So I did a session with some 1st year architectural technology students on Monday and made use of PollEverywhere to try and get a bit of activity on the go.
What I find really difficult about these sessions is if they are just me talking and demoing how to do searching for the students this = BORING!! Therefore it’s boring for me. I don’t like seeing their glazed, blank expressions and the why am I here listening to this person go on about stuff that I can just use google for. It makes me feel a bit crap and a bit pointless, if they are not getting anything out of coming to my session. So, how can I, if not solve it then at least improve it? Well, this is where my other problem lies…
I have fairly large groups in my subject areas as the different courses all tend to do a ‘skills’ module which is where info searching generally comes into play. So, for the first year built environment students doing the skills module there are about 150 and for the geography/geology probably about 100-120. There are set times when they are all together and this is generally when I am invited to come and ‘tell’ them all about the wonders of finding information and sometimes Endnote Web, which is another one that requires some hands on action for people to get it.
To be fair I’m being a bit of a miserable old trout face bags because I have had some good, positive feedback from sessions. Feedback is another thing actually, I’ll get onto that in a bit. I just want to make the sessions as relevant and as useful as possible and with something like searching I’m of the opinion that them actually doing some would be more beneficial than me talking at them for any amount of time.
Anyway, I decided that this session would be different. I had a tweet chat with Marion, one of our Learning Technology Advisers and another educational technology pro in our department Katie and they gave me some ideas about how I could use PollEverywhere in the session. It started withMarion having to explain to me what Jeopardy is! It’s a gameshow don’t you know :-) This is what I went with in the session.
So, what did I do?
I had a group of about 20 students. I set up 4 laptops in our training room and had them in teams. The first part of the session I explained a bit about what we were going to cover as is usual and then covered different search techniques, the resources available to them etc etc. The usual thing you would expect from introducing an info searching skills session. Another good thing about the timing of the session is that I could base it on an assignment that they had recently been set, so I spent a bit of time discussing with them the ways in which they had approached the assignment and then explained a bit how I had, in the hope that this would demonstrate that there is no exact science in searching, but that by making use of some of the tips and techniques I was sharing with them would defo help in future assignments.
So, how did I use PollEverywhere? Well, there are several things that you can do with it; create a multiple choice poll or create a free text poll. The nature of my session meant that using the free text poll was better suited to the Jeopardy style approach that I used. I created 10 polls, which as became obvious in the session was too much! They totally got on board with the first lot, but it seemed like they were a bit over it by the time we got to the end.
The first 5 polls were statements about searching techniques which I had covered in the presentation/demo bit of the session and the second 5 polls were statements about different architects, projects and buildings that they had to find the answers to and then text in to PollEverywhere.
It’s a straight forward thing to set up. I’d created the polls and put them into a group. Each of the teams nominated a chief texter to send in the answer. In order to participate they had to text in to join the session and then we were away. With the free text poll you can see the answers coming in and onto the screen immediately. What would have been useful is if I had asked them to put Team A, B, C etc before their answer! As it was a fairly small group though, this didn’t cause too any real problems.
There are also several ways in which you can respond; text, twitter, smartphone and web. We went for text as the majority of people have phones and as we were working in teams they only had to nominate one person for texting.
Did it work? Well, yes, it did. They totally got on board with it and going round the teams when they were searching they were all getting involved and suggesting how to find what they needed. Admittedly they did all use Google for finding most of the stuff that they needed, but they did it using the different tips I had shown them earlier in the session.
However, like I said earlier, by the time we got to the end they’d had enough. So that’s another thing that’s really clear; generally speaking they don’t have lengthy attention spans which is why it’s important for me to vary the way things are delivered and give them the opportunity to put the stuff I’m telling about into practice. You can see how this is difficult for the larger groups, we don’t have anywhere that could accomodate them all for practical hands on stuff and with a group that size I’m not sure how manageable it would be. The alternative that I’m going to speak to lecturers about for next year is seeing smaller groups over several weeks. I think this would be more beneficial to us all! This is the kind of set up Librarian Sarah has with her media lot and while it means running more of the same session it also means that they get to actually have a go themselves and I’d be on hand to answer any questions etc.
Sarah has kindly agreed to let me go along to one of her sessions to see how she does it. I know that we cover the same thing in terms of content, but she has the advantage of having the groups in front of PCs, so they can get involved. I know there are downsides to this too, but something worth exploring I think.
Feedback was another thing I mentioned earlier and that’s a problem again with the larger groups. Using something like PollEverywhere could be a way to collect feedback during a session or get people to ask questions that they might have. On of my colleagues at another site has tried this successfully, so another thing to consider using in my sessions too. Sarah uses a survey monkey, which is ideal for a session using PCs as she can get them to fill it in before they go.
I’ve tried different things – post its, the last question on a worksheet, which have been useful, but I never really feel like it tells me anything about how they found the session. More thought needed for this.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough about this! The long and short of it is that I would defo use PollEverywhere in a session again, but have a little rethink about how much I use it :-)