This week we are looking at one of my favourite digital learning tools Plickers. If you are frustrated because your school does not yet have the infrastructure for other digital learning tools, like Kahoot! and other apps that encourage active learning, then Plickers might be your solution. It is free, easy to use and best of all, you can use it offline.
What is Plickers?
Plickers, yes that is how you spell it, is a hybrid between technology and non-technology tools. It uses your phone’s ability to scan QR codes to create an easy to use and offline quiz program. If you are unfamiliar with QR codes, they are these little blocks that look a little bit like Rorschach test. Each learner gets a card that they use to answer multiple choice questions by holding their card up. Each side of the card is labelled A, B, C and D and learners answer the question by holding the card with that side up. Using the Plickers app on your phone, you quickly scan the class, and within seconds you have feedback from your class.
The scanner on your phone is extremely sensitive; it takes literally seconds to scan a whole class. Should a learner change their mind, they can just turn their cards while you sweep the class again, and Plickers will update their choice.
Of all the digital learning tools, I love Plickers because it can be used by anybody, anywhere, in any subject and with all age groups, all you need is a computer to set up your questions and classes, a smartphone with the Plickers app and a set of Plickers cards for each of your classes.
Although you will need internet access to download the app on your phone, and to sync the results with the score sheet, you can scan the cards while offline and see the results on your phone, ideal for schools without wifi.
What does Plickers cost?
It is FREE! Well almost, like most digital learning tools Plickers is a freemium app. That means that the basic functions are free, but if you want the more advanced features, you have to pay. While it is sometimes frustrating to start using an app only to realise that you will have to pay for the full features, it is important to remember developing an app is not cheap and these companies need to make money in some way. By allowing you limited accessibility for free, you can use the app in your class, see how it works and if you like it, you can consider upgrading your plan.
At today’s exchange rate an annual subscription will cost you about R1200, which is a bit steep for my pocket and definitely not something my principal will sign off on. But I have found the free version of Plickers to be relatively extensive and more than enough for my needs; the only limitation is that you can only create sets of 5 questions. But since there is no limit on how many sets you can have, you just create a sequence of sets and queue them all up for your lesson.
Getting started with Plickers
To set up Plickers, you need to create an account (another plus for Plickers is that learners do not need an account). I just used the “Sign in with Google” option to save time.
Next up, you need to create classes. If you are just using Plickers to get general feedback from your class, or you want the results to be anonymous, you do not need to add names to the class. But if you’re going to use Plickers to get feedback from specific learners, you need to import their names. You can either type them or copy and paste it from an existing Excel sheet. You can add up to 60 learners in a class.
Once you have created your classes, you will see that a card number is allocated to each learner. I usually take the alphabetical option. Next, you have to give each learner the card linked to their name. It is worth it to spend a moment considering how you are going to ensure that every learner has easy access to their card in every lesson.
- Print a set of cards for each class and make them stick the card on their maths book. (I keep a spare set of cards in case a learner does not have their card with them)
- Keep a set of cards in the class and hand them out every time you are going to use them. (this can become very frustrating, very quickly)
- Laminate the cards and fix them to the desk in some way. (This is only an option, if your learners never move seats or if you are only planning to use Plickers anonymously.)
Once you have set up your classes, you need to create Sets of Questions. The free version of Plickers limits you to 5 questions per set, but there is no limit on how many sets you can create. You can also create folders to make it easier to find the right set of questions.
Your questions must be multiple choice questions with between 2 and 4 answers. There are two types of questions, quiz questions (with ONE correct answer) and survey questions (with no wrong answer) The advantage of the quiz mode is that as you are scanning the cards, all the correct answers show green and the incorrect answers red. You don’t get your feedback more immediate than that.
Now it is time to play. Download the app on your phone and sign in (remember it must be the same account) You should be able to see your classes and the sets of questions in the library.
If you have a computer and projector in the class, launch the set on your computer so that learners can see the questions. If you do not have access to a projector, you can launch the set form your phone and write the questions on the board or even give them verbally.
Once learners have decided on their answer, they hold up their cards. You click on the record button on your phone and sweep it across the class. You can see on your screen as it picks up the cards. On the righthand-side of your computer screen, you will see a tally of the learners who have answered. Once you have scanned everybody, click on the record button again and move on to the next question. (If you swipe to the next question on your phone it will also move to the next question on the computer.)
You can see a summary of the results on your phone, but if you want a more detailed report, click on “scoresheet” on the computer.
Five ways Plickers can make your life easier
Once learners are familiar with the routine, Plickers allows you to take register within seconds, by starting the class with the question “Are you here today?”
I am a big advocate of informal and formative assessments, but more often than not, I never find the time to have a look at those assessments. Plickers allow you to have the results immediately.
Test understanding at the end of the lesson by asking learners to rate their understanding of the work.
Plickers are a great way to collate learners opinions quickly, especially since they can see the results live on the screen. This can be a great introduction to a lesson.
Take the pain out of letting learners choose their groups or topics for a project by using Plickers.
A few things to keep in mind
- No maths symbols – if you want to ask algebra questions, you will need to upload it as a picture. But there is no way to include maths symbols in your answers. One way to get around it is to put the questions on Powerpoint as well and instead project that than the Plickers screen.
- Only one correct answer – however, if you make it a survey question, then you do not need to indicate a correct solution.
- Maximum of 5 questions per set – as mentioned before you are limited to 5 questions per set, but you can queue several sets.
- Date not on the scoresheet – you can sort the scoresheet by day/week/month, but you can not actually see the date of the quiz on the scoresheet.