I posted (here) last month about my experiment in Texting While Teaching (and Learning). Over the years, I have experimented with different techniques in an effort to increase and diversify participation in a large class. Prior to this week, I have used clickers, Twitter and texting. I like the clickers, but my school does not own enough of them so that all 100 students in my Federal Income Tax class can use one. In the past, students have resented being required to buy a clicker. There is an option for students to buy and install a (cheaper) license to convert their phone into a clicker, but students have experienced enough technological difficulties with this conversion that class time has been compromised.
Derek Black (South Carolina) commented earlier (here) that he uses pollseverywhere.com, so I decided to give that a try this week. Without any background information or experience using that particular platform, I was able to put together a 10-question presentation for class in about 30 minutes. The basic format was a hypothetical that I delivered to students followed by a slide containing a question (sample below).
Students could respond using either their computers (simply by going to PollEv.com followed by a forward slash and my first initial and last name) or their cellphones. In either case, students did not have to install any special software and there were enough access points in the classroom where I was teaching that no student had trouble getting connected. Students found it helpful/entertaining to see the results of the poll on the screen, as opposed to my reading off the responses like I did during my texting-while-teaching experiment. Many of my students already take class notes on a computer, so they have the technology up and running in front of them. For those who pulled out their cellphones, the transition to texting did not take much time. The poll allowed students (and me) to get real-time feedback about how well they understood a concept. When the overwhelming number of students got a question right, I knew I did not have to spend much time explaining. When the class results were mixed (as with the question shown above), I knew I had to spend more time explaining. This type of real-time feedback is valuable to both students and the professor.
If I were to use polleverywhere.com more regularly, I would look into buying a subscription. Otherwise, each poll can record only the first 40 answers. For many classes, that would be enough, but in Fed Tax and Wills, Trusts & Estates this semester, I have well over 40 students. Comparing the poll software to other techniques I have tried, I found it less distracting to me to use the poll software than to receive tweets or texts. In terms of rhythm and timing, the poll software most resembles teaching with clickers. From the students' perspective, though, the poll software seemed a bit more natural (and they were not asked to buy anything). All in all, this was a worthwhile experiment and one I will repeat.