Tag Archives: assessment

Simultaneous Back Channel/Polling App

If you are reading this post because the title excited you, I am sorry to say that I do not know of a simultaneous back channel/polling app. This post is to request your help in finding one!  I recently got a great comment on my post about using Socrative as a Back Channel.  The commenter, a professor named Lisa Halverson, asked if I knew of any way to allow students to use Socrative or any app as a back channel while also having the ability to answer polls so the teacher could get a feel for understanding.  It appears that Socrative only allows for a teacher to have one room/quiz going at a time.  I can certainly think of some roundabout ways to achieve this (see below), but does anyone know of a tool that does this with less preparation required?  If so, both Lisa and I would love to hear about it!  If not, then one of you smart developer-types needs to get right on that!

By the way, Richard Byrne just did a great post on 12 great student feedback tools that you should definitely read if you haven’t tried one or if you aren’t happy with one that you use.  As far as I can tell, though, none of these do the specific job Lisa and I require.

My roundabout solution?  (Bear with me because I am an Apple girl – not sure how Android devices would work other than that I’m pretty sure they have browsers!) I would have all students use the browser to access Socrative for real-time quick feedback questions from the teacher.  I would also have them add a second tab that has a Padlet (or even a shared Google Doc) to use as a back channel for timid students to ask questions or make comments.  If you want to get really fancy schmancy, there are several apps out there, such as this one, that will split your browser (but the free ones do have ads). Rumor has it that the next iOS might allow you to split your screen so you can use 2 different apps at the same time – but we’d still like to have it all in one!

Example of using a split screen app on the iPad.  Good news - it's free.  Bad news - it has ads.  If you are teaching college students, that's probably no biggie, though.
Example of using a split screen app on the iPad. A Socrative quiz is going on the left.  A Padlet (set to the stream layout) is on the right for a backchannel option.  Good news – this app is free and you can create bookmarks so students don’t have to type in a URL every time. Bad news – it has ads. If you are teaching college students, that’s probably no biggie, though.
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Take Your Pick with Plickers

Sample screen shot of Plickers app in action
Sample screen shot of Plickers app in action

I love getting informal feedback from my students during lessons, and usually use the Socrative app for this in my classroom.  Socrative is wonderful, and works on practically any device, but it certainly works better if you have more than one device in your classroom.  Obviously, not everyone has this luxury.  So, I was very intrigued when I ran across a post about a student response system that works quite simply with just one piece of electronic equipment required – Plickers.

I read about Plickers on a “Who’s Who and Who’s New” post by Debbie.  She does an awesome job of detailing the use of the app, so please head over to her post if this brief summary piques your interest.

Basically, you set up a free account with Plickers (either online or in the app; the app is Android or iOS), and then set up a class.  You can set up multiple classes if you choose.  Then, you give each of your students in the current class a card with a barcode.  You can print your own from their site, or order a set from Amazon. The barcodes are numbered, so you can be sure that the same student always receives the same one.  If you look carefully at each card, you will see that each side of the barcode has a letter: A, B, C, or D.  When you ask the students a question, they hold the card in front of them with the letter of their choice on top.  Using the app, the teacher scans the room, and the app records the responses on a graph.  The scanning takes seconds, and the teacher can see with a glance who understands the concept or feels a certain way about any multiple choice question.

For a free service, this is a pretty slick little app. It does not have all of the options that you will find in Socrative, but it certainly beats having your students do the old “thumbs up, thumbs down” response to help you get a feel for their understanding of a topic.  And, it requires only one piece of technology. (Unless you want to count the printer used for the bar codes and the laminator you will probably want to utilize if you plan to use these on a regular basis.)

I tried this with my 4th grade class yesterday, and they loved it!  Some of them are already planning to incorporate it into their Genius Hour presentations – along with the Free Game Show Soundboard app that I threw in just to make things even more exciting.

I’m not a big fan of using multiple choice questions frequently, but Plickers doesn’t have to be used just to quiz students on facts.  You can have the students rate their feelings about something or vote quickly with their cards, too.  Plickers are a great, inexpensive way to give students another alternative for showing what they know.

Sample Plickers Card
Sample Plickers Card

Check for Understanding

In this blog post by Kathleen Perret on “Learning is Growing”, she gives a list of great ideas for informally assessing the learning of your students.  These are quick techniques to use at the end of a lesson just to check if your intended message got across.  Although I have used some of these, there are a few new ideas that I think would be well-worth trying – such as “Chalkboard Champs” or “Rock, Paper Scissors”.