Plickers – Engaging your Students

“Plickers” by Wayne Barry. All rights reserved.
“Plickers” by Wayne Barry. All rights reserved.

Introduction

Plickers is another free online voting tool that can be used to engage students. However, where it differs from many other online tools is that it combines an app that the instructor downloads (free of charge) with paper/cards that the students use. This means that students do not need any technology to take part so no student is disadvantaged if they do not have a smart phone/tablet. The student registers their vote using specially designed cards.  The camera in the app ‘reads’ these votes which are fed back to the tutor and can be displayed on a computer screen in real time if you want the students to view them.

How to use Plickers

Instructors create a free account with Plickers and download the app which available via Apple or Android. N.B. Please ensure that you select ‘iphone only’ when searching via the Apple store even though the app will work on ipad

You can print out cards (free) or order them online. Each card has a unique number which you can choose to assign to students by name or the students can be anonymous.  You can add classes and assign students cards through the Plickers website. New questions can be created in your ‘Library’ within the website and organised into folders. The questions can include images and are either multiple choice or true/false. The instructor uses the app to select the question to be answered and clicks on the camera icon to scan student’s responses. The cards are rotated by the students to select their answers.

Advantages

  • Free and easy to use software Students do not need any technology as they do not download an app
  • Tutors can view a report of the questions and how they were answered
  • You can assign students to cards or use anonymous voting
  • Immediate results can be made visible to students via the Plickers web page

Disadvantages

  • Limited to 63 users
  • Limited question types (MCQs, T/F)
  • Not integrated with powerpoint
  • Need wifi access
  • Need sufficient lighting to enable the camera to pick up images

Pedagogic value

Audience response systems can be used to increase student engagement. As a lecturer you are able to adapt content in response to student answers. It could be used to stimulate debate and discussion and it can be used to help students interact throughout the lecture and enhance learner motivation.

What next?

There are help resources available on the Plickers website including a useful Getting started guide. There is also an introductory YouTube video which you might find useful.

If you would like to discuss how Plicker could be useful to you, please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.

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!

Socrative – Engaging your students

“Sócrates” by  Carlos Blanco. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA
Sócrates” by Carlos Blanco. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

About Socrative

Socrative is a smart, yet simple, participant response system (PRS) which turns students’ smartphones and tablets into ‘virtual clickers’. The system allows the tutor to engage with their students through a series of interactive polls, quizzes and games that they have devised to check their students understanding of the course material during face-to-face lectures.

Socrative derives its name from the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates (470/469–399 BC), and in particular, the Socratic Method which is a form of inquiry and discussion between individuals, requiring the individuals to ask and answer questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas.

Getting Started

Tutors can create a free Socrative account using an e-mail address or a Google Mail account from either a PC or a mobile device. The tutor will be given their own ‘room’ in which to create polls and quizzes, though it is advisable to rename the ‘room’ to something that is easy to remember (or include the ‘room’ name in any PowerPoint presentations being used). The ‘room’ will be the means in which students will gain access to the polls and quizzes, therefore students will not be required to sign up and create an account.

Socrative currently offers three question formats: multiple-choice (these can be turned into multiple-response), true or false, and short answer. Questions can be enriched with the inclusion of images and/or feedback. The site is supported with a useful help site and a YouTube channel.

The Benefits

  • Socrative is free.
  • The software is simple and easy to use.
  • Requires no additional hardware (e.g. no clickers).
  • You can create multiple quizzes.
  • Students can respond ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’.
  • Good for concept checking and for checking class understanding before, during and after the lesson.
  • Can create games out of your quizzes.
  • Results can be made immediately available.
  • Results can be downloaded in Microsoft Excel.
  • Socrative has very good supporting help materials and videos.

The Barriers

  • Limited question diversity (MCQs, T/F, short answer).
  • Limited to 50 concurrent users.
  • Does require students having access to a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
  • No Microsoft PowerPoint integration.
  • Wi-Fi enabled room.

Getting Access

Tutors can download the Socrative ‘Teacher’ app from Google Play or iTunes. Alternatively, they can log on to a mobile friendly website.

Students can download the Socrative ‘Student’ app from Google Play or iTunes. Alternatively, they can enter the ‘room’ via a mobile friendly website.

Pedagogic Value

Such a tool could be used to increase student engagement (Addison et al., 2009) and classroom interactivity (Blasco-Arcas et al., 2013), provide instantaneous feedback, stimulate peer instruction, check and deepen students understanding of the course material (Arteaga & Vinken, 2013).

Where Next?

There is a very helpful and comprehensive user guide that is available from Socrative for tutors who are interested in giving this service a go. Alternatively, watch the video below that gives a brief overview of the Socrative tool.

If you would like to discuss how Socrative could be useful to you, please contact your Faculty Learning Technologist and arrange for a chat.

References

Addison, S., Wright, A. & Milner, R. (2009). “Using Clickers to Improve Student Engagement and Performance in an Introductory Biochemistry Class”. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 37(2), pp. 84-91. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.20264 [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Arteaga, I.L. & Vinken, E. (2013). “Example of good practice of a learning environment with a classroom response system in a mechanical engineering bachelor course”. European Journal of Engineering Education, 38(6), pp. 652-660. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03043797.2012.719000 [Accessed 24.2.2015].

Blasco-Arcas, L., Buil, I., Hernández-Ortega, B. & Sese, F.J. (2013). “Using clickers in class. The role of interactivity, active collaborative learning and engagement in learning performance”. Computers & Education, 62, pp. 102-110. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.019 [Accessed 24.2.2015].