Managing student responses

March 3, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Posted in educational, student response systems | Leave a comment

We are piloting the Meetoo web-based student response system which supports in-class messaging as well as polling. Students can send messages which are immediately visible to the whole cohort, and click to ‘like’ messages they agree with. It is also possible for the tutor to moderate messages, but let’s leave that feature aside for now.

I’d like to share and reflect on the experiences of James Wilson, a colleague in our Faculty of Health Sciences, who used Meetoo for the first time this week in a session about mental health issues for around 80 students. His feedback to me included:

During the session I personally found it a challenge to multi-task – it meant juggling my oral engagement with the audience while monitoring the message board. During the session the message board exploded with comments and I simply could not keep track.

At the start of the session he invited the students to share their thoughts and questions throughout, and these mainly appeared as three ‘bursts’ of 10-15 messages around specific themes.  Most of the messages were comments on the content of the session and none required an answer from the tutor, so there was no need for James to ‘keep track’. A total of 81 students answered polling questions using Meetoo, so it seems only a minority were sending (and reading?) messages.

Some typical comments:

Medication can solve a large portion as many cases can be along the route of chemical imbalance in the brain.
Mental illness often involves a combination of medical and therapeutic interventions like CBT, counselling therapies etc.
Giving a tablet to someone does not get to the root cause of the problem!!!!! We should be helping not medicating straight away

Suggested good practice

Tutors could ask for comments at a few relevant points during a session, and just review messages as they come in. Some students will send comments, while others will simply use the ‘like’ feature. Directing students to the message feature like this should lead to a higher proportion of students engaging with it. The Meetoo FAQs indicate that it will soon be possible to sort messages by the number of likes, which would be helpful.

In a recent webinar, Meetoo said that they would soon offer an open-text question type, but those are best suited to one or two-word answers, so I still think messages are the best way for students to share comments. The tutor can mark selected messages as ‘favorites’ and I understand that it will soon be possible to share just these messages with the students via a Projector tab. This would enable the tutor to gather feedback from the whole class and then re-focus their attention on a few of the key points raised. I think there is also an opportunity here for the tutor to ask students to spend a few minutes discussing those key points in small groups.

Perhaps if students have a question they would like the tutor to answer, they could prefix their message with a Q – for example “Q why do you think mental health issues are increasingly affecting teenagers?” The tutor could quickly review the messages towards the end of the session and either answer these at that point, later online or in the next session.

Social messages

Students sent social messages at the very start of the session, but these stopped as soon as the session got underway. There were no inappropriate messages; just jokey ones. I think this is a good example of students exploring how the system works and then getting focused.

I spy beginning with w
window?
To the walls…
Yay window
*leaves conversation

Finally, one student posted a very positive comment at the end of the session about the use of Meetoo which got ten likes:

Awesome app. Should be used for all our lectures! Encourages more discussion for us shy ones ??

This initial feedback indicates that Meetoo offer an easy-to-use and effective medium for in-class comments that encourages discussion, and that further experience will help us develop and strengthen its impact on learning.

 

 

Bringing interactive storybooks to life in the classroom

December 12, 2016 at 10:11 am | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment
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I was invited by the Meetoo team to write a guest article for their blog, providing a bit more context to my recent post about the use of Meetoo in-class polling to enable students to control progress through a branching storyline. Read it here, including some confessions about my teenage years (roll 3D6 to make your saving throw against Spotty Nerds with Specs!)

Update: I found a video from Poll Everywhere in which a medic, Jeff Solheim, uses student voting on a trauma-injury scenario to show them how their choices affect the patient.

Using interactive scenarios in class

October 21, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Posted in educational, student response systems, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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My colleague James Wilson has been using a technique called Forum Theatre since 2004 to help engage Health Science students in complex issues around the lived experience of people with mental health problems, in particular their interactions with the health care system. He works with other staff and students to devise a short improvised play that exposes the issues, which they then perform in class. The audience can interrupt the play at any point and suggest alternative courses of action; the cast improvise to show how that might affect the outcome. The play is usually run several times during the session to explore the various choices and consequences.

