Instructional Technology Newsletter 19 – Polling with Plickers


Classroom Technology –
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Instructional Technology Newsletter 19

Classroom Technology – Polling with Plickers
Peter Ruiz-Haas, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Reid Oechslin, Instructional Technologist

April 2016

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Peter Ruiz-Hass teaches the introductory course General Chemistry in the 250-seat Francis Auditorium. Although the class size is limited to 48, it’s one of the larger classes taught in the Residential College for Women.
In Instructional Technology Newsletter 11, Dr. Ruiz-Haas wrote about his search for student polling systems to increase student involvement in the class. The systems he wrote about are cloud-based and run on the student’s phone, tablet, or laptop.
Many faculty members object to students using devices in class. And a small proportion of students don’t own a smartphone or a laptop. This past semester, Dr. Ruiz-Haas tried a new approach: a  very low-tech student device paired with high-tech cloud processing.
Dr. Ruiz-Haas is using the free app on his phone paired with special cards given to each student at the beginning of the semester. A pattern of black and white blocks on the card identifies the student to the software. Depending on how the student orients the card when she holds it up during the polling session, she can answer A, B, C, or D to questions that are built into the PowerPoint of the lecture.

Dr. Ruiz-Haas starts the Plickers app on his phone that has been pre-loaded with the poll questions and answers, and walks around the front of the room capturing the image of the students’ cards.
On the phone screen he can see the name of each student and their answer superimposed over the picture of the class. (There has to be some sophisticated work being done in the cloud to make this happen!) When he has collected all the responses, Dr. Ruiz-Haas switches from the PowerPoint lecture to the Plickers webpage for that poll question. The class can see how many responses each possible answer has received, and then Dr. Ruiz-Haas reveals the correct answer.
Perhaps one reason students respond so well to polling is the quick feedback they get. A poll is like a little game. Even if the student is sure of the answer, it’s still interesting to see how many students chose the other answers.
A one-minute YouTube video of polling in Dr. Ruiz-Haas’ General Chemistry class is here: video was shot on a camera phone and edited with the free addition to Microsoft Office called Windows Live Moviemaker.  Documentation for this process is here:

About the Committee:

The Instructional Technology Committee at Mary Baldwin University is a faculty committee made up of representatives from the faculty and the Instructional Technology staff at Mary Baldwin. The Current Committee is:
Pam Bailey
Carol Creager
Doris Dodson
Krissy Egan, Chair
Kari Frenz
George Guba
Chandra Mason

Carolyn Moore 
Reid Oechslin
Beverly Riddell
Laura van Assendelft
The charter of the committee is to:
  • Provide a forum for input to the Instructional Technology staff on the relative value of technological improvements from a pedagogical perspective.
  • Be a champion and example for technology enhanced teaching within their schools
  • Try out new technologies that seem promising
  • Develop and share best practices & rubrics for technology enhanced teaching
  • Recommend equipment and management for mixed use (instructional and non-instructional) space
  • This committee meets as necessary.