Submitted by: Carol Damm, MEd, Instructional Designer

In a previous blog post, I discussed the effective use of polling in the higher ed classroom as a pedagogical tool to engage and challenge students. There are a number of online tools, both freely available and subscription based, that you have access to, depending on your requirements and goals for their use.

You can also consider using clickers which are available at many departments. You will need to access an online interface to work with them. However, they do have an advantage over other online tools. Students don’t need to have their own device in order to participate. In most of the apps that I will mention, students will need to have a smart phone or laptop in order to engage with questions. If you discourage the use of laptops or mobile devices during class, then a clicker system might be preferable.

Google Forms (https://docs.google.com/forms)

As part of the Brandeis Google Drive system, Forms allows you to limit the access to any surveys or questions that you develop to Brandeis-only users. Another advantage is that you can see the immediate results from any polling in graphical format. It will also send all responses to a spreadsheet which you can then use to gain more information, depending on your needs. Forms has the added capability of changing your poll or survey into a graded quiz. You can opt to keep the responses anonymous or to record the email address of the respondent. The surveys can be accessed through a hyperlink on the student’s laptop or mobile device. They can also be embedded into your course site in LATTE.

Poll Everywhere (https://www.polleverywhere.com)

Poll Everywhere is free for up to 25 responses per poll. If you want to include more students then you would be required to pay a subscription fee. It works with any device through SMS text voting or through a web interface. The students will see immediate responses to your questions. You can also embed the polls in a Powerpoint or Keynote slide show, so there is seamless transition when making a presentation.

Socrative (https://socrative.com)

Socrative is similar to Poll Everywhere. The free version allows you to poll up to 50 students per session and the Pro version is more affordable than Poll Everywhere if you were to plan on using it in an ongoing basis. As far as I know, it will not allow the user to embed the poll into a slide show.

These are just three online options among many. If you want to poll without students’ devices, Plickers (https://plickers.com) has a unique system where you give students pre-printed cards which they hold up to be scanned by your mobile device. The Plickers app compiles the responses and immediately shows the results. The laminated Plickers cards are free for up to 40 participants.

If you have any questions or would like some support in integrating polling into your course materials, feel free to contact Carol Damm, MEd, Instructional Designer via email at cdamm@brandeis.edu.

Web conferencing technology has become a mainstream way of communicating across distances and the uses for it are endless. Applications in the classroom can lead to rich and engaging experiences with people in virtually any location, as long as they have an internet connection, as well as provide flexibility for faculty and students on campus and off.
Brandeis now offers ZOOM, a web conferencing tool that will allow you to hold virtual meetings for many different purposes. A few common uses for the software in the classroom include bringing in guest presenters, teaching a class remotely if an instructor is unable to physically be on campus, or facilitate an entire class remotely due to inclement weather. Programs at Brandeis are now also utilizing the software to facilitate fully online courses, expanding access to students all over the world.
ZOOM offers a number of interactive features that allow virtual meetings to run as if everyone was in the same physical space. For example, screen sharing allows one to share a presentation as they would through a projection system in a classroom. Breakout rooms allow the instructor to break everyone into small groups for discussion and collaboration and the polling feature allows the host to create questions for the group to answer, which can often lead to rich discussions.
ZOOM host accounts are available to all Brandeis faculty, staff and students and can host meetings for up to 50 participants. More information about Zoom can be found on the Brandeis Knowledge Base. Support inquiries can be sent to webconferencing@brandeis.edu.

Alternative facts, fake news, hyperpartisan news coverage…are you trying to guide your students to firm ground in a sea of misinformation? Researchers from the Stanford History Education Group recently assessed students’ civil online reasoning and their findings point to a need for more instruction focused on the critical evaluation of information sources:

Our ‘digital natives’ may be able to fit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped. 

Stanford History Education Group, Evaluating information: the cornerstone of civic online reasoning

The Library is working with the Center for Teaching and Learning to hold a faculty discussion about helping students approach news stories with a critical eye. The discussion will take place Thursday, March 9th, at 11am. At this session, we’ll discuss:

  • the role of social media
  • what we can learn from the tools and strategies used by fact-checkers
  • the challenges of addressing bias in government information
  • ways minimize the spread of misinformation in an increasingly clickbaity world
  • strategies to help students critically evaluate news and other information sources

We encourage you to bring questions and to share any of your experiences related to how your students judge the reliability of news coverage and evaluate bias in information sources.