How I Use It
As a formative assessment tool in classrooms with little access to technology, Plickers is a nice instrument for quickly assessing which students are grasping concepts. I used Plickers in my high school AP Computer Science classroom to practice multiple choice questions. This task is usually more boring to students who are accustomed to hands-on programming on their classroom or personal computers almost daily. Thus, the “glitz” of using a dynamic bar graph to display the cumulative answers of the class appealed to most students. Since I usually use hand gestures for indicating letters A thru E as choices, Plickers had to add value to warrant its use. My first attempt was a complete failure. I wanted to use my inexpensive personal tablet because I float from classroom to classroom throughout the day and I am concerned about losing my personal iPhone. Well, the speed of the scan was so slow it took several minutes to complete and the students wondered why we couldn’t go back to hand signals. However, once I switched to the app on my iPhone, the students were engaged in the activity and several good discussions arose when two or more answers earned popular vote.
Plickers is definitely more for formative than summative assessment. I think that it is better used in a spontaneous questioning environment rather than in a review of questions previously asked. The visual aspect of vote tallying adds excitement to the classroom and the coded cards hedge against students “cheating off of their neighbor.” Note that if copying is a concern, the cards should be cut into squares rather than rectangles which give directional clues to A-C or B-D choices. Stylistically, I need to work on question retreival timing with my iPhone because students were putting up answers to the next question and my phone was updating answers for the previous question as I fumbled to find the next question.
In my AP CS application (as well as most AP multiple choice situations), there are 5 answers A-E which causes some issue with Plickers. My students cleverly used the back of the coded card for the E response. There are many embedded resources provided by the College Board and private publishing companies which have 5 answers. It was a bit cumbersome copying questions into Plickers and realigning to 4 answers, but the library question feature makes it easier to save and use over time. I’m still in search of a technology tool that makes the process of converting existing .pdf and other format files into easily managed interactive questions. Perhaps this is a problem to be tackled by the College Board on behalf of teachers everywhere.