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Polling students without the iClicker

One day when I was preparing a technology workshop for a local conference, I wondered what would be an interesting way to have the audience participate.  In our university, lecturers often use iClickers, which are a great little polling gadgets students use to answer multiple choice questions in class.  These give instantaneous results and are great fun for the students, but they cost $35.00 each.  I searched around the net for a similar tool that I could utilise in my session.  Many were fancy and costly;  others weren’t available for use in Canada.  Then ‘lo and behold, I came across Poll Everywhere!

What’s great is that you can use it to poll audiences up to 30 people for free–perfect for classes!  As long as you have an internet connection in your class and students have  text-messaging on their phones, you can launch the poll on their website and get live results as students vote.  It adds no further texting costs and is very simple and intuitive to use.

Basic instructions

First, choose the type of poll you want to use.

Enter the terms you want in your poll.

Launch the poll and show the options to students.

Students text the keyword & number to the number provided.  Watch results come in dynamically!

There’s something about watching bars move about as votes come in that never gets old. I’ve tried it out a few times in class, every time stirring great excitement.  I’d like to stress that I never recommend using technology for technology’s sake.  In this case, you could easily fall into that trap.  Before you do, notice that it’s very useful to get an easy tabulation of responses quickly, rather than counting raised hands.  It also can be left visible, allowing reference to it throughout class.  Plus, it can really be a nice change, especially for younger adults.

Like any tool though, I’d recommend not overusing it so it remains “special”.  Additionally, don’t expect to make out many polls for one class as entering in the information can be a fairly tedious task.  Finally, if your class size is less than 10 or so, it may seem a little pointless.

A few simple ways I’ve used it with students

Warm-up questions. Put up a question that asks for students’ opinions on a topic in order to generate interest in the topic.  Use the results as a way to guide whether your lesson will be based on a homogeneous or varied set of ideas.

Needs analysis. Put up a sentence with a grammar point (or a subskill you’re focusing on) to determine whether students already know it or not.

Reading comprehension. Use it to poll students understanding of main points, details or inferences in a reading.

Discussion questions. A lot like the warm-up, put up a question with possible answers in order to promote conversation among groups.

For more ideas on technology, check out Soundcloud for listening practice, Tweet this, Tweet that, or Shelly Terrell’s Goal 23: Integrate Technology Effectively.

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Vicky Loras

Hi Tyson!

I LOVE this idea! Especially with my adult students in our Business English classes, we’ve been using diagrams and bar charts and all that, but usually in a financial or corporate context. This is such a great new idea, I am sure they’ll love it and you can get so many things out of it.

Your ideas on how to integrate them in the lesson are super!

Thanks for this Tyson,

Vicky Loras

I get all enthusiastic with super ideas…like yours!!!

Mike Harrison

Agree with Vicky here, seems like a very cool tool you’ve presented here, Tyson. Thanks for the guide! Though your point about not overusing it is important.

I’ve got a question. I see you mentioned it adds no further texting cost, so does that mean if they have texts/SMS messaging as part of a contract it will just use up one of those, or will just be the base rate if they are on a pre-paid phone?


Exactly. The tool itself does not charge for texting, but depending on the phone plan from the service provider they have, they might be charged. For example, I have unlimited texting as part of my iPhone plan, so it costs me nothing to text to this or any service.

Vicky Loras

Good question Mike.
I had not really thought about charges, even though I think it won´t be much for once or twice. But thanks for explaining how it works, Tyson!

Naomi Epstein

Glad you are spreading the word regarding this useful tool! teachers seem to be excited about it everywhere – have you seen what Lauren has used it for with her students?

What I’ll be taking away from this post is your general warning about overusing technology! Poll everywhere doesn’t include Israel…


That’s too bad about Israel. I understand your plight. It took me some time to find a polling tool not only free, but available in Canada.

Thanks again to @seburnt for his guide to . Went down well in my ILT session.

[…] The session started with gathering the audience’s opinions on using the smartboards, which were captured by a quick text poll. This can be seen here. There is a useful post here on how to set up polls using written by a colleague in Canada which you can see here. […]

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