Informed Librarian Online -- A Bit of Bytes --

Audience Polling Systems

by Jenna Kammer

This month, I am thinking about formative assessment. My colleague, Rene Burress, and I presented at the American Association of School Librarians in Phoenix about how to use technology for collecting formative assessment data. Specifically, we shared tools that can be used to collect data during teaching to better inform your instruction or provide evidence about the learning that happens in the library.

It is important to collect data on what happens in libraries so that we have statistics to show to administrators, funders, donors or accrediting bodies that what we are doing works and matters. Data can also justify purchasing or inform other decision-making. For teaching, data can also help us to know how people are learning.

There is a great deal of technology available that can help us measure how students are learning in real-time. This technology has evolved from audience polling systems that used to require specific devices, like clickers, to apps that now work on smartphones, tablets or laptops. Some of these free apps are: Socrative, Google Forms, Polldaddy or Kahoot.  Basically, you set up your questions, poll the audience by giving them a link to the app, then review the results. It is up to you how to use the data!

In our presentation, Rene and I talk about using data for advocating for the school library by having statistical information that can be shared with administrators, parents or teachers. However, collecting data is something that can happen in any type of classroom setting: the K-12 classroom, college classroom, library instruction session or conference presentations. In each setting, people are learning, and teachers have traditionally sought methods for checking in with the audience to see that everyone is understanding. The most common methods are asking students to raise their hand, or observing them as they complete practice assignments or work in groups.

I mentioned four free online audience polling software programs that can be used to collect feedback from an audience in the moment (Socrative, Google Forms, Polldaddy, or Kahoot). There is one in particular that I was going to address in this article because of its ease of use and focus on pedagogy: Socrative, Socrative is a polling software that can collect instant feedback from the audience once the quiz or poll is launched. You can use this to assess (to see what people learned) or to drive conversation (ask opinions, collect votes). For example, if you are teaching a one-shot instruction class on information literacy, you can use a multiple choice question in Socrative to find out what the students already know. One particularly fun way to use software like this with an audience would be to ask a question of the audience that they may not be willing to talk about in person. One great example I have heard of is when a health expert asked his college students using polling software: How many of you text and drive? This is a question that many would be embarrassed to raise their hand to answer, but may be more willing to post accurately in an anonymous poll that they answer on their mobile devices. In an information literacy course, this question might be instead:

If you are doing a research paper for class, where do you search for information:
A. Google
B. The library catalog
C. The library databases.
Assuming most students choose A. Google, the teacher then has fodder for a great conversation starter. From there, the teacher can use the results to have a discussion on how the catalog and databases are different than a Google search.

The other feature that Socrative includes is a built in template for delivering an “exit ticket”. An “exit ticket” is a strategy used often in school libraries where the students must produce something before they can leave. They may have to summarize what they learned, answer a question or reflect on the experience. Socrative has an “exit ticket” built in to its feature set and the teacher just needs to add the questions. For more info on that, check out Socrative’s “Deliver an Exit Ticket” page: Teachers can use the data from the exit tickets to plan the next lesson, or simply show what was learned in that session.

In summary, the idea of collecting formative assessment in teaching is an important part of understanding what is happening in your session. It is a way to check in with students (or your audience) and quickly evaluate understanding, or collect data that can be used to measure progress on a long term basis. Data from polling software can also be used to stimulate discussion and is often a fun way to engage the audience.

Copyright 2017 by Jenna Kammer.

About the author:
My name is Jenna Kammer,, and I am the author of this column. I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Missouri in the Library Science program. I have an MLS from the University of Arizona and a MA in Education from New Mexico State University. My PhD is from the University of Missouri where I studied information policy and technology in academic environments.