Live Polling of Your Students with Poll Everywhere

A Screenshot of a Poll Everywhere Slide

Poll Everywhere is an online service that allows you to poll an audience through text-messaging. The polling mechanism is quite simple (and therefore easy for audiences to use): every answer in your poll has a unique number, and audience members text that number to Poll Everywhere’s 6-digit short code. The real magic occurs next, as you and your audience watch the results roll in, live.

I’ve been saying “audience,” but what I really have in mind is “students.” You ask your students a question, they respond, and the results appear instantly and anonymously. The survey graphs dynamically resize themselves according to the latest results, which is quite fun to watch as a group. Pedagogically-speaking, Poll Everywhere is similar to clickers in the classroom, but it uses technology most students already have—their cell phones. From the professor’s perspective all it requires is a computer and a projector in the classroom.

How might you use Poll Everywhere with your students? I recommend Derek Bruff’s Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments as a great starting point. Derek provides a treasure trove of research-based teaching strategies for clickers, most of which can be easily adapted for Poll Everywhere. Derek, who is an occasional guest ProfHacker contributor, also provides some terrific resources on his site, Agile Learning. For my own part, I used Poll Everywhere at the end of the semester to see how my students evaluated their own learning, by asking how well they could explain some of the key concepts of the class to a friend (the image above is an example of one of these questions). The results of each polling question then led our class to a discussion about the concept itself, what made it difficult, how they might explain it, and so on.

Poll Everywhere is not without its limits. A free account only accepts 40 responses per question—perfect for my standard classes, but not useful for a large lecture class. (You can accept more than 40 responses by upgrading to a paid account, though the prices are so steep that it’s only practical if your institution pays for it.) Also, the live updating of results only works with PowerPoint on a Windows machine, although you can see the results live on Poll Everywhere’s site from within a browser. Finally, the one constraint that would seem to be a limit is not at all: if your students are worried about SMS charges through their cell phone carrier, they can also vote via Twitter or through Poll Everywhere’s website.

Have you used Poll Everywhere or another classroom response system? What has worked for you? And how might you use Poll Everywhere outside of the classroom?

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