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Does anyone know the answer?

When teaching it is always good practice to check if your students have understood what you’ve taught them, but doing this isn’t always easy. You’ve got the generic “do you all understand?” which is typically replied to with a less than reassuring moan. You’ve go the “Who can tell me what x=?” which is usually replied to by the same one or two people who always answer your quest but doesn’t tell you if the whole class has understood or not. The other option typically employed is the “Hands up if you think x=1, x=2 etc.?” replied to by some of the class not not usually all and you typically find that the behave like sheep following the masses.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying out a few newer methods of getting instant feedback from students.  These are:

  1. TurningPoint Voting handsets
  2. Google Forms
  3. Socrative


These kits have been in use at Keele for a while and mostly work very well.  They work with software which you can either install on the computer or run from a USB memory stick which gives you added tools within MSO PowerPoint.  It allows you to insert Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) within your presentation allowing you to seamlessly poll your audience during your presentation (think “Who want to be a millionair – ask the audience”).  The advanced features allow you to groups responders into teams or demographics and to award points for correct answers.  In the past we’ve used it for our Christmas staff quiz.  You can also deploy MCQs on the go whilst defining the options verbally (“Press A if you think….”).
Whilst this is a great resource it does cost a lot to purchase, works best if you’re running PowerPoint and all of your students have to be in the same room.  You also have to count the handsets out and back in to stop them going walking with the student – even though they can not be used for any other purpose!
If you can afford the more advanced versions they do allow you to enter simple textual responses.

Google Forms

Google Docs has a great document type – form.  This allows you to create a form using multiple types of question (multiple choice, free text, select many etc.). Once this has been created you can send out the link to your students for them to complete.  I even pass the url through the shortener so that the students don’t have such a long URL to type.
In the classroom you can use this as a large survey / test at the end of a session or you could create a few surveys and strategically ask you class to access them during the session.  The biggest issue with this though is that your students either need to be in an IT suite or have smart phones / tablets / laptops with an internet connection.  Most students will have one of these devices if prompted to bring with them or you could ask if people are willing to share and just ask them to complete the survey twice from each device.
As the owner of the survey you can see the responses as they’re submitted in the spreadsheet either on the main computer or (as I do) see them popping up on the iPAD via the Google Drive app.
This isn’t the most visually impressive method but it does work well. if you want to evaluate the data later on.


This is a developing application that allows you to push questions out to students logged into the ‘room’.  It is currently free as it is in development but I’ve found no issues with it in its current state.
It works in a similar way to TurningPoint but it doesn’t require you to install any software or purchase any hardware.  It can be run from any web browser on any device (I haven’t found an internet able device it wouldn’t run on).  If you wish you can install an app that gives a smoother experience but either method is great.
When the teacher logs in they are given a room number, this is given to the students and they are then connected to that teacher.  The teacher is then presented with a list of question types, e.g. multiple choice, true false etc. Once the teacher selects the type of question they wish to ask their screen turns to a chart whilst the students screen presents them with the possible options or a textbox.  Once the student enters their answer the chart on the teachers device changes to reflect the submitted answers or it displays a list of textual responses.
This is a great way of collecting instant responses from your audience and graphically displaying their response quickly allowing you to move on with your presentation.  In my last class I used the main PC to deliver the presentation and I hooked up my iPad to the laptop connector on the lectern, switching between the displays when wishing to ask a question.


Whilst all three of these methods work well, a combination depending on the situation works well to enhance all of your teaching.  There are many alternatives available and some which will allow users with non-smart phones to send a SMS text to a number to take part.
I’m sure I’ll revisit this post to update you as and when I test more methods.

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