Monday, October 13, 2008

Polling to establish background knowledge

With the start of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I always enjoy the beginning conversations watching my students grasp that the predictions Bradbury made in 1953 have come true in our society today. Throughout the unit, I turn over the learning to the fishbowl method in our classrooms where students lead the discussions. We are focusing on building on the question “What does it take to challenge the system” with our previous readings of Macbeth and Lord of the Flies.

This year I started things a little differently. First, I showed them Michael Wesch’s “The Machine is Using Us”. We had an excellent conversation about technology and human connection. At one point, we even Skyped in my graduate school professor Dr. Margaret Riel, Gary wasn’t on Skype so I couldn’t bring him in. My students really questioned the web making us redefine what family is.

The following day, before we read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, I used to create an in-class texting poll asking them to submit their answers to the following questions. The paired up in class with one other student who had free, unlimited texting and then once I put up the poll question, they text in their answer, after discussing the possibilities together. It was AWESOME! The twosome discussed their answer, then we took sides in class. I had one participant be the voice of the yes, no, or maybe on each question presenting their case, and then opened it up to the entire class for discussion. They were so into it, it was challenging to bring them back to move onto the next question. Talk about motivated learners.

Here are some sample questions in the poll format:
Poll 1

Also, here are all of the questions that I turned into the poll. What is great about the poll is that not everyone has to have a cell phone. Kids can also use their laptops to answer the questions. The polls can be embedded into blogs or simply downloaded as PowerPoint slides. There is a limit to the number of people who can complete the poll in order for the poll to be free, but pairing kids up, gives them a chance to discuss their ideas before presenting to the class their viewpoints. Kids who normally do not say much in class, were jumping into the conversation when we used the polling program.

1 comment:

Annalise said...

As a current student, and a future teacher, I would just like to say GOOD FOR YOU!! When I was in High School, cellphones were so taboo. Everyone had one, but we had to keep them hidden and pretend that we didn't or they would be taken away! This approach to cell phone control has always confused me. I do understand the concerns: cheating, not paying attention in class, etc. But cell phones are a very BIG part of society. Instead of forcing students to pretend that cell phones don't exist during the hours of 8-3:30, it would be much more effective to teach students cell phone etiquette. I love that you brought current technology into your classroom. This is something that ALL other teachers need to consider. Let's teach kids how to use cell phones appropriately. I have always thought that instead of pretending that cell phones don't exist, lets have kids set them on their desk on silent. This is what they would do in a board meeting. You are the first step in getting cell-phones into school in an appropriate way. AWESOME!!