Monday, 23 August 2010

Simple voting boxes to enhance learning

From this academic year onward, voting boxes (= Audience Response System = ARS) will be used to enhance courses. We have to reasons to do this: a technical reason, and an educational research driven reason linked to pedagogical benefits.

Pedagogical reasons to use voting boxes
While the use of voting boxes in itself does not really deepen learning at first glance, it already increases interactivity in the classroom or learning environment simply because by using voting boxes (one per person, or one per group), each individual (or group stimulating peer-to-peer discussion) must think about the question and the answer. The shear fact of asking all the students to think about a certain question or answer will increase the cognitive impulse in all the students, they cannot hide behind their peers.

Other ways in which an ARS stimulates learning
There are many learning strategies resulting from the use of an ARS, I just list just five, but feel free to roam the references below for a more in-depth approach and list:
• Teacher feedback on prior knowledge of the complete student group.
• Enabling the teacher to respond to feedback of the ARS, by tailoring to the gap of knowledge that it displays.
• Activate participation in the complete group.
• Reflect and discuss the content that was put forward and the answers of the group.
• Cognitive trigger for accessing the prior knowledge of the student.

There are many other pedagogical benefits of using voting boxes in learning environments, if you are interested, look through these two papers (really great stuff).

References relevant to ARSystems with good outcomes:
Kay, R.H., Lesage, A. (2009) A strategic assessment of audience response systems used in higher education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 2009, 25(2), 235-249.
Cain, J., Black, E.P., Rohr J. (2009). An Audience Response System Strategy to Improve Student Motivation, Attention, and Feedback. Am J Pharm Educ. 2009 April 7; 73(2): 21 :

Build your own online mobile survey application for training feedback (in real time)
If your students have their own smartphone, you can of course build a voting area with the smartphones as tools to enhance learning yourselves. We did look at these opportunities, and I will gladly share a possible solution, but as only a few of our students have the means to purchase smartphones of their own, voting boxes were purchased to increase learning in face-to-face settings by using technology (our choice Turning point is briefly highlighted below).

A possible smartphone solution to enhance synchronous interaction by using votes
Use a web-based survey or quiz software (e.g. polleverywhere or surveygizmo). With this survey software, you build your quiz online. After you have build your quiz or survey you either make a QR-code for it (easy to get users to the right location via their mobile), or you send them a link (use software that shortens links like TinyURL, otherwise the users must type in a lengthy link and that increases errors in typing). You then ask them to take the survey.

Using the data to your and their advantage: once they have taken the survey you download the results of the survey to a software that allows you to analyze data. The results can also be displayed in real time, which allows you to give feedback on the given answers.

Voting boxes we are using
There are a lot of voting boxes out there on the market. After careful consideration (meaning, looking at prices mostly for we did not want to go over budget on these tools), we choose to go with Turning Point devices.

The principle is simple. You install the software from Turning Point on your computer. After that that software is embedded in PowerPoint (or Mac's equivalent). Then you build a PowerPoint presentation with question slides in them (you can add a variety of questions: multiple choice, multiple answer, arrange words, numeric...) . Once you have added all the questions you have to the base PowerPoint, you plug in the receiver (USB port), and you deliver each learner with a device. Once the quiz or survey is launched, the learners only have to push a button on their device and they are able to vote on possible right answers.

Does this system work for any learning environment? Yes, you can even go international with some voting boxes that allow people from remote areas to enter their votes on specific subject matter, just like using web-based surveys. So this type of interaction can also be used in eLearning. With Turning Point the results of the voting boxes can even be linked to some learning management systems (e.g. Moodle), and immediately be added to the grading books (if needed).