Over the years there have been a number of applications that have allowed an element of student interaction with the lesson content. For a while, I have been using Kahoot to carry out quick checks of understanding.
When I first saw Kahoot I could see a way to check for understanding, at least of content recall. Kahoot is best for demonstrating knowledge of key facts. Of course, when I was first shown Kahoot all the other staff in my school also saw its potential. This lead to a massive Kahoot-fest by staff and students ended up playing it a LOT. I think this caused a deterioration in its effectiveness and boredom rapidly set in. Plus there was a focus on learning facts, rather than content.
Kahoot still has its place and I will use it occasionally, but I really need a more effective way to check understanding. Even more desirable would be a way to check understanding as I am teaching the lesson. Checking after the fact is a little redundant.
Recently I learned about the new application from Microsoft called Pulse. This has a lot of potential I think to enable real-time evaluation of how a lesson is going.
Pulse is an online app, which is great because it means I am not restricted to a computer (I use both Macs and PCs). In fact, I should also be able to use it on my phone or iPad. To use it, you have to register first. Annoyingly the first time I tried using Pulse I had to use my Windows account rather than my school O365 login. It would be nice to have a consistent login from educational domains, but I guess this will come in the future. There is now the option to register directly- this is where I used my O365 login credentials. It is completely free, however, which is a big plus.
Setting up a Pulse
The process of creating a Pulse is very simple. The only difficulty is in thinking up what you want to measure and get feedback on. The fact that there is real-time feedback is a big advantage over quiz type applications such as Kahoot. Screenshots showing the setup are shown below.
The first screen is Getting Started! This requires that you name the Pulse. You can also choose to set it as the domain URL, which basically is the name of your Pulse account (mine is DrAttridge). This makes it easier for respondents to access online the Pulse.
If I were presenting to a mixed group, e.g. of teachers, then I might want to set some demographics. My school is mostly boys only and taught in year groups, so this is not necessary for me at this point. You can choose to skip irrelevant content.
The next wizard is where a lot of magic takes place. There are a variety of ways to gauge responses over time. Here I have chosen to use a 5 point scale to check whether students understand what is being taught. There are plenty of other ways that can measure this. Over time, it would be great if others could share some decent questions that can be asked using this tool in educational settings.
This section is most like current quiz applications (and what you get with Kahoot). You can ask a multi-choice question as a poll.
The survey option is more complex and at the moment I see it as being useful for end of session feedback. There are some cool options available- e.g. being able to show the most popular answers (after the user has voted, of course).
The final screen gives an indication of how powerful Pulse could be in an educational setting. A graph is created when the real-time voting is switched on (it doesn’t have to be on all the time) and this does not have to be shown to users. In the classroom this is important.
It is possible to create some polls on the fly and annotate the Pulse for later analysis. The Polls and surveys created earlier can be sent when you want during the presentation. Plus, group messages can be sent.
There is also a download button where the results from the polls, surveys and voting can be downloaded as a zipped set of excel files for later analysis.
There is the possibility of previewing the completed Pulse, which gives an idea of what the students will see.
I’m liking the dark theme but wonder whether there will be opportunities to change the Pulse theme or add school logos etc. in the future.
Pulse promises to be a useful tool for gathering metrics on student understanding in class. It is simple to setup and use and looks great. The next step is to trial Pulse with a full class.My concerns at the outset are
1) will students find this too much of a distraction, so rather than concentrating on the lesson they will focus on the Pulse data collection
2) will students provide useful, honest results or will it be a little like Kahoot with students mainly concerned with the taking part.
I’ll report back once this has been done.