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instant polling tools for the classroom

Earlier I wrote about the problem with hindsight bias and how it hinders meta cognition in students--big words that mean students don't know what they don't know and think they know what they don't know. When reviewing for an exam, many activities enable this mess by encouraging weaker students to passively observe the more accomplished students demonstrate their competence. The truth will come out in the exam, but wouldn't we all be happier if this truth revealed itself to all parties in the review process?

This is why I love Rather than review by asking questions, I can quickly set up a series of poll questions in and project them on the screen in the front of class. Here's an example of a Hamlet identification question.

Rather than one student volunteering to answer the question, all students are required to submit their answers either by sms text message or through the web on their laptop, smartphone, or mobile internet device. Once all of the answers are submitted, I can reveal how the class did by displaying a chart of the classes answers.

Those who got the answer wrong are not publicly ridiculed because all answers are anonymous in front of the students, but the visual element of the graph undermines the hindsight bias. There's clear visual evidence that the answer they chose was incorrect.

As I teacher, I'm instantly notified of what topics are sinking in to my students and what are going over their heads. As an added bonus, I can set it up so I know who scored what answers, and can intervene and help the struggling students.

There are similar dedicated devices specifically made for this application, but they are quite expensive and only do one thing. I see as another among many reasons to push for each student in the classroom to have access to some web enabled device.

We're not there yet, but I believe that we're about to see a rush of tablets with nimble operating systems that I'd like to see in more classrooms. The mythical Apple tablet? Chrome OS? Android? Please?


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