Polling activities in the classroom can help both teachers and students in a variety of ways. They provide students with a chance to assess what they have learned so far, and teachers are provided with immediate feedback about where his/her class stands in terms of the topic at hand, and re-shape the teaching strategy accordingly. Polls can also help stimulate discussion amongst students, especially in the case of activities which provide an instant result stemming from a collection of responses.
There are many free services available online, and can be used in a variety of different ways. Some offer teachers the possibility to present answers in an easily recognisable word cloud (with the most popular replies usually taking a larger spot in the cloud), others just list the replies one by one. When used in class, students can work in groups according to the number of PC’s and devices available (not necessarily one per child); whilst they can provide individual feedback when used from home.
Below are two very different Polling tools – the first one, Socrative, has a full list of features available for teachers and can be adapted to a variety of activities. The second one, Answer Garden, is quite minimalistic in comparison and can be used for spontanous, individual, one-off activities.
Socrative allows teachers to create their own login and “classrooms”, and “invite” their students to online, interactive rooms. The free version allows for up to 50 students at a time, so it will suffice for most classroom scenarios. In the case of multiple classrooms (such as in a secondary school scenario), generalized accounts may also be created to allow for multiple students to access different tests. An interesting feature is the ability to create an interactive, real-time “graph” of the results, such a “space race” (refer to picture below).
Socrative is available both on desktop PC’s/laptops and also as an App for tablets. The PC version can be accessed here: www.socrative.com, whilst the App version can be downloaded from Apple App Store or Google Play (for Android). A comprehensive help guide covering all the different features can be found here: https://help.socrative.com/hc/en-us
Answer Garden is a much more minimalistic tool compared to Socrative, but by all means not any less effective. No registration is required, making it quicker and more flexible to use. All one needs to do is choose a topic, decide on the answer format (be it brainstorming, classroom session, etc.), choose if answers are to be submitted in real time or moderated beforehand by a teacher, and the number of characters allowed per answer. It has a (basic) spam filter which can be toggled on/off, and the ability to decide beforehand whether students can use uppercase, lowercase or a mixture of both. Answers are displayed in a ‘Word Cloud’, meaning that all the different responses are grouped together with the most recurring words taking centre stage and represented by larger, bolder fonts. Results can be embedded in a website or blog. For more information, visit Answer Garden on www.answergarden.ch, or take a look at this quick fact sheet: https://answergarden.ch/dls/answergarden_handout_factsheet_2014.pdf.
As per the case of Socrative, Answer Garden has a working Desktop/Laptop version as well as an App for tablets (currently only for Apple devices/iPhone/iPad).
Are you an educator at St. Nicholas College ? You can contact Ms. Amanda Debattista at the office of the College Principal for further assistance on how to use polling applications in a classroom setting. Send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.