Ok, I’ll admit it. Before I actually gave them a try, I didn’t see much use for classroom response or polling systems in my teaching. Now I truly regret I didn’t use them more often.
We all know the mantra that students’ attention span is 20 mins tops, and only if they are motivated enough. So we introduce activities, group work, ask them questions and so on. Typically, if we don’t resort to the primary-school-style pointing at people and asking them to speak, we end up with the same group of five or six who are the first to answer questions. The rest sit passively and just listen (or so we hope).
Classroom response systems – typically electronic systems where students use their portable devices: smartphones, tablets, laptops, to send their responses over wi-fi – change this completely. All of a sudden everyone is given the chance to say what they think without the uncomfortable (for some) feeling of being put in the spotlight. Also, it’s so much easier to engage large groups and interact with them – check for any misunderstandings, clarify misconceptions, identify difficult areas and so on. And students are at least using their mobiles in a pedagogically productive way, not just to check Facebook (which they do anyway).
There has been a lot of enthusiasm among academics adopting classroom response systems with regard to the systems meeting their expectations as to keeping students engaged and increasing motivation. Here are some links to some case studies:
Creating Interactive Lectures with Poll Everywhere: a Case Study (UWL)
Audience Response Using Poll Everywhere (City)
Using Optivote in Large Lectures for Student Engagement and Enhancing Learning