Plickers

So… today we had mini-30 minute classes. In essence it’s the first day of school. Except the freshman aren’t here (they’re on a camping trip) so I only met with two classes (instead of four). And on this first day, I tried something out. Plickers. The short version: the technology works super well and is awesome. I need to figure out how to use this effectively.

The short version about plickers is this: students have these little QR codes assigned to them. Notice on the edge of the QR code are letters A, B, C, and D.

QRStudents, when answering a question, hold up their plickers with the letter they want to answer with. (So, for example, this would be “B.”) Then you as a teacher — standing in the front of the room — use the Plicker app to scan the room and record the results.

Here’s what I did in to start my first Precalculus class meeting.

I had each kid grab a random textbook but not open it up. (I had written student names in the textbooks.)

Then they held up their plicker with a guess of the probability that no one in the class has their own book — no one in the class has the book with their own name in it. (Even grokking what that question means is tough.) They weren’t talking with anyone. This was an individual intuition question. The choices:

A: 0-24.99%

B: 25-49.99%

C: 50-74.99%

D: 75-100%

The plickers were amazing! I didn’t have to move. It took about 10 seconds from start to finish. I was missing someone, and so I just looked and it told me who had not responded… so I pointed my phone in their direction… fixed! And our results:

Survey1

Then I asked kids to talk with their groups. Try to convince each other. See what they could come up with. With the same question, the new results were:

Question2

I used the popsicle sticks of destiny to call on three people to explain their thought process. (I stupidly had revealed the answer before doing this. Yup. I forgot how to teach over the summer.) I pushed for some reasoning why it might be greater than or less than 50%. [FYI, this is a tough problem… this was only an exercise in intuition and convincing each other. I left it as an open challenge if anyone could solve it… or an easier version of it like a 5 textbook scenario… which was an idea a student brought up.]

But here’s the thing. I love how easy using plickers was. I can use this for informal feedback (how do they feel like they’re understanding the material) or to spark a math debate or to just have some fun. I also love that I can see who answered what, so I can call on specific people with different ideas.

So yeah, my one good thing is my new technology which I tried out on the first day. And it didn’t crash. It took very little time. It got me some interesting data. And I can see using it in the future. Huzzah!

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