Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Poll Everywhere Turns Student Cell Phones Into Clickers

Some classrooms have access to sets of "Student Response Systems" informally called clickers by some.  They usually come in sets of 25 or more wireless remotes that students can use to respond to a question posed by a teacher.  The teacher can see responses collected in some way, usually through presentation software or website.

But, what if you're school can't afford to purchase clickers or if you can't get access to a set?  A free option makes use of what all of your students already have—their cell phone.  Poll Everywhere is a website service that allows you to create a poll and allows your audience to answer the question using mobile phones, twitter or a web browser.  Responses are displayed live in PowerPoint, Keynote or on the web.  You can ask multiple choice questions or let your audience respond with any text reply.

Here's how it works:

  1. Go to and click "Create your first poll."  There is no sign-up required so it's really simple to use.
  2. Type your poll question in the blank.
  3. Choose whether you'd like the poll to have an open ended or multiple choice response.
  4. Click Create.
  5. In a moment, you'll receive some important information on how people can respond to your poll (which number to text and what to put in the message) and it will show you responses as they come in on this same screen.  From here you can create a password to save your polls as polls that are created without an account are discarded after two weeks of inactivity.  
  6. Your audience can then text their response to the number shown.  Note: it's important to also include the number they specify for the poll in the message so they can direct the responses to the correct poll.  For example your students might text to 22333 the message "287249 George Washington" or other responses depending on how the poll is set up.
When we tried this out, we were quite impressed with its simplicity and the response was nearly instant.  We like how the web option is available for those that may not have a cell phone or a texting plan on their phone so that audience members (or students) can hop on a computer and respond to the same poll.  They give a shortened web address to go to for those cases.  All of the responses whether they are submitted via text or through the web are all collected into the same area for easy review.

There are a few limitations to be aware of.  Our first disappointment is that you cant determine which response came from which student.  Unless they include their name as part of the response, you won't know who said what.  It keeps things anonymous, but for a teacher who wants to be able to know which students missed that review question to provide guidance to that specific student, it won't happen automatically.  

Also, another limitation to be aware of is that you can only have up to 40 responses on a single poll.  This shouldn't be a problem for most classrooms because you can always create another poll for another class.  You can also create multiple polls for the same class if you need to ask more than one question. If you would like more options beyond what they give you in the free plan, they do have several other paid options that range from $15 per month to $1,400 per month.  

One other thing to remember, like with anything else, standard text messaging rates apply.  If students have a texting plan, these texts will be counted towards their total in the plan.  If they go over their texting limit or do not have texting in their plan, they might be charged a small fee per message.  

Tell us what you think.  Does this change the way you look at cell phones in classrooms?

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