PollEverywhere and Google Moderator to Increase Student Engagement

This week’s guest blogger is Miriam Klous in Health and Human Performance.


In May 2013 I attended the Faculty Technology Institute (FTI) training. We learned about new technologies that could be useful in a classroom setting, research or service. In my classes, I have been trying to increase the interaction with the students and particularly between students. Through the FTI I learned new iPad applications that could help me increase this interaction. One of the applications that was very helpful is ‘PollEverywhere’ and in another project I have been combining Google Moderator and video creation apps.

Many times in my classes when I ask questions, the same students answer. Of course there are several ways of dealing with this, but I found ’PollEverywhere’ to be an effective tool to influence this. Basically, I create questions online with the app ‘PollEverywhere’ and provide them with multiple answers (true-false and open-ended questions can also be created). The students have to text or email a number representing the answer they pick to a (phone) number. You are able to follow the voting directly on screen, and it can be anonymous.  For me it is a great way to see if students have difficulty with a question/content. If everybody answers the question correctly, I know I can move on with other content. If the answer to a question is very diverse, additional explanation of the topic may be necessary. Besides, the student can see that he/she is on the right track or, if not, that he/she is not the only one choosing that answer (while staying anonymous). When discussing the question and the topic after the vote, I perceive more interaction with the students. It seems like students trust asking follow-up questions now that they know they are not the only one that picked a certain answer. The questions can be created very easily and quickly and could be done in class. I prefer to prepare the questions ahead of time and login to ‘PollEverywhere’ to provide them to the students.

In addition to ‘PollEverywhere’, I also wanted to develop a project that makes students work together outside class time. Previously I had students writing research papers/labs together, but I was looking for a project where I could implement sophisticated technology. Therefore, in my EXSC 433 ‘Research Design and Analysis’ course I had students work together on a video project with the topic ‘How are we all consumers (users) of research?’. Students at an undergraduate level seem to have difficulty understanding why learning about research is important/exciting.  However, research is all around us, it is a part of our daily life. My goal was to make students more aware of research in our daily life by letting them make a video on this topic. Most students really enjoyed the assignment and I believe they received a better understanding of how research is integrated in society and it will be part of their life even if they don’t have a research job. In the FTI I learned about making videos and editing. This experience in FTI made me comfortable enough to implement this in my class, knowing I could help the students when it was necessary.  Students first received feedback on their storyboard before they started creating the video. In this project I also implemented the Google Moderator app. I wanted students to be involved in the development of the rubric. The students could make suggestions on aspects of (creating) the video that they believed were essential for a good video and thereby required for successfully fulfilling the assignment. Therefore, I created a rubric and placed it on Google Moderator. Students could log on to the Google Moderator and vote on the items if they believed were important aspect of (creating) the video. They could also reformulate items or add items and other students could vote again on those items. I assigned class time for students to spend 5-10 to do this, to make sure they knew how to vote or add items/comments. I received great feedback on time restrictions for the video and suggestions to reformulate certain items. Based on the feedback I created the final rubric. This strategy helped to have the students be aware of the aspects they would be assessed on and also to have them agree on the assessment of their assignment.

I see the benefit of the FTI training. The interaction between students in my class and myself definitely improved. Of course there were some issues along the way with students not doing their part, but this would probably also have been the case in more traditional group work. I definitely will keep on using those apps, and hope to implement other applications that I learned during the FTI training.