Chapter 5, Part 6

This is a continuation of the fifth chapter in Techniques for Effective Technlogy Integration. You may want to start with Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

What Are They Thinking?

So far, we have looked at tools that emphasize communicating outside the time and space constraints of the traditional classroom. What we have not really looked at are ways to increase communication inside the classroom itself.

Pedagogically, the more insight we have into the thought processes of our students, the more we can tailor the class to meet their specific needs. Differentiating instruction according to the specific needs of out students is the ultimate goal of trying to communicate effectively.

Poll Everywhere (http://polleverywhere.com) is a free online tool that utilizes the tools most students already have, namely their cell phones, iPods, and computers, to engage students while simultaneously giving you insight into how they are thinking.

So, how does this all work? Poll Everywhere makes it very straightforward. You can make 3 types of polls, although only 2 are likely relevant: multiple-choice, text, and goal (used to receive pledges of donations). To see your options, just click “Create your first poll” on http://polleverywhere.com.

You setup the question and students answer primarily via text message. Cell phones are reaching near ubiquity among middle and high school students and are becoming more common among elementary students as well.

At this point, you have to choose the type of question that you want. Multiple-choice and text-based questions serve different purposes. It takes longer to write a good multiple-choice question, but it is also easier to quantify. With a multiple-choice question, Poll Everywhere will graph the responses in real-time. With a text-based question, it will list the responses. Just think about what you are trying to accomplish. If you want students to brainstorm ideas, then a text-based question would likely work better. If you want students to choose from a list of options, such as what subject they want to study next or a content question, then multiple-choice would probably work better.

When you ask a content question, Poll Everywhere is particularly useful for a few reasons. First, everyone participates. Instead of one person raising his or her hand or you having to manually check everyone’s papers, everyone is able to answer at the click of a button. Second, it gives you a snapshot into what you students are thinking. If 73% of the class gets the question wrong, then instead of continuing to push forward with my lesson, that is a signal that I need to stop and reteach that concept. It is even possible that it was a poor or biased question. Regardless, I would want to stop to try to understand why the students were not grasping the concept and see how I could remediate the problem.

Once you choose which type of question you want, Poll Everywhere allows you to fill in the question and the answers.

On the right hand side of the page, Poll Everywhere gives you some customization options. You can allow people to answer more than once if you think it appropriate. You also can control how people answer. Text message is the default mechanism for answering questions. You can also let people answer using Twitter or by going to poll4.com if they have a smartphone (a phone that can access the Internet). Lastly, you can choose “Web widget” and embed the poll on your class website, so students can take their time and respond at home.


Once you save your poll and continue, Poll Everywhere will show a blank graph that lets students respond. Each answer choice has a different number. They send a text message containing that number, which is the keyword, to the number listed just above the chart. In the example below, I sent a text message containing “41225” to 22333.

At this point, there have been no responses. As soon as I answered via text message, the graph changed.

It is important that the results change instantly. The real-time nature of the results lets this be seamlessly integrated into instruction. There are a few good options for pay, such as keeping track of which number belongs to which student, but this is still an excellent free tool to help meet the needs of your students. When what is fun and what is pedagogically sound meet, tremendous learning can happen.

  • http://bainkristiedm310.blogspot.com/ Kristi Bain

    Hi!
    I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 course at the University of South Alabama. We comment on different teacher’s blogs as an assignment in the course. I really enjoyed reading your post. The insight we gain from teachers is very helpful since we are in school to become teachers.
    I agree that communication inside the classroom is something that is just as if not more important than communication outside of the classroom. How we communicate with our students should be adjusted to the student’s needs and wants. If we communicate with them in a way in which they use frequently and prefer then we will reach input from our students better. I will definitely be referring to poleeverywhere.com in my future years as a teacher. I really enjoy the concept and see how students would relate most to it and enjoy it. Students LOVE the use of technology especially through cell phones and computers.
    I like the idea that you can choose text based questions or multiple choice based on which one you prefer for the specific question you want to ask. The fact that they can answer with their cell phone and it go directly to the pole is amazing. Using this rather than a show of hands and then being able to display the results from the computer in front of the class is great. However, my concern is I know that a lot of schools are STRICTLY banning the use of cell phones from the schools. Therefore, I am guessing some schools would see the good in this technology. However, I would take the matter to the principal for permission. I do think it is a great way to communicate in the classroom.

  • http://ilearntechnology.com ktenkely

    Poll everywhere is a great tool for the classroom and especially useful to use as part of formative assessment.
    ktenkely´s last blog post ..Juxio: Online Visual Creation Tool