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!

Screencast Away!

"Moon Light Screening" by mic wernej. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
Moon Light Screening” by mic wernej. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

A screencast is a narrated video recording of whatever you choose to play or display on your computer screen and saved as a short, bite-sized clip for students to play and replay in their own time, in any place and at their own pace.

Screencasts are an effective way of visually demonstrating a process or an abstract concept for students to access as many times as they need. They provide an alternative method of instruction, giving variety to learning resources. They can also encourage self-directed learning, allowing students to take more responsibility and ownership of their studies.

Dr Craig Smith, Lecturer in the School of Media, Art and Design here at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) has been using screencasts in one of his modules using Screen Recorder Pro on a Macintosh PC. I asked him some questions about his experience.

Dr Craig Smith
Dr Craig Smith, Lecturer in Digital Media

How have you been using screencasts?
I have created a series of short screencasts to explain and demonstrate specific examples of web design code and put them on the module Blackboard for my students to view any time they want.

Has it been a time-consuming exercise?
Not really, I had a lot of the material already which I adapted for the purpose.

Has it saved time?
In the medium and long-term, yes. If my students are having difficulty and it’s applicable, I can refer them to the video clips. This has saved me repeating instructions over and again, allowing me to concentrate on other topics or students in class. Now I have created these clips, they are there and will remain relevant for at least 18 months.

Do you know how many students are viewing them?
Yes, using Blackboard’s Statistics Tracking on the Content folder in which the clips are located and by survey, I have a good idea of whether they are being used. Approximately 40% of my students have accessed them.

What do your students think of the video clips?
They have mostly found them helpful. There is a perception that the lecturer has taken the time to create specific content for them.

Here is some of their feedback:

“It was surprisingly easy to learn from a video tutorial and they are all in a good quality so I could stop or go back in a video which is really useful too”

“They were incredibly useful, I used them to get a better understanding of the more complex aspects of the HTML and CSS which helped me to complete my assessments on time. If more were to be added I would use them again…”

Screencast Icon
Screencast Icon

How have they helped your teaching?
They have been really useful for students who have missed a session and for students who need instructions repeated. They can do this whenever they need to and wherever they are. They can view the clips as many times as they want to reinforce what has been learnt. The video clips focus on just one aspect of what I am teaching and students have found them a really accessible way of learning. It’s important to cater for students who respond to visual forms of media.

Do you envisage creating more screencasts?
I can see them being very useful for other software mini-tutorials such as Photoshop. The visual element really appeals to students, some of whom respond better to this type of resource than to lengthy written material.

How would you sum your experience of using screencasts?
It’s a useful supplemental tool that aids the lecturer and student. It’s never intended to replace classroom teaching, instead it’s a convenient learning tool that some students really benefit from.

You can use Kaltura, a tool integrated into Blackboard, to easily create your own screencasts. If you would like to know more, contact your Faculty Learning Technologist, or sign up for a Kaltura session at the Blackboard Festival.