Active Learning Activities: Poll Everywhere

Written by David Christianson

Active learning isn’t about fun. It’s about engagement. It’s about doing something with information beyond intake and producing output. It’s about producing output right now, in the moment, and not waiting for a paper due in two weeks or a test on Thursday. Students are great at active learning, but they need instructors to provide the opportunity and a direction for it. Here are two activities to produce active learning in your class.


Name: Poll Everywhere

Who: Whole Class

Time: 2-3 minutes

Process: Poll Everywhere is a live polling website for presenters, also known as an audience response system. Free for up to 40 responses, instructors can make unlimited polls using even the free account. Responses can be represented in a number of visual ways, including bar graphs and word clouds. Questions can be open ended or multiple choice. Students or workshop participants can either send their response as a text message or use the website to answer, making this activity friendly for anyone with a mobile device. Houston Heflin, Assistant Professor of Bible, Missions, and Ministry uses Poll Everywhere to make formative assessments and get students actively involved in the lesson.

Purpose: Electronic audience response systems have been shown to improve student learning (Good, 2013). Eric Mazur, celebrated Harvard Physics professor, uses them for formative assessments in his classes. When students indicate they do not have a firm grasp of the the content being addressed, he uses peer learning activities to supplement the lecture. Peer learning can be helpful because, “The better you know something, the more difficult it becomes to teach because you’re no longer aware of the conceptual difficulties of the beginning learner.” Using Poll Everywhere to gauge your students’ understanding will allow you to know, before the test, if some sort of intervention is needed.”

 

Good, Karly C. “Audience Response Systems in higher education courses: A critical review of the literature.” INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY (2013): 19.

UMBC.edu [UMBCtube]. (2009, November 12) Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/WwslBPj8GgI

Active Learning Activities: Talking Chips & Real Time Case Study Discussion

Active learning isn’t about fun. It’s about engagement. It’s about doing something with information beyond intake and producing output. It’s about producing output right now, in the moment, and not waiting for a paper due in two weeks or a test on Thursday. Students are great at active learning, but they need instructors to provide the opportunity and a direction for it. Here are two activities to produce active learning in your class.


Name: Talking Chips

Who: Groups of 3-5

Time: 10-20 minutes

Process: As students enter the class, give each one a stack of colored chips (such as poker chips) or colored note cards (heretofore referred to simply as chips, regardless of the item). Have as many colors of chips as you want people in each group. For example, for groups of 4, have red, white, blue, and green chips. Form groups by having students find others with differently colored chips, so each group has each color of chip and no duplicates. Each chip serves as permission to make a contribution to the discussion. In answering the question, each student’s goal is to get rid of their chips by making that many meaningful contributions to the discussion. Each time they comment, they surrender a chip. This helps ensure that each student participates equally. Once all of the chips have been surrendered, students can redistribute them for the next discussion round or end the discussion, depending on your goals for the class period.

Purpose: This activity encourages participation from reticent students, and will limit students who tend to dominate such activities. This can be particularly useful for discussing controversial activities.

Adapted from Barkley, Cross, and Major, (2005).


Name: Real Time Case Study Discussion

Who: Whole class

Time: Varies, length of case study

Process: Have students discuss a movie or role play they watch as they are watching using a social media site, such as Facebook. Dr. Stephen Baldridge (Social Work) did this for one of his classes. First, he set up a Facebook group* and invited his students to the group before the class session. Students logged on to the group before they started watching the movie as a case study. As they watched, anyone in the group could make comments on how the case study related to the material they were covering. Students were able to see each others’ comments in real time as they watched the movie, and by the end, they had a collective page of notes.

Purpose: This collaborative activity allows students to not only apply their learning to a particular case, but also for them to benefit from each others’ observations.

 

*There are various ways to organize this via social media tools. Twitter hashtags, a Google Doc, an OpenClass Share feed, and others.

Active Learning Activities: Give Me Three Steps and Think-Draw-Pair

Written by David Christianson

Active learning isn’t about fun. It’s about engagement. It’s about doing something with information beyond intake and producing output. It’s about producing output right now, in the moment, and not waiting for a paper due in two weeks or a test on Thursday. Students are great at active learning, but they need instructors to provide the opportunity and a direction for it. Here are two activities to produce active learning in your class.


Name: Give Me Three Steps

Who: Partners or groups of 3-4

Time: 4-6 minutes

Process: Give learners 1 step instructions. “Everyone please stand up and wait for directions.” After they have stood, direct the learners to take a set number of steps, depending on the size and mobility of the room, in any direction. For example, “Everyone please take seven steps in any direction, then wait for more information. Once they have stepped, have learners partner up (or get in a group of three to four) and give them a question to discuss or something to review. For example, “Now, find the person that is nearest you and partner up. Once you do that, discuss this question. How did the Sykes-Picot Agreement at the end of the First World War contribute to the current conditions in the Middle East today?”

Purpose: One of the problems with not doing active learning activities is simple inactivity. Comfort is not compatible with engagement, so breaking that cycle of comfort and inviting movement can transition students from a state of comfort to one of attention.

Adapted from Jensen (2003).

 


 Name: Think-Draw-Pair

Who: Pairs

Time: 5-10 minutes

Process: Instruct learners to draw a visual representation of an important concept you are addressing. This drawing can take the form of a cartoon, a diagram, or whatever they think of to represent the concept. Give them at least 5 minutes, but no more than 10, to complete the drawing. Then, have them partner with someone else and explain the drawing to that student.

Purpose: Vision trumps all of the other senses (Medina, 2009). When learners create their own interpretation of a concept in a visual form, they create a better understanding than they would otherwise (Schwamborn, et al, 2010). In this version of the old Think-Pair-Share activity, learners don’t just discuss – they visualize. As they share it with someone else, they then verbalize their conceptualization and may identify holes in their thinking, allowing them to wrestle with the concept even more. And, of course, they may learn something new from their learning partner that they hadn’t realized about the concept.

Adapted from Jensen (2003).