James has also experimented with using in-class voting using Turning Point clickers to allow the whole class to suggest alternative courses of action. At specific points a voting slide is displayed and the students chose which option they favour; the play proceeds based on the most popular choice. This also simplifies rehearsal since the play is now a branching scenario with a small set of fixed decision points, although much of the script is still improvised.

Although this technique is highly effective and gets great feedback, it does require a good deal of rehearsal time and a cast prepared to improvise in front of an audience. I wondered if a slide-based scenario using in-class polling could provide similar educational benefits, and have developed a small demo to show how it might work. A key principle is that students should discuss the choices in small groups (e.g. ‘turn to your neighbours’, so this would work with large cohorts in a tiered lecture theatre) before voting individually.

I believe this approach has applications in many disciplines, from health sciences and medicine to engineering, business studies, environmental studies, languages – in fact any topic where the tutor can imagine a learning scenario.

Creating an interactive scenario

The first step is to sketch out the scenario, using pencil and paper or a tool like Visio. The scenario comprises a collection of nodes linked by choices. In the planning stage, each node is just a short description (e.g. “get on train”). Make sure your nodes are initially widely spaced so you can easily add extra nodes between them as the scenario develops. Longer scenario should be structured into distinct segments that are connected by just one or two choices. I think that all the Fighting Fantasy adventure game books by Ian Livingstone that I played when I was young were great training for this style of writing!

plan

I then created an template slide with areas for the story text, an image and the choices; with a bit more thought I would have used a Slide Master for this. I copied the template to create one PowerPoint slide for each node, each with a descriptive title (e.g. “Catch the first train”). Images were used to help make the scenario seem more ‘real’.

Each node should not have more than a couple of short paragraphs; if students need to view detailed information about the scenario, make it available online or on paper. The writing is perhaps the most challenging part; it needs to be authentic, concise and carry the story along. The choices should guide student discussion that supports the learning outcomes, and it should not be trivial to identify the ‘correct’ choice.

Both Turning Point and Meetoo make it easy to convert a numbered list of choices into a polling question. For technical reasons this needs to be done before the next step, which is to link each choice to the relevant slide. In PowerPoint, select the choice’s text, right-click and choose Hyperlink > Place in this document > target slide title. Good descriptive titles for each slide greatly assist this process and also contribute to the storytelling of that node by setting the context.

ppt-link

The final step is testing; making sure that all the links work correctly and that the scenario guides the students to the discussions you want them to have. You may want to add extra links that make it easy to jump back from a node that describes a poor outcome to an earlier node so that students can make a different choice.

Update: here is the PowerPoint file for the scenario. Note that you will need a (free) Meetoo account and have installed the Meetoo PowerPoint add-in for the polling to function.

MeeToo online polling

March 31, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Posted in student response systems, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

multi-device_ME_Rt

MeeToo is designed as a business tool to support meetings and conferences, but provides some strong educational features. Its overall design is clean and modern, and I found the user interface simple to understand and quick to use. The messaging feature in particular offers some interesting new ways to communicate with the class, get comments/questions/feedback from them and make it easy for students to indicate which of these they agree with. The free PowerPoint add-in offers similar ease-of-use to TurningPoint and really integrates the questions into your slides.

Meetings: A collection of poll questions are called a Meeting, which are named (e.g. MANG1001 week 1) and have a defined start and end date/time. Each meeting has a unique nine-digit ID (eg 121-284-301) which students will use to access the questions and vote. An Invite button makes it simple to send an email with the key details, including a link to the iOS and Android apps. Students can also vote using any modern web browser.

Messages: If enabled (default is ON), Messages can be sent by the Host (tutor) to all students, and students can send messages which again everyone can read.  The Host can edit or manually hide any message. The Host can also activate Moderation (default is OFF) which means that all new messages are stored in an area called Needs Review. The Host can then drag these to another area; Reviewed, Published or Hidden. This enables the Host to select which messages students see in a very controlled way.

