Clickers in the classroom – Durham users

Several departments in the University use classroom voting systems. We had a useful ‘sharing good practice meeting’ on Friday at lunchtime.

Julie Mulvey (LTT) demonstrated Poll Everywhere, which allows participants to vote by texting from a phone or via a web page on a wifi enabled laptop, iPod or phone. Free for up to 30 voters, and relatively cheap thereafter ($65 per month for 250 users) it is worth trying for the occasional vote. The results appear live on the website or within PowerPoint slides that you can download from the site. It relies on wifi/phone signal, students’ willingness to use text credits, and also their ability to type or text the correct codes. It does offer free text responses and overall offers a viable alternative to buying a voting system.

Marina Sawdon from Medicine explained how she is tracking student learning retention using the clickers. Marina polled the class at various stages throughout the course, asking both simple factual questions and more complex scenario questions designed to test application of knowledge. The questions were asked before and after the session covering the topic, and then again weeks later. See Marina’s publication. Her findings suggest the students are retaining knowledge throughout her course, and welcome the instant feedback they get through voting. Student evaluations suggest the voting system is playing a role in the knowledge retention. Marina is now tracking individual students by giving them the same handset, and considering how she can offer individual feedback.

Finally, James Blowey (Maths) kindly demonstrated the Qwizdom system. Like a TV remote, his version uses infrared, requiring line-of-site with the receiver. Many newer voting systems usually use radio signals. These newer systems can be used in a big lecture theatre without anyone needing to duck. It was interesting to see the strengths and limitations of the system he uses.

There is a national special interest group, Engaging Students through In-class Technology. The online site includes a growing resource of information and pedagogic and technical approaches. For example there is an evaluation of Poll Everywhere by law lecturer Carol Withey. Carol and Marina are penciled in to talk at the next event in Edinburgh on the 29th April (to be advertised shortly).