How I Use It
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Poll Everywhere is an online tool where teachers post questions and students respond in a silent and anonymous format using computers or cell phones. The class can view responses as they are automatically displayed in an aesthetically pleasing and readable format. Various options allow teachers to tailor the questions and responses to their lesson and needs, such as multiple-choice, survey, open-ended question, word cloud, rank-order, clickable image, and more.
HOW HAVE I USED IT?
I have been using the free Poll Everywhere version for several years at the high school level. The option I use most frequently is the "open-ended" question, because I feel it allows the most flexibility in both teacher questions and student responses. I embed this within lessons to gauge student opinions in an anonymous and non-threatening way. Questions can range from "Which WWI figure do you agree with most? Why?" to "Further thoughts, comments, or questions on this topic?" In mock town hall debates, students use Poll Everywhere to submit candidate questions to the moderator as the debate progresses. I have also used this for simple community building, such as "What was one interesting thing about your weekend?" Since responses are anonymous, it also provides a unique forum for ice breakers and students guessing who wrote each response.
The second option I use most often is "multiple choice." It is an efficient checking for understanding tool where results are posted and updated in a bar graph immediately as students submit responses. In addition to informal assessments, a simple question, such as "How much of the homework reading did you complete?" when given the protection of anonymity, can generate strikingly honest answers.
SPEED AND EASE: The ease of posting questions and students responding, along with the immediate updating of responses is invaluable when it comes to trying to squeeze in engaging activities into limited class periods.
VISIBILITY: Responses are displayed in a variety of ways, depending on the question format, but all are clear, simple, easy to read, and clearly depict the responses or information necessary.
ENGAGEMENT: Most high school students seem to really enjoy sharing an answer anonymously in the classroom, and using a cell phone or computer to do it is a plus.
WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND?
NO FILTER. I always preface use of Poll Everywhere with the "responsibility" talk, acknowledging that there is no filter between what they submit and what gets posted on display. Since it is anonymous, this periodically proves to be too tempting for a student who decides they want to contribute a "shock and awe" statement, or make the class chuckle with an inappropriate comment. As a precaution, I stay near the computer, ready to take down anything inappropriate that goes up.
ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY: You must have a projector screen or smart board to post the question, along with either computers or cell phones for students to submit responses.
RESPONSE LIMIT: The free version limits responses to 25 per poll. If you want more than 25 responses per poll, you can create duplicate polls, or you can choose to pay the upgrade.
I consider this a "necessary and proper" app. It has become an essential part of my classroom, but like many tools, the value of Poll Everywhere depends on how the teacher chooses to use it, as well as parameters established for student use. I started using the free Poll Everywhere version about seven years ago and have been using it ever since, regardless of grade level or content of my classes. I can even look back to the very first question I posted, as well as the students' responses (who are probably graduated from college by now). Poll Everywhere is something I find myself constantly pulling out of the "teacher tool kit" because of the high level of engagement and critical thinking that it can encourage. I love that it makes every student feel like their voice is safely being heard, even if only for a few seconds. Of course, insightful responses are not always guaranteed, as that often depends on the question generated by the teacher. Poll Everywhere spices up lessons with a "hook" for students and provides me insight on student understanding that I otherwise may not have obtained in such a fast and efficient manner. Acknowledging that not every student carries a cell phone, I would use it more if I were in a classroom where every student had a laptop in front of them. Of course, the anonymity has allowed some inappropriate responses which have dampened a few lessons, but that can also be akin to someone verbally blurting out an inappropriate remark; it happens. With Poll Everywhere, however, I feel positive engagement happens a lot more.