I mentioned a while back that Bill at Big Nerd Ranch was nice enough to put me on to his eClicker iOS-based student response system. I told him then that it would take me a little while to get to it, but I just had my first go at it, and figured I’d mentioned a few things here.

First, some context. We return to school from December break on Tuesday, January 3, as I’m sure most do. We, however, are returning to a brand new building, one we’ve never taught in before; our last day in the old building was the day before break, and we come back to the new building. The students then, of course, (as well as the faculty) will be less than focused on that day back. In addition to which, I meet one section of my English class that day but not the other; both sections meet on Wednesday. So I figure that that Tuesday will be a great time to some technology experiments, both as a way to figure some things out for me and as a way to keep both classes on the same page (quite literally).

So I typed in about 10 questions to the eClicker host. The section I’m meeting that Tuesday is the non-iPad section so I will organize groups of students around those that have iPhones (I know at least four or five do; thank you, Words with Friends), and ask the iPhone users to download the free eClicker Client app.

The question interface was easy to use. I was using my iPod Touch, as opposed to my iPad, and if it’s easy to do on the iPod, then I’m assuming it’s easier to use on the iPad, especially with the keyboard in place. Though I’ve not yet made an actual quiz, my impression is that you build a question bank and then pull from this bank into a quiz / assessment. Here are the questions I wrote for the mock / experimental quiz:

The question-writing interface is pretty straightforward: write your question, write your answers; it defaults to one multiple choice answer, but you can add up to four more for a total of five (I’m used to six from my work with Promethean, and I’d love that sixth option, but certainly not a deal-breaker). You tap the correct answer to identify it as correct; this was not immediately intuitive but there was text to explain how to do this (same for deleting a question: swipe it to delete, which makes a delete button appear).

Other question options are true / false and agreement. A nice feature is that both true / false and agreement allow customization of answers, either by editing the defaults or adding additional (the latter I think only for the true / false, but for instance for one question I added an ‘indifferent’ choice). Another nice feature is the explanation of the right answer box. I don’t use this feature too often but it is nice to have. Here is what the question writing interface looks like (in two stacked shots):

A few glitches that showed up, minor, with workarounds, but glitches nonetheless. For some reason the keyboard wouldn’t appear / I wasn’t able to edit answers after typing the question in two specific circumstances: first, when I inserted a picture (the coffee question); after I took the picture, I couldn’t then type in answer choices. If I typed in the answers first and then took / inserted the picture, it worked fine. Second, when customizing the true / false answers, i.e. I typed the question and then wasn’t able to type in the true / false answer boxes. If I customized first, and typed the question second, everything worked fine.

So those are some first impressions at least of the question interface via an iPod Touch. I’m excited to explore this further, see how the actual quizzing works with other devices, and continue to build a question bank. Thanks again Bill and Big Nerd Ranch for letting me try it out.

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