Plickers is the most engaging free app I have come across in years. It gets more kids involved in class than anything else I could do.
An amazing substitute teacher, Tim Fahlberg, who has some background in technology, used an engaging and really easy to set-up system, Plickers, when he worked for me a day this year. The kids loved it, and Tim was kind enough to explain it all to me and get me started.
Plickers is where kids hold up a card to give a response to any posed multiple choice question and the teacher scans the room (I use my iPad, but a smartphone with a camera would do) to collect all the answers, which are printed from templates available from the site (I used colored cardstock). If you have the ability to project, you can project the “Live View” student list while you are scanning and instruct kids to put down their cards when they see their name is checked. The software tallies up who answered what and shows it on a chart (hope you can project it!), where the real instruction begins.
When there are two close answers, the true class discussion begins. I have mostly used this for AP Lit and their multiple choice, and so I ask the kids to go back to their text and find evidence that D is correct or C is correct, or we see that vocabulary is the culprit and we talk through the words and revote. Kids get immediate feedback and I see their thinking patterns and can talk through errors they are making. One beauty of this is that the tool is responsive to that moment. It find it easier to see the differences between hours than I do when I grade by hand, where assessments blur together.
When we have done Plickers, going through the answers takes two to three times longer, but when I queried the kids, they said it was worth it: they get more feedback and better feedback than any other method.
I used to use cards like those shown and would visually survey the class, but Plickers is better because it is impossible for kids to look around and see what other kids are answering and change their answer, and it provides anonymity for kids. No one knows if Sam answered A, B, C, or D. The graph feature is wonderful, and the app tracks who answered what.
There are some missing features of Plickers: it is hard to group and organize questions in order (consider entering them in reverse order), it doesn’t tally up multiple questions in a spreadsheet, and there are only four options. When I contacted Plickers to tell them how pleased I was with their product, pleased enough to pay for more services, they sent me to their “How do we make Plickers better” page, which allowed me to upvote some of the modifications I would want to see.
I have also used Plickers to poll my class, based on suggestions from Tim Fahlberg. You can ask groups if they need 1, 2, 5 minutes more or are done. Instant answers. For me, I asked about paper revision plans, and that helped me strategize next steps.
Want some resources?
Here is a slideshare by Kristen Vollmar that has concise directions on how to set up Plickers, including the essential fact that kids can’t cover up the code at all
A YouTube how-to video from Tech in 2.
Plickers is easy, free, and engaging. I am pretty sure I will find more and more ways to use it.