As scary as it might sound to certain administrators, I like using cell phones in my classroom. After fighting their infiltration for a few years, I finally realized they might not be all that bad when I stumbled upon Liz Kolb’s Cell Phones in Learning blog. At my previous school I tried using Wiffiti a few times and was amazed at how engaged my students were. I know I definitely scored a few “coolness points” with my kids by letting them use their cell phones in class for 10 minutes.
In the third episode of the EdTechClassroom Podcast, Burt and I discussed something else I used at my previous school – classroom response systems. If you aren’t sure what these are, imagine the little clickers used by audience members on American Idol or America’s Funniest Home Videos. As the teacher, you create a list of multiple choice questions, display them on your screen with a LCD projector, and students “vote” for the correct answer by pressing the corresponding letter on their remote control. Depending how you have it set up, after everyone votes you can discuss the answers as a class and present a bar graph of the results. I found these little devices to be a great way to review right before a test and they always led to great class discussions about the correctness of one answer over another.
The main downside to these systems is that they are pricey. We’re talking $1,500 – $3,000 per classroom! At my previous site we had a set for each department to share. At that same school nearly every student had a cell phone. I always thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if we could some how commandeer those for clickers?” Well, sure enough there IS a product that does just this – Poll Everywhere. The way it works is that you display a question and participants textmessage a code for their corresponding answer. Instantly, the votes are calculated and a bar graph is generated.
When I first looked into Poll Everywhere last December I liked the idea, but the price plans were a bit out of my personal classroom budget and I wasn’t sure how convincing I could be to my site administrator about paying for a service that promotes text messaging in class. Yes – I know it was for good, but I was pretty sure the answer was no.
Getting back to the EdTechClassroom podcast, in episode 3 Burt brought up Poll Everywhere. He explained to me that the pricing plans changed and there was even a free trial account that would give you 30 votes per poll – perfect for one class or period. But now I had a new problem. At my new school most kids do NOT have cell phones. I thought I was out of luck until Jeff Vyduna from Poll Everywhere left a comment on our blog. Now you can use web voting too! Since all of my students have computers, they could vote online. Another plus he explained, was that since my new school didn’t meet its AYP goal we could even qualify for a free site license.
Needless to say, the next day I created an account and gave it a whirl. Our first poll (the one posted) was just for general feedback, but overall the kids seemed to like it. This week I am planning on using it for a daily warm up or two. I’ll let you know how it goes. Until then, sign up for an account and give it a whirl in your own classroom. Should you be a Salk teacher reading this, come see me. I can make you an account.