I’ve just finished my first semester experimenting with a classroom response system and thought this would be a good time to collect a few observations. You may recall that I opted not to implement a clicker system but rather adopted Poll Everywhere as the means to collect student responses. Using Poll Everywhere allowed students to respond via text message or the web, with most of my students choosing text messages most of the time. Because I had the students register on the site, I could attribute their responses with their names and have a record of their participation.
I found myself mainly using the response system to quiz students on a topic we had just covered, usually from the previous class meeting. As with all such teaching approaches, the system is only as good as the quality of the questions, and I found it challenging to write consistently useful questions. I can imagine that the longer I use this approach, the better question bank I will accumulate across all the topics we discuss. On a related note, I must confess that I found the question bank supplied by the textbook publisher mostly worthless. In preparation for a class I would typically scan over their file of questions, but almost never used anything from it, which was surprising. I also found certain topics to be difficult to approach with the response polling system and ended up just having students use more of the think-pair-share approach for some subjects because it seemed less constricting.
Although I had the students register, I found that I didn’t actually use the information from their registration all that much. I could probably get by without that step in the future, but I think the students took it more seriously knowing that I would be reviewing their activity. I did use the data in a broad way when assigning participation points, just not as much as I thought I would.
Throughout the semester, I kept being surprised at the teachable moments created by using this kind of approach. Time and again I stumbled upon misconceptions and misunderstandings that were exposed by the polling system. Although we would circle back on the topic as a class, when I challenged the students on a similar topic on the midterm, I often found students remained unclear, which was disappointing. I need to become better informed about how to remedy such misunderstandings in the moment.
All in all, using the Poll Everywhere system was well worth it in the classroom. It was easy to get going, easy to create new questions, and easy to implement during class time. In an exit survey, nearly every student agreed that the in-class polls were very helpful for understanding class material.