When asking students during class to respond to multiple choice questions, you have a number of options. You can use a dedicated clicker system like iClicker where you can have students use a remote or a web-enabled device to respond. You can use a completely web-based system like Socrative. You can go the low-tech route and have students hold up one of their A through D cards. Or you can merge high-tech and low-tech and use Plickers, although this doesn’t feel low-tech at all.
With Plickers, each student gets a unique QR code (download the PDF). The orientation of the QR code determines the student’s answer. This is card 1 showing B as an answer. Rotate to the left and C would be the student’s answer. Ask your multiple choice question, and have students respond by holding up their cards with their answer pointed up.
Working with the app. [Updated 5/10/2014: The day after I posted this article I got an email from a kind person at Plickers telling me that they just overhauled the mobile app. Ignore the app screenshots. It looks different now. I’m working on an updated blog post.]
Open the Plickers app on your smartphone or tablet* (Android/iOS). If you have assigned cards to students, you’ll see the students’ names on the left. If you haven’t, you’ll see the card numbers. Notice how they are all gray.
Click “scan.” Your device’s camera will come on. As you stand at the front of the room panning from one side to the other, the app will register the QR codes your students are holding up. (The 5.5″x5,5″ cards are readable from 20-25 feet; I had no problem picking them up in the back of my classroom. If you have a larger room, you may choose to use the bigger 8.5″x8.5″ cards.) As each code is scanned, you’ll see an orange outline appear around the QR code and the answer the student selected will appear in blue above the QR code. This is much easier to see on a tablet than on a smartphone. As each student’s response is recorded, their gray box will turn blue. If you tap the menu button (three vertical dots), you can toggle the student names off and toggle the bar graph of results on. If you want to be the only one to see this information, you can stop here.
Working with the website.
If you want the students to their names and the results, let’s switch over to the website, Plickers.com. Go into the course you created when you signed up, and click the “Teach!” button. (More on course creation below.)
This is what the webpage looks like before scanning the QR codes. (“Grid” shows you each of the cards.)
As you scan with your device, students will see their box go blue so they’ll know their response has been recorded.
While that’s all good, what you really want to see are the results. Click “Graph.”
If you want to see how each student responded, click on the “Classes” button, select your class, then select the poll you’re interested in. Unfortunately there isn’t a way (yet?) to download the responses, but it’s easy enough to copy and paste the student responses into a spreadsheet.
Creating a class and assigning cards to students.
Click on “Classes” and then “Add a new class.”
After naming your class, you can enter your students’ names. Cards will be assigned in order. (Yes, it would be cool to upload a .csv file with names and card numbers already entered, but alas, not yet.) Click on a student’s name or card number to change it. This feature is a little buggy. Sometimes the changes stick and sometimes they don’t. Navigating to another page and coming back seems to help.
Note: Students can change their answers as long as you’re still scanning. You can even switch to the graph view before you’re done scanning, and students can watch their answers come in. Let’s say, for example, you ask students how well they believe they understand a particular concept, from A (totally get it) to D (totally confused). If you have a number of students at the D end, you can leave the question running as you try a different way to help students grasp the concept. Tell students to hold up their cards as their understanding changes, and do another scan. Have the responses slid toward the A side? If so, you know you can move on.
Plickers is a new product, so keep your eyes open for new features and improvements!
If you are going to use your tablet, test it first. On my Ellipsis, Plickers worked great. On my Galaxy Nexus, it read the QR codes incorrectly; it read them as though the student responded with the letter on the left, not the letter on to. [Updated 5/10/2014: As part of the mobile app overhaul I mentioned above, the developers have built in the ability to “rotate answers.” Run a question as a test. With the device’s camera on, scan a Plickers card. If the top answer is not the one that’s recorded, tap the menu button (three vertical) dots, and select “rotate answers.” Once you calibrate the device, the settings will stick, and there won’t be any need to redo it.]