Encouraging student participation face-to-face or online


Death to clickers

I am generally not one for lecturing in front of a class of students; as they say, “talking ain’t teaching.” But that doesn’t mean that I don’t do it periodically. And when I do, I like to get the students involved. The tools for electronically supporting this process have progressed a long way past clickers. Students can use their cell phones, tablets, or laptops, and now they can do a lot more than just answer true/false or multiple choice questions. And their interfaces that they have to use are pretty good, too.

Here are a few of the newer possibilities and their stronger features.

LectureTools

LectureTools

LectureTools is a whole lecture delivery system. It allows students to respond to multiple types of questions, ask questions, and flag a slide as confusing. I have written a previous post about using LectureTools to broadcast a class. This system can definitely be used for face-to-face, online, or blended setups. It is quite seamless from the professor’s point of view.

One surprising feature that I like is that what is shown on the student’s screen is controlled by the student; that is, when the professor clicks to go to the next slide, the student has to click on his or her own computer to coordinate with the change. This, at least to a little extent, keeps the student out of “TV mode” and makes him or her pay attention.

Socrative

Socrative

Socrative is a student input system that allows students to participate via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Within the flow of the class, a professor can introduce a student-paced or professor-paced quiz. In addition to the standard T/F and multiple choice questions, Socrative can integrate short open-ended text questions. The professor can track who responded in what way to what questions; a report about responses can be delivered via downloaded Excel file. I can easily see using this for pre- and post-tests for a specific class or topic. Students can also be grouped into teams so that if any one student on a team gets the question right, the whole team is considered to have gotten it right.

They maintain a useful blog about possible uses for this in the classroom. They also have a good introductory video that shows how students and teachers use the system.

PollEverywhere

Poll Everywhere

PollEverywhere is a super powerful, flexible, and scalable system. In short, it allows T/F, multiple choice and free text questions to be asked; students can respond via phone, tablet, or web; responses can be displayed live in a presentation or on a Web page. They also have a page with a series of videos explaining the features of their voting system. It has a wide range of different pricing plans and is used by many large organizations. This page describes its many and varied options for asking questions and gathering responses.

TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet is a different type of system that allows students to make comments, ask questions, and answer questions online during a presentation. Every person in the “virtual room” can see the comments as they are made. This room is a private channel (i.e., not public like Twitter) that enables the audience to communicate via what’s known as the back channel. If your audience isn’t twitter-literate, or if you want to keep the comments from public exposure, then you should definitely look into this system.

Wrap-up

So, that’s a nice selection of tools for your class. Many times students don’t want to raise their hands in class, but they still have questions. Why not make it easier for them to ask questions? Also, it can definitely be somewhat cumbersome and slow to ask a question of the class and then tally all the responses; some of these tools make that process dead simple. Other times, you want to have an idea of what your students know walking into a class (or before they walk out); these tools make that process painless as well.

There’s something here for almost everybody. Which one is for you?

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