A ‘thumbs-up’ icon next to each published message enables students to quickly indicate their agreement, and provides another way to gauge opinion and conduct quick polls based on student suggestions. In a lecture it would also enable students to easily provide feedback to the tutor about which questions (from other students) they would most like the tutor to address.

A neat feature for the Host is the ability to activate a ‘Projector’ mode that opens a new browser window that just shows the messages in a chosen area (e.g Reviewed)  as well as the number of ‘likes’ each is receiving. It looks like this will work best for say 5 or 6 chosen messages without scrolling.

Polls: All questions are simple multiple choice or multiple response with a set number of allowed selections. Results can be shown as number of votes, % of votes, or both. To create a question the tutor just types the question text and the answer choices (one per line). There is no support for formatting, maths or images. The interface makes it easy to duplicate, delete or edit questions. Polls can be individually opened and closed by the Host, and student votes are immediately shown on the tutor’s screen. Again there is a ‘Projector’ mode that opens in a new browser window and shows the current question and answer choices, but not the live polling results. When polling is closed the tutor can push the results to the ‘projector’ and to the students’ screens.

PowerPoint Add-in: this free download for Windows PowerPoint (only) uses Microsoft’s .NET framework, which may require an additional download depending on your version of Windows. It adds the MeeToo ribbon to PowerPoint which makes it easy to add questions to new or existing presentations. Standard slides that have the question as the slide title and the options as a bulleted list can be automatically converted to a question slide. It is also possible to add Analysis slides that either a) show the results of up to six polls on the same screen, b) recall the results of a previous poll or c) total the results of up to six polls. Options a) and c) require all polls to have the same number of answer options. Display options include the ability to hide the results, show a countdown clock, play sounds  during and at the end of polling, and (very neatly) select chart elements so they can be easily formatted and styled to match the rest of the presentation. All of these are ‘per slide’ – there is no way to apply these choices to all slides. A ‘sample results’ button simplifies testing of questions if required.

The tutor needs to access their MeeToo account in advance to set up the Meeting, since the meeting ID (as well as their username and password) is required to connect PowerPoint. A button on the toolbar then provides instant access to the MeeToo web dashboard. Questions created in PowerPoint are copied to the dashboard when the questions are displayed.

During the presentation, question slides are initially displayed with polling disabled and the tutor must press Enter to start polling (and the countdown timer if used) and Enter again to stop polling and display the results (unless hidden by choice).

Cost: MeeToo offers a free educational licence for up to 100 students/lecture. Annual licences are available for 500 students (£845) and 1000 students (£1495) but this is for a single user (tutor) and although this might be awkwardly sharable between a programme team, there is no multi-tutor site licence available.

Poll Everywhere user group

February 12, 2016 at 11:03 am | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment
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PollEverywhere_Dani_Arama

Monday saw the first meeting of the UK HE/FE Poll Everywhere user group, held at Regent’s University London in an oasis of green at the heart of that city. The attendance of around 35 people shows the level of interest in Poll Everywhere, a system which has its roots in education.

Dani Arama, PE’s education support manager, had flown in from San Fransico, and gave us an quick tour of new features and a heads-up of others still in development – for example an attendance tool. She was also able to clarify some of our questions about licencing and it was reassuring to hear that if (for example) you paid for 2000 licences, there was no hard ‘cut off’ and that there would just be a discussion with PE about moving to a more suitable plan. In addition, she said that with prior negotiation some exceptional uses could be taken into account, such as use at a one-off big conference. This is clearly a different model to that we have with ResponseWare, where I’ve had to set up a shared calendar to help tutors ensure that we don’t exceed our licence limit (250) to avoid some students not being able to vote.

