Ever stare out into a roomful of your students’ faces as you explain the role of the comma in differentiating restrictive and non-restrictive adjective clauses? I have. After a few terms, I began to wonder whether those blank stares indicated that students were overwhelmed by the topic, or bored because they already understood this material and couldn’t wait to move on, or were just plain bored (though I was pretty confident the latter was true.)
I thought it would be great if we teachers could adopt the same technology that the network news teams use when they take a roomful of average citizens and make them watch debates with a dial in their hand. By turning the dial left when they are happy and right when they are not, an average response is displayed in a graph that scrolls across the bottom of the screen. Wouldn’t it be great if students could dial between “I don’t understand. Slow down.” and “I get it. Move on.”? For now, we must make do with the analog, “Any questions?”
Getting live feedback can be very useful in the classroom. Poll Everywhere is a website that makes creating live polls extremely easy. With a free account, you can create a poll that allows up to 30 responses by web, text message, smartphone or Twitter. You can even download your poll on a PowerPoint slide, which you can use to observe the results as they roll in. More features are available for paid accounts.
Polls are very easy to set up, but there are lots of good online tutorials out there, including this one by Sue Frantz. These kinds of polls can do a great job of gathering instant feedback from your students using technology they likely already have with them (instead of requiring them to purchase Clickers, devices with only one function.) Whether asking students if they the pace of the class is appropriate or checking comprehension of content, Poll Everywhere is an extremely flexible tool that can be used in a wide variety of situations.