhere” and “Using Poll-Everywhere Day #2.”

I think I will have a combination of directed questions and back channeling, for directed questions:

  • Who here has a school with some sort of restricted use on cell phones? (Maybe even more specific any school ban cell phones)?
  • Who here has confiscated a cell phone in class?
  • Who has directed students to use them in the classroom?

Then I may set up a back channel on a topic like:

  • What are your concerns about using cell phones in the classroom?
  • What advantages do you see?
  • How do we deal with classroom management? etc

Maybe after this, I’ll throw in a word cloud, just for fun.

Another activity I’m considering is ‘obscure fact look up’. I’ll break the group into teams and give them a list of obscure trivia and see who can finish the list first. Maybe I’ll direct it from a book – I’ll take all of the information out of one textbook and we’ll race to see who can find this information first and what is more accurate?

Another program I would love to demonstrate is MindMeister. Perhaps set up a Mind Map and let them go. Of course, the problem with this is that it requires a smart phone, a Mind Meister account, as well as a compatible Smart Phone.

Perhaps I’ll try to get a few people to download and participate in the process.

A few other ideas that I have that I’m considering:

Digital Storytelling – there are a few Digital Storytelling Apps (free ones) for the iPhone, I’ll need to play with them.

Movie Making – On my iPhone I can shoot, edit and create a brief video – even upload it to YouTube. Perhaps that could be a cool activity? It will need to be more directed of course.

As you can see, I’m still in the early stages. I would love contributions and ideas!

First Day Using Poll-Everywhere – 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

Today was the first time that I used Poll Everywhere (or @PE on twitter) in the classroom. I wrote about Poll Everywhere earlier in an article: “Poll Everywhere – a free/cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”

In two of my classes it was a striking success! In one (the one about which I was mot worried) it was more… problematic. However, I was so happy with the results that I ended up purchasing a one year membership with moderating powers (that can help with my… “challenging” class). I also had two classes in which there were technical difficulties not having to do with the program – in one the projector was broken and the other, we were in a room with no cell phone reception (and no computers save the one for the teacher).

My first job was to teach the students how to use the material. So I created a simple multiple choice question and taught them how to respond on that.

Clearly, my students have no taste in film  – but they did get the hang of the tools.

Next, I decided to use it as a “back channel” for running commentary while we read an article about “Why we study history.” The students respectfully comment throughout – and even answered each others’ questions (like what abbreviations they were using).

I also used it in my AP Art History Class to vote on whether or not an object was art. Here is how they responded to Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’

As you can see, most of them said “no” (a surprise to me as I thought it would be “yes”)

Overall, the experience was positive. The classes that tried it and succeeded did amazingly well! They were engaged, interested, and genuinely focused. Heck, my third period class didn’t even attempt to pack up before the bell rang (and a couple asked if they could stay “just a bit longer.”).

Now, with my new moderator tools, I do think that even the ‘challenging’ class will be a bit more meaningful.