There were three presentations from current users:

Jorge Freire from City University London outlined their pilot project to evaluate and compare Poll Everywhere and ResponseWare. Areas of interest include integration with their VLE, analytics and reports, account management, authentication and ease of use in practice. They will also be exploring tutor’s concerns about the use of mobile phones in class and the increased potential for distraction.

Darren Gash from the University of Surrey discussed their move from Turning Point clickers available through library loans to Poll Everywhere. Some students were reluctant to borrow and use the clickers as their ws a £50 fine if they lost it, and in a survey 87% of 149 students preferred using own device to clickers, and 93% of 150 found PE easy to use. He also introduced two case studies – in one, students studying a ‘Pyschology and Education’ module discussed a topic in class then typed their individual 100-150 response into an open text question. The tutor downloaded all the responses, gave each brief feedback and uploaded that as a single document to the VLE the following day. Initially student answers were shorter and the tutor feedback longer, but as the weeks went on that reversed – they provided better, more detailed answers and less feedback was required.

Denis Duret from the University of Liverpool shared the outcomes of a comparative study between card Communicubes, Turning Point clickers and Poll Everywhere; 62% of students preferred PE. The clickers were seen as more reliable and less distracting than phones, but students didn’t like cost. Again, their were staff concerns about the use of mobile phones in class.

The user group also discussed ideas for activities and meetings; the preference was for regular webinars plus an annual face-to-face event.

Voting for Fidel

January 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Posted in student response systems, waffle | Leave a comment
Fidel1_DanielaHealey

Winning poster by Daniela Healey

Yesterday I was pleased to be able to help my friend and colleague Dr Denise Baden run an X-Factor style gala event at which five groups of young people from schools and colleges performed their own songs about Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. The aim is to ‘crowd-source’ a complete musical, and the first performance will hopefully take place in Southampton later this year.

My role was to manage the audience voting using TurningPoint and clickers, so I worked with Denise to design the slides provided technical support at the event. I suggested that the voting slides used 1-5 stars instead of rating each song from ‘very good’ to ‘not good’ and I wasn’t happy with the middle ‘neutral’ choice… what does it mean to be neutral about a piece of music?

The event was thoroughly enyoyable… and quite stressful! I had my fair share of technical problems with the audio (from the laptop to the PA system), Turning Point (despite prior testing) and the data projector (which wouldn’t show the whole screen, so I had to re-design the slides). However, the five performances were fantastic and in the end ‘it all went alright on the night’. The audience votes (around 240) were hurriedly combined with those from the expert musical panel and the winner’s certificates presented. The clickers were also used to quickly gather research data from the audience to help evaluate the impact of the project – we all need to ‘show impact’ these days!

You can find out more about the project and listen to some of the music at its website and Facebook page. Viva La Revolution and Hasta La Victoria!

 

ParticiPoll – review

November 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment

ParticiPoll http://www.participoll.com/ is a online service that enables simple polls to be added to Powerpoint presentations. At the moment it only works with Windows and PowerPoint 2010 or later – see their how-to guide for a overview of its use.

The system enables presenters to add a multiple-choice poll (6 choices max) to any slide that lists those choices using A-F bullets. Voters use any web browser to navigate to a unique URL – in my case http://adam.participoll.com – to make their choice. The add-in makes it easy to add a large QR code to a slide to simplify access. The voting screen always shows six possible choices and does not refresh after each vote – I liked this and thought it made it really easy to use – just click to vote when a new poll is shown. The free version shows adverts, but they did not seem to be intrusive.

ParticiPoll voting interface

The presenter can see the number of votes cast and the resulting bar graph is hidden until they advance the presentation. The vertical bars show the % and number of votes for each option.

In the free ad-supported version, there is no limit on the number of voters or the number of polls per presentation. Pro licences are available for $10 per month or $100 per year, and enable customisation, private polls, and download of poll data. Crucially, they also enable live audience comments which are shown on a separate web page.

Overall, I thought this was a really easy to use system, and the availability of a low-cost monthly licence with audience comments makes it ideal for occassional events.

