Erin Kasprzak

Poll Everywhere: Students, Take Out Your Phones.

I know that classroom mobile phone policies can be a fraught subject. Student distraction is a real concern, and handheld technology gives students a tool that introduces a constant stream of outside input (social media, news alerts, games) that often seem far more interesting than the class material or activities. One way to combat this is to make the phones or devices part of the learning experience.

During the 2016–17 academic year, the Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) conducted a pilot of Poll Everywhere as a classroom response system. Poll Everywhere is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) clicker system used primarily to poll or quiz students in a face to face classroom. Poll Everywhere allows students to answer questions in class on their personal device (phone, tablet, or laptop) and visualizes their responses in real time. It’s an easy way to engage students, build more interaction into your teaching, and gauge student understanding. It’s also a great tool to use for “fun” in the classroom, from a quick icebreaker to a complex trivia competition.

Live-answer classroom response activities can support learning in a variety of ways:

  • helping students to draw on prior knowledge
  • driving classroom discussion
  • providing real-time feedback about student comprehension
  • bringing active learning to the classroom

If you want to dip your toe into classroom response activities with Poll Everywhere, they offer a free higher education account that supports up to 40 individual responses, integrates with presentation software (PowerPoint, Google slides), and includes all of the various question types, from multiple choice and open response to clickable images.

5 Tips for getting started with Poll Everywhere in the Classroom:

  1. Be prepared. Give yourself some time to learn the tool. Create your polls ahead of time and practice running the presentation.
  2. Set expectations. Explain why you’re using polling and how you want students to participate. Give clear instructions, and start with a practice poll.
  3. Slow down. Give your students some time to think and respond, especially at the beginning.
  4. Change it up. Distribute the polls throughout the lecture or class time and vary the types of questions to keep students engaged with the material.
  5. Be flexible. Sometimes the wifi doesn’t work, or the plugin that makes polls work in PowerPoint isn’t installed on the classroom computer. Many of these activities can be translated into low (or no) tech.

Need ideas for specific classroom response activities? Curious about the pedagogy behind classroom response? Derek Bruff, director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching, and classroom response guru, has put together an excellent resource on Classroom Response Systems. Poll Everywhere also has a blog that is regularly updated with ideas specifically for Higher Ed. You also might want to watch this video we produced for examples of how DePaul professors are using classroom response systems such as Poll Everywhere in their classes.

Based on solidly positive feedback from students and instructors during the pilot, DePaul has decided to adopt Poll Everywhere, which will allow faculty to use the pro features, including eliminating the 40-student limit, robust reporting and grading, answer moderation, and sharing polls between faculty. DePaul faculty interested in using Poll Everywhere should contact the Mobile Learning Initiative at moli@depaul.edu.

Erin Kasprzak

About Erin Kasprzak

Erin Kasprzak is an Instructional Technology Consultant and also teaches online for DePaul’s School for New Learning. She began working in higher education in 2006, primarily in instructional design and technology positions, and has been at DePaul since 2011. She is also a co-lead of DePaul’s Mobile Learning Initiative. Erin has a B.A. in English and History from Bradley University and an M.A. in Modern East European History from Indiana University, Bloomington. She spends as much time as possible on a bicycle—commuting, on a weekend group ride, or racing.

Leave a Reply