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Top Web Tools of 2008 – Number 8

poll-everywhere-logoPoll Everywhere makes it into the Top 10 this year, partly based on performance to date, and partly based on the promise that it holds for the future.

I have used Poll Everywhere a few different times this year during presentations. Most often I have used it during a presentation where I am using clickers, such as the Turning Point clickers (very good) that we have at my campus. Part of the point is to show how cell phones can be used as clickers, and part of the point is to not lose sight of the fact that technology continues to expand and develop at an incredible rate. This wouldn’t have been possible just a short time ago. Now it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it works.

Using the service is free if you plan to collect 30 or fewer responses per question. This was specifically targeted at being free for classrooms of 30 or less. Sure, some classes have more than 30 students, but the first un-free tier of pricing is $15 per month for 50 responses per question (no limit on the number of questions). You don’t have to sign a long-term contract but instead pay month-to-month. That tells me that this service could be used for four months in the fall and four months in the spring for $120 per year. You can definitely try it out for free before you decide to do anything else with it.

It’s true that not all students have cell phones with text messaging enabled. On my campus our surveys indicate that about 90% do have cell phones. Most clearly have a texting plan since that is a preferred mode of communication for many. So, even though a few of your students might not have devices in their pockets for this task, it clearly has been increasing rapidly and I have no doubt that this will be less and less of an issue in the next couple of years ahead.

Also, text messaging your answer is not the only option. Your polls can also be web-enabled so that people can answer the questions using a computer instead of a cell phone. In fact, they give you the embed code so that you can place the poll anywhere that you want on a web page. For example, place a poll on the home page inside your VLE, or on a content page, or even a discussion forum.

Ironically, although you can embed the poll widget on just about any webpage, I can’t embed it here (WordPress doesn’t allow it.) So, instead just click on the graphic below to go to answer a Poll Everywhere question (no cell phone needed for this one).

poll-everywhere-example

How does it work? (from the Poll Everywhere FAQ page) – As a poll is displayed to an audience, they cast votes by sending text messages to our short code number (99503) indicating the option they wish to select. Their mobile carrier (e.g., Sprint, AT&T) routes their text message to our web servers where the vote is counted. Once counted, the vote is displayed in real time on-screen.

Can I embed a poll in my PowerPoint presentation? (also from FAQ) – Yes, when viewing your poll, click the PowerPoint link for instructions. If you use PowerPoint 2007, you can download a small .pptx file containing your poll. The poll inside this slide can be copied into other presentations, used multiple times in a presentation, and resized like other PowerPoint objects.

Some useful links:

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Another Shot with Poll Everywhere

I’ve used Poll Everywhere a couple of times, both as an experiment to see how well it works and also, most recently, to try to make a point. In addition to yesterday’s post titled Things I Don’t Believe (see slides 2 & 3), I also used Poll Everywhere with the poll embedded in a PowerPoint slide. I was using the Turning Point clickers with the audience of about 315 educators when about halfway through the presentation I asked how many of them had cell phones. At least 250 hands went up in the auditorium.
I asked them to take out their cell phones if they had a text messaging service with their phone. Then the poll question appeared on the screen.

Q: Which is closer to your position on students having cell phones in schools?

A1: Ban them! They are a complete distraction and detract from learning.

A2: Use them! They are powerful devices that can be used for learning.

Suffice it to say that I found the irony quite enjoyable. Teachers using their cell phones to answer a poll question saying that cell phones should not be allowed in school. I was using the free version of Poll Everywhere so this is actually a very small subset (23 responses) of the people in the room. I was surprised by the nearly equal division of the responses as I expected a higher percentage to say Ban Them! I erred in not getting all of them to respond to the question using the other clickers. Now I really want to know what all 315 of them think about this question.