Monday, December 29, 2014

Why Use Polling or Clickers?

When we came out with our polling feature, we couldn't wait to announce it to the world. However, we've noticed that not everyone knows where to start with a polling tool. So for any instructors looking for tips on when and how to use our Polling feature (which is included in the cost of EHR Tutor) or has a clicker system, here are some general ideas that might lead you to some uses in the classroom.

Engagement: When you get to a subject that just doesn't have the pizzazz that some others do (pharmacology anyone?), polling is a great way to keep students engaged. Instead of asking a question to the class while that one student who works nights is secretly sleeping in the back, engage every single student by asking for physical and thoughtful participation. Throughout a lecture, ask students questions (for example, after taking this medication would a patient's blood become thinner? Yes or no?) and have every single student answer on his/her smartphone. Until you see the same number of answers on the graph as you have students in your room, wait for full participation. That way, you know no one is daydreaming when they should be focusing. Also, the slight movement of pressing a button can help wake students up (we're also big proponents of keeping an active classroom and encouraging movement from students).

Are you explaining the concept clearly?: When you get to a tricky topic or are trying out a new curriculum and want to make sure your students fully understand the information you're presenting, just ask! For example, if you've recently flipped the classroom and want to make sure your new teaching methods are working when discussing A&P ask your students a question about a topic you've described (for example, ask about the flow of blood through the heart) and have all students answer using a smartphone, tablet or computer. If only 50% of the answers are correct, you know to cover the topic more thoroughly before moving on. In the end, you'll prevent groups of students from falling behind. On the other hand, if 100% of the answers are correct, you know that the new method of teaching is working well!

Student Self-grading: As instructors, we tend to think our students are aware of the fact they're doing well, or, in some cases, doing poorly. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes more than a few bad test results to really drill the point home that a student needs to pick up the slack. Daily polling is a great way to keep students aware of their progress without publicly drawing attention to their shortcomings. For example, when you come to a topic you know a specific student has been struggling with but has shown no signs of improving on, ask a question to the class. On a projector or smartboard, make sure to show the results from the poll. In EHR Tutor's polling feature, we do not tie the results to a name so no one will know who got the answers right... or wrong. Which means when 20/21 students got the correct answer and only 1 student got the incorrect answer, that student will know he or she is the only one struggling. It makes the idea that he/she needs to study that topic hit home a little bit harder. To solidify the concept, have a volunteer describe why the correct answer is right. Hopefully hearing it from a peer will help the description stick.