Poll Everywhere In Library Instruction

I recently wrote about effective uses of technology in the classroom. This past week our group of teaching librarians has been using another technology that was also really successful. We are teaching information literacy in about 30 sections of CORE 110 classes which is an interdisciplinary first year class called Concepts of the Self. In the class, students are trying to understand the self and why they behave the way they do through examining various texts and literature.

In this IL session we are looking at similar concepts in the context of information. We’re asking students to examine their own information seeking behaviors, habits and preferences. One way we’re doing this is by asking them questions using Poll Everywhere. The questions are about they prefer to get information, share information and search. Poll Everywhere is a web based technology that allows participants to vote in polls via text message, a web page, an embeddable widget, and even Twitter. The polls can be multiple choice, free response, or donation polls where people pledge money.

Poll Everywhere

We’ve had a couple technical glitches, but from my experience so far it has been an overwhelming success. I think it works really well (especially with first years) for several reasons:

  • It’s a technology that almost every student already has in their pocket - Purchasing clickers would not have been feasible for us due to the large number of sections we have to teach and because we have to go to a wide variety of different classrooms. Instead we are using a technology that students are comfortable with and use all the time.
  • Everyone has a little bit of an ego – Students love seeing themselves reflected on the large screen. It gives people a sense of control and people appreciate when they are asked for their opinion. It’s not simply someone telling them what to think.
  • It creates room for discussion – Students have to commit to a choice and then as a teacher you can give them an opportunity to justify or explain that choice and see how others might differ from them.
  • It’s real time – The students got really excited when they saw the graphs move and change as their answers come in. It adds a bit of a wow factor.
  • It’s novel – Most students haven’t used something like this and we catch them off guard. Librarians asking them to pull out their phones and vote with them can break down some stereotypes that first-years might have.

For it to work seamlessly, my colleague Sarah and I had to set up the polls and put them into PowerPoint presentations for the rest of the teaching librarians. It was kind of a large experiment (30+ sections is a lot) and it could have failed bigtime. But luckily our library and our crew of teaching librarians are a pretty adventurous bunch. We don’t mind experimenting and in this instance it paid off.