As I was developing my Boss Fight Mechanics I kept running into a feedback loop problem. I wanted to collect student data during a gamelike experience quickly, individually, and unobtrusively. My initial boss games relied on students showing me a card with a letter on it or a whiteboard with a written answer. This meant the data was neither stored nor, because I could only track 5-6 answers, individualized. Over a few iterations I tried some edtech quiz systems like Quizizz and Kahoot which where better at individualism but took he class out of the theme based experience of the battle. Then I remembered a strange little high tech – low tech app/website mash up I had disregarded a few years back – Plickers!
The Plicker Cards
Plickers uses QR codes printed on paper cards to allow an audience to display their answers to a question to the presenter. The presenter then uses their phone or an iPad to scan the room full of QR codes to collect each individual response. The brilliance of the system is that each of the 60 possible QR code cards (called Plicker Cards) has 4 unique shapes.
The Plicker cards come in a few different sizes and are all free to download and print from the website. It is possible to purchase plastic cards from the website as well as stickers. Quick Tip – Don’t laminate these as it will cause the camera scanning the cards to have difficulty finding the cards because of glare on the laminate.
Website + App
The Plicker system begins with the Plickers.com Website. The presenter loads questions into “packs” (folders) in their Plicker library. I organize my questions according standard indicators. Then the presenter projects the Plicker website in front of the audience.
At this point the presenter should also have downloaded the Plicker App onto the device they would use to scan the QR codes. A camera on the device is necessary and the Plicker App does the rest.
The audience should also have their Plicker Cards. Each card has a unique number that can be tracked but if the presenter has a class list each card number can be linked to a particular student. This is an important detail since the app will also record the answers to each question based in the Plicker Card. So I might have card 14 – Adam Powley. The presenter has access to 2 powerful levels of data.
If the question has a correct answer a green or red dot will be displayed next to the student WHILE SCANNING THE QR CODES. This let’s me see hot spots of misunderstanding in the room immediately. I can also quickly get a feel for the overall class understanding.
After scanning the answers the presenter can also display a graph of the answer choices and the correct answer. All of this is done without students seeing their classmates answers. The presenter though can choose to look at the names of who selected each question.
This immediate feedback let’s me make corrections in real time. It also let’s me think about post game discussions before the game is even over.
Answers are stored in the Plickers website in a few different ways. The easiest method is to access the “scoresheet” section. Once there the answers are stored by class according to the date given. The reports can show individual student data with the full question, the students answer, and the correct answer all reported.
A grid is also available that shows the entire class results with correct answers showing green and incorrect red. This is good for comparing different classes or looking at the overall results. It also helps with long term planning so I can reflect on which areas all the struggles which suggests I missed something when giving instruction.
I have abandoned graded quizzes. I have reasons… but I do need high quality assessments to see where I need to fix misconceptions and identify what I failed to teach well. When removing the grade and gamifimying the assessment I get better engagement, better data, and a better class environment.
So how do I get the students to not cheat?
Well, I tell them its not graded. That helps. I also explain that this is as much about me as them. I need good data otherwise we are wasting time. So I ask them not to talk until after the cards are scanned. The answers choices on the side of the qr codes are also small and the codes are unique enough that it would be difficult look at someone else’s answers.
And honestly, as long as there is no grade I’m not going to get too concerned if a kid does try to cheat… it will lead to a conversation about learning versus grading.
Maintaining the Gamelike Experience
I use plickers as part of my Dreadsheets and Enemies Boss Fight Assessments. I also have a superhero based class theme that leads students into these battles. Plickers is unobtrusive enough that the themes can be maintained while collecting the data. I have also been able to use the student’s numbers to create generic numbered Google Sheets for the Boss Fights that allow me and the students to quickly access the Dreadsheet method. Unlike tools like Quizizz or Kahoot that are their own contained experience, Plickers becomes a tool to enhance the experience.
A Quick suggestion – I use a lot of cards in my classroom so I hand out 9 slot polyethylene card sheets on day one. The first thing we do is tape the printed Plicker card on the back. This keeps the card relatively clean and unwrinkled as well as making it easily accessible in the student’s binders. It really cuts down on extra printing of cards and lost transition time.
Last year I had to take a lunch count 1st block. I made a question asking hot, cold, vegetarian, or none. Kids showed their answers and I got lunch count and attendance in one sweep. Others have used Plickers as a morning check in. Kids have a plicker code on a magnet with variations on sides that equal I’m good, I need immediate help, I’m going to work on stuff, or I have something to submit. Another clever use I have a seen was a gym teacher that set levels for each of the physical fitness tasks in their class. For example, Push-ups Level 1 was 5 or less, level 2 was 6-10, Level 3 was 11-15, and Level 4 was 16 and above. When the student achieved a level during class they would spin their plicker magnet on the board and the teacher would scan the results at the end of the class.
I don’t endorse products that I don’t use regularly. I use this tool nearly daily. I highly recommend it. Everything I described above is accomplished through the free parts of Plickers. There is a $9 a month upgrade available but I have not found need for it yet.
This is a great tool that you should really look into.