Recently, technology for real-time polling of information has become popular to do quick, interactive quizzes for presentations and also as an educational tool in the classroom, for example, tools like MentiMeter and Socrative. Whilst I was intrigued (I’m always looking for ways to engage my students) to the advantages they may offer towards the student experience and learning, I wasn’t prepared to change my workflow to fit in to any specific format such technologies may prescribe: I generate HTML presentations using bookdown and don’t use PowerPoint for example. I also didn’t want to have to download any mobile application or worse, force my students to download anything (A UX nightmare for the classroom!)
So over the 2019/20 christmas period, I developed a small web application to facilitate interactive sessions during my lectures.
Hosted on the school’s OpenStack platform, all I do is simply embed the page in an
iframe using knitr and go from there.
The students just point their device (phone, laptop, whatever) to a URL or use the generated QR code and they can instantly join (no login/codes required).
My web development skills were rusty (haven’t really done anything web based since late 2015) so it seemed like a good exercise and christmas was the only time I’d get to do it before the new teaching semester began.
Having trialled it in the classroom, here are my initial observations:
- Students really liked it. Like a lot!
- I was skeptical as I’ve heard the argument where its really just a digital ‘show of hands’. However, it really is more than that. For example, its easier to visualize in a bar chart a show of hands for a set of options rather than go through each in turn. Also, and here’s where I think the magic lies and is worth further study, I can see how the show of hands changes over time. I have some ideas for how to study this in an experiment which I’ll do at some point.
- Having my own system means I can discuss the internals of the system: this is useful when teaching a module like CM1202. Students are also really interested in seeing how things work (especially first years) and I could create a welcoming environment for feedback where they can voice their opinions and suggest new features. Suggestions are one thing but when I can then go and implement their suggestions, and they see this in a future lecture (for example, the ‘Show Answer’ utility was something I was unsure about at first but implemented it after an initial pilot at which point a student also thought it would be a good idea), students really appreciate it.
Here’s a video of Lancometer* in action.
* Or perhaps you were looking for this lancometer…