Mentimeter – Engaging your students

“Clickers for engagement” by Alan Wolf. Creative Commons licence CC BY
Clickers for engagement” by Alan Wolf. Creative Commons licence CC BY

Introduction

Voting tools, ‘clickers’ or audience response systems are all terms for the combination of software and hardware which enable students or audiences to click a button on a device and have their votes display rapidly and dynamically on a screen.

There are many audience response solutions available, ranging from comprehensive systems with dedicated credit-card like controls, to elegant online software which partners well with ubiquitous mobile technology such as phones, tablets or laptops.

One such online tool is called Mentimeter. It is easy to use and very quick to display results in real time. In common with most online tools, Mentimeter has both a free and paid-for versions. Free versions often have restrictions which limit their usefulness, but Mentimeter’s free version does not have a limit on the number of students who can participate and includes the two most popular question types for voting – multiple choice and those which call for a free text, or ‘tweeted’ answer.

How to use Mentimeter

Instructors can create a free account with Mentimeter and prepare as many questions as they wish before a lecture or teaching session. During the lecture, students participate by visiting a web page on their phone and entering the number displayed on the screen to begin voting. A distinct advantage of Mentimeter is that students do not have to create their own account or download an app. To vote, they just need to enter new question numbers displayed on-screen in front of them. All votes are anonymous.

Using voting tools for teaching and learning

You can use Mentimeter (or a similar voting tool) to add some interactivity to a lecture or to take a quick ‘pulse’ to gauge understanding at the start or the end of a session. Voting tools are invaluable for the Flipped Classroom model in which students undertake some learning before the in-class time. When students come to the contact session, a voting tool can be used to see how well they have understood what they have learned. A multiple choice question can be set and if the majority of responses are correct, students can partner up and try and convince the other that they are right!

Questions which require a free text answer are great for prompting discussions. Students can ‘tweet’ sentences which appear on-screen in front of the group. With Mentimeter, you can highlight one of the contributions by bringing it to the centre of the display where it is automatically highlighted.

You can keep a Mentimeter voting session open for a space of time and you can embed the live results on your Blackboard. When students vote, they can refresh the page and see how their choice has altered the results. Note that the embedded version doesn’t display on Apple iOS devices, so just include a link to the live voting page so students can view it just by a single click.

Mentimeter
You can embed a vote into Blackboard

Help and advice

If you are thinking of trying out an online tool such as Mentimeter, your Faculty Learning Technologist will help you start out. It is important to note, however, that Web 2.0 tools are not centrally supported by the University. Check out their Help facilities and video guides so you know that you have recourse to specific support and always read the Privacy Policy and the Terms and Conditions before signing up. With any technology, it is always advisable to have a Plan B too!

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