Polling solutions can provide affordable means of measuring engagement, understanding
- Audience response systems (ARS) — most often associated with clickers — have a track record of increasing student attendance, attention and engagement, but purchasing clickers and accompanying software can be too costly for many schools.
- Poll Everywhere, a free web-based tool, allows teachers to construct both multiple-choice and open-ended questions that can be used in the midst of lectures to gauge student understanding of what has been taught so far.
- Dr. John Rich, an educational psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Delaware State University, writes for Edutopia that options like Poll Everywhere can increase the number of responses from students, increase student engagement, increase motivation to understand material, and clarify students' thought processes for educators.
Audience response systems, sometimes known as classroom response systems or classroom polling, are one of the ways in which technology has solved an age-old problem in education: getting shy or struggling students to respond to material presented in class. Because these systems are anonymous, students feel freer to respond honestly because they will not be embarrassed or judged by other students for their answers. The anonymity also cuts down on conformity of answers when dealing with controversial topics. Teachers, therefore, are able to make better assessments about how much students know about a topic or how they feel about a concept or idea.
Though these systems are more often used in middle or high school classrooms, they have been shown to have value at the elementary level, as well. In the past, these systems were most often used with multiple choice and true-or-false questions, but newer technologies have expanded capabilities to also include open-ended responses. This allows for deeper classroom discussion of ideas without identifying the source of the idea.
Poll Everywhere and a few other programs offer solutions that capture student responses without the cost of clickers. These are examples of a growing number of programs that are web-based and work on all devices, including the tablets or computers that many schools already own. Most of these systems offer free versions of the program that may work in most classrooms, though many charge for the addition of valuable features that may make the programs more effective. Poll Everywhere, for instance offers special educational programming with premium features that cost $50 a classroom per year, or $1,000 and up for an annual fee for an institution.
These programs seem easy to master and could be easily taught during a professional development session, making them one of easiest, most effective and most affordable ways to incorporate tech into the classroom.