I was looking around for an alternative to “clickers” (Who-Wants-to-be-a-Millionaire-style audience response technology) for use in a classroom. These tools really do help with classroom engagement, and the students seem to appreciate the opportunity to interact with the material while the teacher is present (rather than having to wait until the exam!). This also allows anonymous recording of results, banishing the fear that many students have of putting their hand up in the middle of a crowded lecture theatre. There are a few options, such as www.polleverywhere.com, www.qidiq.com, and www.soapbox.com. All of these sites use a web-based approach through an app or website to feed student responses back into a webpage or Powerpoint slide. They work reasonably well, but are limited by either (i) not being free (a problem in this time of university cost-cutting), or (ii) being a tiny bit complicated to use at first (a major issue that reduces the adoption of new technology in teaching). I went looking for an alternative and found Google Forms to be quite a useful little tool.
Google Docs can be a great asset to teaching, as it exists only in the cloud (and so doesn’t require anyone to download anything) and can be readily accessed by anyone with a Google account (which is more common than other kinds of accounts). With the Google Form quiz, only the instructor needs to have a Google account, which makes the process even easier. To set up a quiz, go to Google Drive and hit the “Create” button on the left-hand side then select “Form”. The interface here is relatively straightforward – you have seven types of question and can give any number of potential answers. The only downside is that you cannot incorporate multimedia into the form, but you can link to media files in the question or help text. Here’s an example:
Clicking “File > Send form” will give you a URL to the form or the option just to send it directly by email to the students. You can also tweet the link if you use Twitter in teaching. The students can click the link and will be taken to the form itself where they answer the questions:
You will see that the editable form keeps a tally of the number of responses that you receive, and you will get a little notification each time someone submits the filled-in form. Once you have enough responses, you can either click the “View responses” button to see a spreadsheet of answers (not useful in a class, but potentially useful later for statistical analysis) or click “Responses > Summary of Responses” to get a nice, graphical representation of the answers given:
And there you have it! A simple, quick poll tool that can be used in the middle of lectures. The only slight drawback is that students will need internet access either through smartphones, tablets, or laptops in order to fill in the poll. However, there is no harm in allowing groups of students to gather around laptops and discuss the answers as they work through the questions. That’s just another dimension to the exercise!
If you found this interesting, I have a collection of posts on blended learning and teaching technology: