Sunday, March 20, 2016

10 Reasons to Use Plickers, Not Clickers

Collecting responses from students with clickers was never appealing to me. I guess it was managing more software and hardware that turned me off. With all of the Web tools coming out, the thought of changing batteries and dealing with an already slow PC, trying to update, was never on my wish list. 


Patience and high expectations for technology led me to Plickers. I was looking for something simple yet provided all of the data I needed to make instructional decisions. It includes Web access to set up classes, make questions, and manage data. It also has many functions on the app, which is the business end of the data collection. 

Plickers is easy to use and only requires one smart device, so browse these features and play with it a little.   

Classes – Website View

Classes – Mobile App View

Some of these are GIFs, so keep watching if you missed what happens -- it'll play it again, and again. 

1. Upload Class Roster

My first classes were all typed individually. I was so excited that it didn't matter. Once the novelty wore off, however, it was nice to see the update that included a class roster upload. I simply copy the roster from my grade book and paste it in Plickers. After a few settings are selected, the class is complete. 

The remaining task is to organize the cards accordingly. Some teachers hand out the cards once, and the students are responsible for the card. I prefer to laminate the cards and use one set for all of my classes. This means the student card assignments are based on the seating chart. 

To reassign card numbers, click, hold, and drag the card number to drop wherever you want it.  


2. Add Questions to the Library

I often start by transferring the assessment items by copying and pasting from the quizzes I've developed over the years. The only time there's extra work is when transferring from PDF to Plickers. Sometimes the spacing does not copy and paste correctly, which is not an issue with Plickers. 

Questions can be organized by folders in the library. They can also be added with the mobile app. Sometimes we take the Plickers outside on a nice day, which means students must listen more attentively. Students actually do not do worse when listening to the question versus reading it. 

Lastly, the questions can also be added to the library with the Plickers mobile app (second image).



3. Assign Questions to Classes

Once you've added a question (or more), it's a couple of clicks to add questions to one or more classes. This is one of the few ways to stay organized in the library, and it's just as easy to remove a question from a class. It's rather intuitive. You'll see. 


4. Insert images into Questions

Plickers is a great tool to use during early stages of a lesson. It's during these stages that the process of building meaning requires more visuals to make connections with prior knowledge and make new knowledge. Adding images is quick and easy, and the images change size as font sizes are adjusted in live view (see below).


5. Manage the Question Queue

The questions can be added to the queue on the website or the app. This makes it easier to maintain a certain flow for instruction. Each class can have a different queue, and questions are removed automatically once scanning is complete. 



6. Live View Settings

The live view is perfect for displaying with a projector. The kids can read the question and see the results once they are revealed. The question displayed in the Live View is controlled by the question selected with the smart device used to scan the class for student responses. 

Notice how the questions can be zoomed in or out to change the view. For example, if not all of the choices are visible, the question font size can be reduced to bring all choices into view.



7. See the Results on the App

As the smart device is used to scan the class's responses, the results are displayed on the app. This includes the names and individual choices, which can be scrolled through to view the entire list while using the app. It's intuitive. If you want it to do something, it probably can. 


8. Analyze the Results 

My favorite thing about Plickers is the simplicity when it comes to design. The results are displayed by question, distribution of responses (graph), and the individual choices.




9. Item Analysis 

This feature is new, and I'm excited about it because of the patterns that it can reveal about student progress. It's what classrooms are looking for in the "age of assessment." 


10. Print or Download Results

The results are easily printable or saved as a PDF (right click and select print). They can also be exported to a CSV file, which can be opened by Excel or Sheets.



Why Plickers?

Why would we use any of these technologies? I guess the better question is: When? Using Plickers during a lecture / discussion, as opposed to at the end, breaks up the input / output forms for learners. This integration of assessment threaded throughout a presentation of new information promotes more questions on the metacognitive level, which, in my experience, has led to higher achievement levels and more learner confidence at the end of a lesson or unit of study.

We could use other tools, such as Socrative (which has it’s own powerful strengths), but Plickers gets learners out of the glowing box routine and active with a simple manipulative. It’s not super kinesthetic, but there’s more movement that engages students in the physical learning space than a response system that lives in the virtual world.

In broader context, the balance of a 21st Century classroom relies on the strategic use of digital versus non-digital tools and learning materials. Extended reading, in my opinion, is best done with paper, for example. Essay writing, however, is better practiced with an online word processor like Google Docs because of the organizational accommodations of editing without cross outs and the collaborative possibilities, as if a virtual window allows me to see learners progressing during the writing process, not just at the end.

Plickers is a paper-digital hybrid that epitomizes some of the balance that a 21st Century classroom needs to support learners on their educational journeys.

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