In our eighth grade science course we have been preparing for the upcoming PSSA tests by exposing students to current events that relate to material from past science courses. We normally do this by having the students blog outside of class about various current event articles. However, this particular lesson took place in the classroom. We decided to have our students take a closer look at President Obama's decision to build new nuclear power plants in the United States. This lesson would easily be adapted to any current event issue that has a pro and con side.
We began the lesson by creating an online poll using polleverywhere.com. This poll asked students whether or not they believed it was a good idea to build new power plants in the United States. The students had the option of voting with their cell phones or logging into moodle and following the available link to vote with a lap top. Due to the students willingness to share cell phones, all students voted in the poll long before the first lap top was logged in.
After the students took the poll they were given two articles. The first dealt with President Obama's plans and the second discussed the pros and cons of nuclear power. The students read the articles in groups of two or three and were told to write three to five main points from each article. After the students finished reading and writing their main points they were instructed to come to a group consensus on the topic. They then had to write their opinion in 1 to 2 sentences and post it using their cell phones to a Wiffiti board (Below).
Once all the groups comments had been posted, read, and discussed the students watched a two minute video found on youtube.com that served as a great summary of the discussion. The lesson came to an end with the students once again taking the same poll they took in the beginning of class. It was very interesting to see that many of them changed their opinion after the lesson.
Of course this lesson could have been completed without the use of cell phones. Below is just a few of the benefits I found due to their incorporation:
- Students love using their cell phones! I think this is sometimes an understated reason for doing things in education. How can you go wrong if the students are excited for class before you even tell them what they will be doing?
- We handed out two articles consisting of four pages of text to eighth graders. There was not one groan, whine, or complaint! I think the student's eagerness to read the articles so they could send another text message speaks volumes.
- Every eye in the class was glued to the Wiffiti board to read the next posted comment.
- Every student had the opportunity to voice their opinion in the pre and post discussion polls.
- The students left the classroom and raved about class and using their cell phones during the periods that followed.
Poll Everywhere - www.polleverywhere.com
This resource allows you to set up a poll where students can submit responses with their cell phones. The poll can be reset making it available to be used with multiple classes.
Wiffiti - www.wiffiti.com
Wiffiti allows students to submit a text message an online bulletin board. Messages can also be submitted to Poll Everywhere, but the Wiffiti board is large and animated. Not to mention the students love the fake names it assigns to their posts.
Poll Everywhere and Wiffiti are easy to set up. I do think it is necessary to do some preplanning before the first time cell phones are used in the classroom. Prior to this lesson we used Google Docs to survey our students to learn more about their cell phones. We also had them use wallwisher.com (an online bulletin board) to post possible rules for using cell phones in the classroom. Additionally we sent a letter home with the students to explain our intentions to parents. You will find these resources below:
Cell Phone Survey
Letter to Parents
Student's Wallwisher Board