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Mobile devices as clickers: One Elon professor shares experiences

Image by: Matt Cornock

Guest author Heidi Hollingsworth, Assistant Professor in the Education department shares a tool she uses to engage her students.

I’ve been using an alternative to traditional student response system (clickers) this year: Socrative.com. Instead of giving students a clicker device, each student enters responses on her or his smartphone, iPad, or laptop.

Here are some of the ways I use Socrative:

  • I ask on-the-spot questions during instruction and either view responses privately or display them on the screen. This keeps students engaged and allows me to gauge their understanding of a topic and adjust instruction accordingly. I also ask for students’ opinions, which can help generate discussion.
  • Quizzes can be created and uploaded ahead of time. For example, I ask students to respond to quizzes about the chapter/topic for an upcoming class. These quizzes are ungraded (though Socrative does grading) and serve as an advance organizer for students’ reading. In the following class, I display graphs of their pre-responses to various questions, and we have discussions about whether and how their answers would change, having completed the reading.
  • A quiz can be run as a game (called ‘Space Race’ on Socrative). Every student enters responses, either individually or as a member of a team. I use this to provide practice examples, to check for understanding, or to review. The students seem to like the game, even though I think the rocket crossing the screen as correct answers are entered is pretty hokey. It works best for short quizzes.
  • I also gather feedback about courses in the middle and at the end of the semester using Socrative. I ask students to respond anonymously to closed-ended and open-ended questions, for example about course content, activities, materials, and assignments. This has provided me with helpful feedback that I’ve used to adjust my teaching, and using Socrative provides me the ‘quiz report’ from which I can conveniently cut and paste student comments for things like Unit 1s.

MORE: Learn more about teaching and learning with clickers and see who else at Elon is using clickers.

Advantages of Socrative

  1. Students and faculty need not purchase equipment or software.
  2. Longer written responses can be entered more easily.
  3. The format of the Excel quiz report that Socrative provides is convenient for analysis of responses.

Limitations of Socrative

  1. It takes time to have students take out their phones and enter the instructor’s room on Socrative.
  2. The hokey graphics mentioned above for the competitive quiz format (you can easily avoid that one particular activity).
  3. Not all students have smartphones (I’ve only run across this twice – one student used his iPad, the other used her laptop).

MORE: Interested in trying clickers? Read about the logistics of clickers at Elon and see if a web-based clicker like Socrative would work for you.

I don’t use Socrative in every class session, and I use it more in some courses than in others. There are a number of features of which I have not taken full advantage, such as exit tickets. I’m still learning and look forward to hearing other good ideas.

Are you using Socrative or another web-based clicker like Poll Everywhere or GoSoapBox? Let us know how you’re using it in the comments below.

Dan Reis

Dan Reis

Dan Reis is an Instructional Technologist with Elon University’s Teaching and Learning Technologies.

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