Installation

It requires an Add-In to be downloaded and installed, so if academics wish to use it in teaching rooms they will need to install it on a laptop and use that to present. Alternatively, ParticiPoll also provide a macro-enabled file that needs to be run before you open your presentation – I tried this and it seemed easy enough to do at the start of each lecture.

Poll Everywhere – review

February 6, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment

Poll Everywhere http://www.polleverywhere.com/ is a commercial web service that enables live audience voting. There is a ‘try it free’ option for educators which allows up to 40 responses per poll, an annual ‘per-instructor’ option at $349 (up to 400 responses per poll) and an annual institutional site licence for around $3 per student (1000+ responses per poll). The terms and conditions are really clearly explained in plain English – a welcome touch and done with humour! A key strength of this service is the range of options available to voters who can respond via the web, via SMS txt message or via Twitter.

Poll Everywhere tutor's screen showing timer and presentation controls.

Poll Everywhere tutor’s screen showing timer and presentation controls.

Creating a Poll

The tutor logs in to their Poll Everwhere account, clicks the Create Poll button and types the question stem. They can choose whether audience response is open-ended (i.e. free text response), multiple choice (one answer) or clickable image.

The next step is to configure the poll:

  • how people can respond (website/SMS txt message/Twitter);
  • how many times each person can respond (default is once) and whether their response is anonymous (this option applies where registered  participants are responding);
  • auto start-times and stop-times if required, so polls can be scheduled.

The tutor should then test the poll by making it active and voting using the on-screen simulated ‘mobile phone display’ and/or real phones/tablets/etc. to check that the question works as intended. The test results are cleared and the question can then be presented, in fullscreen mode if required.

Multiple-choice questions: the question stem can only be text; there is no image option. The answer options can be text, an image URL or an uploaded image file. The images are resized, but some care still needs to be taken to ensure they work at the small size displayed in the poll. The text can be maths equations expressed using Latex ; just use the prefix “latex:” e.g. latex: V = \frac {4} {3} \pi  r^3

Update: the Visual Settings for the question allow you to upload a logo (JPG, PNG, GIF) that appears above the question stem – and of course this could be part of the question (“what does this photo show” or “name the feature labelled A”). The image cannot be too large, as the poll options also have to fit on the screen and are resized so that they do… so big image = tiny text. So this is a work-around that may meet some needs, but questions about detailed images will need to appear on a separate screen. For example, the tutor could display the image (in PowerPoint? SlideShare?), switch to the browser to show the question and options in Poll Everywhere, then switch back to the image while the students ponder which answer to choose on their devices.

Open-ended questions: display as text wall, word cloud, cluster or ticker. Default is ‘respond as many times as they like’. A profanity filter is available to censor or block responses that include profanity – the default is ‘anything goes!’ – but it is easy to defeat the filter by using accented vowels – Oh cräp! Moderating responses before they appear on-screen is only possible for paid accounts, but can be done by the tutor or an assistant on a separate mobile device to avoid any risk of inappropriate messages being shown to an audience. The word cloud treats every word in a response as separate (e.g. “Chromium Dioxide” appears as “Chromium” and “Dioxide”) but filters out common words like “the”.

Clickable image questions: the tutor uploads a JPG or PNG image which is automatically resized. To track the number of clicks on selected areas, multiple rectangular areas can be defined. These have a minimum size so do not allow precise selections, and of course the areas cannot overlap. The areas (and their number of votes) can be shown/hidden on the tutor’s screen during the poll, but are never visible on the students’ screens. The tutor can also choose to display the precise location of each click.

Groups of polls: multiple polls can be selected and added to named Groups. Polls can be added and re-ordered using drag-and-drop. The tutor can then step through the polls in that group in order, activating each poll to make it visible and starting/stopping voting as required.

Control during polling

The default is to show the polling results live as the responses come in, so the chart updates in real time. However, a control makes it easy for the tutor to hide the mutiple-choice chart and just show the question and its answer options during the vote.

