What in the world is “plickers” you ask?
Plickers is an answer/response system where every student has a paper card with a coded square and the teacher uses a single device to record or take a picture of student answers – each side of the square is labeled a,b,c,d; the letter at the top is the answer you’ve chosen. The answers display in real time, providing instant feedback to teacher and/or students. (See plickers.com)
I’d read about Plickers several months ago, and had a chance to try it out for the first time in early 2015 with my college Ed Tech class. Of the 6 or 7 different interactive response systems that we experimented with, Plickers was a favourite with most students. There was a literal buzz of excitement in the air when we did some sample questions. Future teachers were especially excited about this use of technology because it only required a single teacher device, yet served the same function as several other sites we used without requiring students to each have access to a device.
Since then, I’ve been eager to try Plickers out in my high school classroom and today was the day. The grade 12 students were rightly befuddled and intrigued when I passed out these cards with funny little squares on them. They knew they were having a quiz on a topic related to the Cold War, but this was a curveball they hadn’t expected. Although skeptical at first, they quickly got into it. The Smart Board display instantly records when their card had been captured by my camera, and if I missed someone, they would let me know right away. They loved the “reveal answer” feature, as the Smart Board display would tell them instantly if they got it right or wrong. On the downside, it revealed everyone’s answer at once, so even though I was reluctant to ‘reveal’, they were adamant on every question. On the up side, this meant that we could instantly discuss any answers where several students went astray – talk about real time feedback. To that point, Plickers was awesome.
I sent the students about their next task, and went to gather the quiz marks. I turned the settings and tabs inside out, but finally had to concede that there was no way to retrieve the students’ quiz marks, other than single question by single question!!! I definitely overlooked this aspect of Plickers in my earlier investigation of the tool. I actually had to hand tally each of the 8 quiz questions to get an overall grade for each of the students. (OK, to be fair, my trusty work experience student, Logan, did the hand tallying, but the point remains!) This was definitely a bubble-burster.
There is actually a second bubble-burster that I was willing to work around. When you create questions, Plickers allows you to connect the questions to a class, but not to an actual quiz, like Socrative or Quizlet would, for example. So, I created four eight-question quizzes for my grade 12 Social class. That meant that there were 32 questions that I would have to sort through to “send” the next question to the display screen for students to answer. I worked around that by putting a quiz code at the beginning of each question so that I could easily find it in the middle of administering the quiz (eg. Today the quiz was about the Korean War, so each question had KW at the beginning). This was a reasonable work around that I was willing to implement, however, combined with the previously described “bubble-burster”, I’d have to label this a second burst bubble.
So what will the future of Plickers be in my high school classroom? I think there is a definite place for it, and I have just the opportunity later this week. In grade 10, we will be doing some practice or sample multiple choice questions before our next big multiple choice unit exam. This will be a perfect time for Plickers. It will be formative assessment and/or practice for the students, so I won’t record their marks, but it will be perfect for discussing how to answer these questions. Plickers displays the number of students that chose each response – in ‘real time’ don’t forget – so we will be able to have timely and efficient discussions about each question and the distractors. This should be the perfect job for an efficient tool like Plickers.