A year ago I introduced “clickers” to my classroom and my students went nuts for them. These clickers were essentially remotes that they could use to “vote” their answers to questions I projected up on the board. The participation of my students skyrocketed as well as their desire to review material so they could use “the clickers”. This system was very expensive and I fundraised to get it in my classroom. When the system recently started having connection trouble (long, frustrating story), I searched for a solution and found a FREE alternative that basically does the same thing. Below is what I learned about this awesome new tool that just requires a printer and a smart phone!
“Plickers” are a wonderful and FREE resource for introducing a classroom response system. All you need to do is print out the Plicker “cards”, create an account and download the app on your smart phone (you can check out this quick video tutorial). I printed the smaller half-sheet Plicker cards (the site said that the smaller size would work for an average sized classroom). If you have a particularly large classroom, you might want to print the full size plicker cards to make it easier for your phone to scan. I wanted to laminate the cards to ensure they would last the full year (and hopefully longer). My wonderful co-teacher laminated them for me (thank you!!) and they survived the first day being used by nearly 160 eighth graders.
Once you have your cards printed, create an account on the site and download the app to your smart phone (unfortunately, this does require a smart phone). The beauty about this is that the software allows you to create your assessments wherever you are! If you can use your phone, you can open the app and start creating questions! I made my assessment while I was waiting in line at Target (those lines are crazy long!) and while I was relaxing on the couch—not too shabby! You can organize the questions into specific folders to make things even easier when pulling questions you want to use.
Due to the nature of these cards, you can only create true/false or multiple choice questions. When you project questions for the class to see, students decide what their answer is and they hold up their card. The beauty of these cards is that each image looks slightly different, so students cannot look to their peers for the answer. Also, because the images are random pixilated patterns students wont feel like others will judge them for their answers– the anonymity makes this a safe way for all students to participate! In order for your phone to know what answer they are choosing (your phone scans the room and reads their cards similar to a QR code), the students rotate their card so that either the small A,B,C or D is on top of the image and hold it up.
I was able to stand in the front of the room and scan all of my students Plicker cards without moving too much. The software taps into your phones camera to scan the cards and the information is instantly synced with your computer. In order to project the questions on the whiteboard, you log into the site on your computer and go to the “live view” tab and it waits for your phone to start the process. You choose the questions to project from your phone, you scan with your phone, and you can see the answers the students choose while using your phone. As you scan the room colored boxed pop up by each Plicker card (and student) with a red or green box and the option that they chose. Red would be if they chose the wrong answer, and green would be if they chose the right answer. I also selected that my computer project an instant graph of the answers that students were choosing; my students really liked this because they were getting feedback even quicker (you can see the graph behind me in the image below). Then, as a class, we would look at what students chose and discuss what the real answer was and why people might have chosen one of the others.
Lastly, one of the great things about this software is that you can create separate classes and assign each student a specific card (they are numbered). This way, you can actually track the progress of individual students during these assessments.
The response to these Plickers was amazing. When I first started explaining how it works to my students, they were amazed! I heard comments like “Woah, this is so cool!”, “What? Your phone is going to be able to tell what our answers are?!” and “This is awesome!” We spent a good 15 or 20 minutes reviewing using the Plickers and they were all disappointed when it was time to stop and put the Plicker cards away. Yes, they wanted to continue to review material in class if it meant using the Plicker cards. I had another teacher in my room during the first trial run (thank you for taking these pictures!) and even he was saying “Wow, this is really cool.” Needless to say, the Plickers thoroughly impressed all of us!
I would highly suggest implementing some type of classroom response system. There are a ton of options out there and this is just one of them. There are also some where your students can use their phones to send in answers. I liked the simplicity of the Plicker cards and the ease with which I could use the software.
Please let me know, in the comments section below, if you have tried classroom response systems, what you thought of them etc.
-The Ardent Teacher