6 free ways to capture student responses without costly clickers

4/1/2013 12:00:00 AM
Most educators are familiar with student response systems (SRS) a.k.a. clickers. Common brands are eInstruction, Sentio, TurningPoint, Activote. Those who use the systems know they run about $2,500 - $4,000 (depending on various options selected) for a class set and allow educators to track student learning, engage an entire class as they collect real-time responses from students, and enable them to quickly assess understanding and achievement. While these are valuable instructional outcomes, clickers are costly and the distribution, collection, and maintenance of devices is rather cumbersome. In many cases using them requires training to figure out how to upload the software, input questions, maneuver from one question to the next and share answers.

Here’s the thing. You don’t spend money and professional development time to purchase clickers. You can capture student’s thoughts and ideas for free using whatever device they have whether it’s a dumb phone, tablet, or laptop.  

Here are six free resources you can use to get started
.

Poll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com)
Poll Everywhere provides students with a simple method to share their ideas right from a phone, laptop, or tablet. The teacher can set up various free text polls to gather information from students and keep the responses private or make them public. Educators can view student responses in their web browser or download them as a spreadsheet.

Loca Moda (http://wiffiti.locamoda.com)
Loca Moda allows students to submit a text message to an online bulletin board. The Loca Moda board is animated and students love the fake names it assigns to their posts. This easy-to-use tool enables your students to use the same technology that is viewed by thousands at large-scale events such as concerts, gallery openings, fundraisers, inauguration events, and political conventions. It is also used extensively in digital signage networks ranging from huge jumbotrons in places like Times Square to thousands of screens in cafes, entertainment centers and even churches.

Classpager (www.classpager.com)
Engage students with polls, exit tickets, event reminders, and more using ClassPager.  Classpager allows students to use their own devices (phones, tablets, laptops, or other computers) to respond to questions or surveys that the teachers designs with simple text messaging.  Questions can be both open response and multiple choice.

Twitter (www.Twitter.com)
Twitter is a great tool for sharing, discovering, and connecting with others who care about the same ideas and information. You can use Twitter right on your phone without downloading any software, and even with just one teacher cell phone per class, contributions can be made and modeled anywhere, anytime. Twitter has become such a popular tool because it asks one question: "What's happening?" Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web.

Like texting, the beauty of Twitter is that its core technology is a device agnostic system that lets the masses participate.  Because of this, with just a cell phone in hand, Twitter makes it easy for folks to stay connected...even if all they have at their fingertips is sms. For example, anyone (in the US) can receive Tweets on their phone even if they haven’t signed up for Twitter. This is a simple way for people to get information they care about in real-time. For example, let’s say you want to get Tweets from me just text ‘follow InnovativeEdu’ to 40404.

Cel.ly (http://cel.ly)

Cel.ly is primarily a free group texting service. Group texting saves time, improves communication, provides documentation of texts, and sets the stage for easily using many other cell phone tools. The Cells referred to in Cel.ly are instant mobile networks. With Cel.ly, you can have open group chat, one-way alerting, or a hybrid where curators can approve messages.
Cel.ly also provides security and privacy as phone numbers are never exposed and there are controls. Cell curators filter messages before they are sent to the group. This keeps discussion on-topic and reduces abuse, impersonation, and cyberbullying. An @me feature lends itself to note taking. Cel.ly even has a built-in polling feature complete with the tabulation of results.

Socrative (http://www.socrative.com)
Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers by engaging their classrooms with a series of educational exercises and games. The apps are super simple and take seconds to login. Socrative runs on tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

Enhancing learning with student response
Getting student responses when teaching is great, but you don’t need a costly devices to do so.  You can use the tools mentioned here to enhance learning in many ways.  Here are some ideas to get started.

  1. Set up a homework help poll for a particular assignment or unit of study. Students can simply text in the questions when they have them. This could set the stage beautifully for the next day's lesson enabling the teacher to differentiate instruction based on student need.
  2. Have students respond to a discussion topic. The teacher shares the topic and students text in their answers to be viewed publicly or privately by the teacher.
  3. Want a quick check for understanding? Poll your students. Want them to vote on a favorite character in a book? Poll your students. Collecting data on a science experiment? Poll your students.

These six tools provide educators with the ability to know what students are thinking at anytime and are also great pre and post assessment resources.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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