A countdown timer is available on the polling screen – the tutor just types in the number of seconds and clicks to start the timer. Students will not be able to vote after it has reached zero, but it can be paused. The tutor can also manually stop the poll, restart it and clear the results if required.

Poll Everywhere tutor's display showing answer options instead of live voting chart.

Poll Everywhere tutor’s display showing answer options instead of live voting chart.

Remote voting on polls

The tutor’s presentation screen for a poll has a Share control panel with three options:

  1. share via a web page which displays the poll currently activated. This would enable students at remote locations (possibly watching a streamed lecture) to vote online and see exactly what the on-campus students would see.
  2. share via a web page which only displays that specific poll, but allows people to answer that question at any time (for example like a mini-survey). They cannot see the results.
  3. share via a web page which only displays the live results for that specific poll. So if people have voted via method 2 above, this link would allow them to review the results.

Options 2 and 3 have buttons that make it easy to share those links via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Integration with PowerPoint and Keynote

The tutor needs to download the free PollEv Presenter App, available for Windows and Mac running Office 2007 or newer or Keynote 5.3 or 6.5. While this initially means that tutors would need to use their own laptops to present, if an instutional licence was bought there is an Enterprise Deployment option available so that all centrally-configured PCs in offices and lecture rooms could have the app by default.

The PollEv Presenter App adds a Poll Everywhere ribbon to PowerPoint that makes it easy to insert a poll. The tutor clicks a button on the ribbon to log in to their Poll Everywhere account and then chooses the poll(s) that they wish to insert among their conventional slides.

Note that the only way to tell which poll question you have inserted at a particular place in your presentation is to look at the notes for that slide – the placeholders all look the same.

Bonus feature: the PollEv Presenter App also makes it possible to insert any web page into a PowerPoint presentation. Just activate that option from the ribbon’s About button.

Bonus feature: if you use PowerPoint for Windows, the free Presentation Remote app for iOS or Android mobile devices enables you to remotely control presentations.

Visual design of polls

The system offers a great deal of control over the visual appearance of slides; colour schemes, fonts, background images, bars/columns, axis lables, response counts/percentage etc. etc. The Settings menu allows you to use any poll as a template for new polls, or to apply that poll’s visual settings to all your polls.

Reporting

Reports can be created for individual polls or groups of polls. List reports show the response to each poll by each participant, so that voting patterns can be explored. Summary shows the results for each poll – ie. the number and percentage of votes for each option. There are also Survey reports, Grading reports (if questions have scores), Team reports (if segmentation is used) and a Sign-In Sheet (time of first and last selected poll). The data can be downloaded for further analysis if desired.

Premium features not available in the free trial account

The key feature is the ability to restrict access to a poll to registered participants. Tutors can send an email invite which requires recipients to create an account (email address and password). Alternatively it is possible to integrate with Blackboard (and Canvas), so that only students in a specific module can access a group of polls.

Of course once you know who is voting and how they are voting, then the next premium feature is of course grading responses and ranking participants. Tutors gain the ability to mark a multiple-choice response or clickable area as correct, show/hide the correct answer on screen, track participants and rank them according to their overall score on a group of polls. Naturally there are reports that can be viewed or downloaded that detail student performance.

Some licence plans allow multiple users to share the same account – so members of a teaching team could easily share the creation and delivery of polls.

As previously mentioned, premium accounts are also able to moderate free-text responses before they are on-screen and hide any that don’t meet the tutor’s academic standards 😉

Other interesting features

  • Send people a link to a group of polls which form a single-page online survey.
  • Segmentation, which enables you to correlate the results from a poll with a previous poll. For example you might ask people whether they are male or female and then compare how each group answered a poll about their drinking habits. It can also be used to enable team competitions.

