Class polls are not a new teaching technique, but they can be more easily integrated into instruction through the use of AnswerGarden. This simple tool allows you to pose a question to an audience and collect real-time feedback.

Pros:

The most significant benefit of AnswerGarden is its simplicity. It leverages students’ existing interest in using devices in a way that may prompt more interesting feedback than simply calling for a show of hands. As answers are repeated, the size of the words grows so teachers can identify themes within student responses. The intuitive display allows educators to have more insight into students’ understanding of a concept or question. The features that extend the tool provide benefits for its use in the classroom. Teachers set a password to moderate the contents of the discussion, ask for responses to a topic or question, control answer length and set the duration of the question.

Perhaps the greatest benefit for teachers is the tool’s ability to gather information from a class or audience for a set amount of time, then retain that data to look through later. An AnswerGarden can be exported in a variety of convenient formats including CSV, Wordle, or downloaded as an image.

Cons:

The anonymity of this tool may not work for all classrooms. While the password protection allows teachers to moderate the discussion, it may prove to be more effort than it’s worth to generate a discussion with AnswerGarden. As it generally assumes students will have internet-connected devices that they can use to access the AnswerGarden URL, it might work better with older classes or audiences. Ultimately, the utility of the platform depends on how it is integrated into the discussion or lesson.

Our Takeaway:

AnswerGarden certainly isn’t for all classrooms or all ages, but it could be used to engage students in more meaningful classroom discussions. Because AnswerGarden is an open-ended tool, it requires an experienced teacher to structure a productive lesson around the discussion.

Image: Magnetic Poetry by Mike Kearney via Flickr