Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post discussing instant feedback using a back-channel titled: The Back-Channel Effect: Are Educators Ready for Real-Time Feedback. In that blog post, I suggested that real-time feed-back is being utilized by presenters and industry to gauge the experience of their audiences or their customers. I also suggested that using tools that provide real-time feedback can allow teachers to gauge the understanding of students during a lesson. In that blog post, I suggested that social networking sites can be a tool to allow for that type of feedback. Another tool is text messaging.
The idea of instant feedback is not new in education. Strategies such as providing students with a green, yellow, and red cards and periodically during a lesson asking students to hold up the appropriate colour card to express their understanding (green = understanding, yellow = moderate understanding, red = little understanding) speak to the idea that with instant feedback, a teacher can gauge the current level of student understanding and can, when necessary, modify their instruction to ensure that students are learning. The issue of the ‘publicness’ of these declarations can lead to situations where the student doesn’t express their true level of understanding out of fear that others will see that they are having difficulty and that this may lead to later ridicule. This situation is just as possible with coloured cards as it is with social networking sites. While using social networking sites has the advantage that many students who may also be having the same difficulty can see the solution to their query and that students can help and support each other, social networks are very public and that may not be a good thing for a student who is shy or has a low self esteem.
This is where the text message comes in. Text messaging has the advantage of being a private way for students to provide feedback. It allows for an instructional correspondence to take place and allows the teacher to know who is understanding the material and who is not. Of course, teacher may be very uncomfortable sharing their phone number with students and this is a very legitimate concern. This is where services such as Polleverywhere come in. This pay-service allows teacher to poll students using text messaging to an intermediary so that neither the teacher nor the student has to share their personal information with each other. More about this service can be found in my blog post Polling by Cell Phone – Can We Completely By-Pass Clickers?
Therefore, everyday tools such as cell phones and text messaging can be utilized to gain that precious feedback required to ensure that students are learning. Ultimately, the success or failure of such a strategy will rest on the rules around acceptable use of such devices. What do you think?
Disclaimer #1: The ideas suggested here use the text messaging features of a cell phone. While it is true that using text messaging may incur additional charges for students and their parents, it’s likely that many, if not most, students with cell phones have plans with either unlimited text messaging or plans that give them enormous amounts of text messages per month. Therefore, in most cases, no extra cost should incur when utilizing the ideas above.
Disclaimer #2: Some teacher unions and school districts frown upon the practice of sharing private information with students, even if it is of an instructional nature. The ideas presented above are presented simply as ideas. Please consult with union and district representatives if you are a teacher and are unsure if you can utilize the ideas presented above.