Conclusions

Overall, I’m really impressed with Poll Everywhere. It has an attractive user interface that is fairly easy to use – although there are also a lot of powerful features a mouse-click away for those that want them. The range of voting options is impressive, and the visual appearance of polls on mobile devices is great – without any need to download a special app either. The integration with PowerPoint and Keynote is reasonably good, although tutors will need to be careful about which poll appears where. My next step is to runs some tests with a cohort of students to see the reporting in more detail and then ideally to use a paid account to see how registration works.

Comparing it with Turning Point, multiple-response questions do not seem to be possible and it wasn’t clear if a correct answer to a poll is always worth 1 mark or if the score for each poll can be set. So Turning Point offers more sophisticated multiple-choice question types and scoring, but Poll Everywhere provides live feedback, which is especially useful for the open-ended questions – and the clickable image feature has great educational potential.

I’ll add a follow-up post once I’ve explored its reporting features in more detail.

Zappers zapped.

December 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment
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SRS handet being struck by lightningAfter seven years of use, I’ve decided it is time to zap the zapper – no one else uses that term and it really doesn’t describe what they do at all. So all hail the clicker.

Now to update a pile of documentation and web pages…

Stumbling into some pitfalls with ResponseWare

December 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment
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I’ve just run a session introducing the online ResponseWare Student Response System to some academic colleagues, and have identified some pitfalls… by stumbling straight into them. I should start by saying that I think online SRS are the way to go, especially now most students have a smartphone, and all of our lecture spaces have excellent Wi-Fi following an ambitious upgrade project. ResponseWare has the advantage that it integrates perfectly with the Turning Point clickers that are already in widespread use across the university, and that it therefore minimises the learning curve for tutors and does not require them to recreate their resources and quizzes for a new system.

So, the gotchas were:

  • If possible, iOS and (especially) Android users should install and use the ResponseWare app rather than using web-browser access; it gave a reliable and superior user experience. Of course the app needs to be up to date (v2) and will need updating again before the end of the year following another upgrade to the ResponseWare service.
  • If not, iOS and (especially) Android users should use an up-to-date version of Chrome rather than the default browser. I had one user with an iPad v1 (iOS 5) and another with a Samsung tablet using the default Android browser (Internet) – neither  of which worked.

There was also an embarrassing gotcha in my presentation:

  • The response grids for my short-answer questions used an unreadably pale grey from the slideshow’s colour scheme; I should have tested the presentation first before delivering it. Mea maxima culpa…

One of the attractions of ResponseWare is that students without suitable mobile devices (or have run out of battery charge) can be given a clicker so they can still take part in the voting. The tutor just needs to bring a small number of clickers (enough for 10% of the cohort perhaps) as well as a USB receiver. This will work fine for multiple choice questions, but will not work for short-answer questions – and this may become an issue as tutors start to take advantage of the short-answer questions enabled by ResponseWare.

One of the participants asked whether requiring students to use their phones/tablets/laptops in sessions will simply encourage them to become distracted by Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat etc. etc. etc. My answer was that there are plenty of legitimate uses for such devices (such as notetaking or looking up references) and that we need students to develop the self-control to pay attention to their own learning as well as our teaching – especially if it has been made more engaging through the use of SRS and the pedagogic techniques they facilitate.

Nevertheless, this seems like a good place to repeat that link to to a post by Clay Shirkey which includes strong evidence against the use of laptops, tablets and phones in class, except when specifically requested by the tutor. He argues that they are a constant (and highly effective) form of distraction, and that multi-tasking interferes with learning: “Multi-taskers often think they are like gym rats, bulking up their ability to juggle tasks, when in fact they are like alcoholics, degrading their abilities through over-consumption.”

Perhaps academics need to devise educational approaches that require students to make effective use of their mobile devices, which scaffold and help model good practice while discouraging off-topic uses. I suspect that social (collaborative) learning will be at the heart of this since it is the lone (isolated) student who has the greatest motivation to get distracted by communicating with friends or browsing around something that seems more interesting than a didactic lecture.

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